The reality of the modern working world will, for many, exist not as an employee, but as a creator of value through relationships.

Tom Goodwin, Digital Darwinism

If you’re a sales junkie like me, follow your Twitter feed and you’ll see a stream of articles about how Artificial Intelligence (AI) will replace salespeople in tomorrow’s business world.

There is no doubt things are changing. In his book, Digital Darwinism, Survival of the Fittest in the Age of Business DisruptionTom Goodwin offers a thoughtful perspective of business in the future. “The workplace will change more in the next 10 years than it has in the last 50, and roles that once relied on physical work will be increasingly automated.”

“A Creator of Value Through Relationships”

Goodwin says the leaders of the future will be “Creators of value through relationships.” I think this perfectly describes the salesperson of the future. Sales professionals are responsible for doing two things:

  1. Building Relationships
  2. Finding, Aligning, and Communicating Value

As I’ve been working with my Selling From the Heart podcasting co-host, Larry Levine, to roll out new sales workshops, we’ve noticed two key weaknesses in today’s sales reps. First, they struggle to build authentic relationships. Second, they struggle to clearly articulate a value proposition! Yet Goodwin says these are the two key skills of the future.

(These challenges have led us to launch the Relational Selling Workshop to help reps foster authentic relationships and the Value Alignment Workshop to give reps tools to articulate value propositions that resonate.)

So how do you create value through relationships? Here are some ideas.

1. Go Deep With Some Key Vital Connections

Goodwin says leaders will need deep relationships with some key connections. From the perspective of sales, smart reps will develop deep relationships with their key clients. Why? It will be out of these relationships that they recognize the true value that they are able to bring to the market.

Sales reps that want to succeed need to bring value. Most of the value a product brings is not in the features of the product itself, but in the application of the product to solve a problem. Let’s face it, there are very few products that don’t have very similar alternatives. Differentiation comes from application. Application comes from understanding the specific ways your offering can be applied to create an outcome for your client. Gaining a deep understanding of these applications only happens in the context of a trusted relationship.

Sales professionals should develop close strategic relationships with key clients with two goals. The first goal is to maximize the returns for that client by becoming intimate with their business. The second goal is to bring what you learn to the wider marketplace, which sets up Goodwin’s second suggestion: Go wide.

2. Go Wide

Once you understand the nuances of the value that you can bring to your clients it’s time to go wide. In your close relationships you uncover insights. Then, you share these insights with your broader audience.

“A key skill will be in building broad networks across varied disciplines, and establishing a reputation to help this network grow.”

Tom Goodwin

The sales rep of the future will be responsible for building a wide network. This is more than having a bunch of names in your CRM or thousands of connections on LinkedIn. Sales professionals need a network of people that are interested in what they have to say. They need to develop a reputation for adding value.

What does this mean? Sales professionals need to build a brand. That brand needs to have substance. There is no room for empty suits in the sales world of tomorrow. Sales reps need to build a brand around the insights they have learned. (We share practical tools to do this in the Authentic Social Selling Workshop which may need to be rebranded as the Building Your Sales Brand Workshop.)

Becoming The Rep of the Future

Transactional, back-slapping reps with no substance will continue to become obsolete. Reps who nurture deep relationships with strategic clients, that truly understand the value they bring, and who share those insights with their network will thrive.

What can you do to prepare?

  1. Develop close relationships with a few ideal clients
  2. Discover the nuances of the value that you bring
  3. Demonstrate value to your broad network to build your brand.

Will the rep of the future still need to work hard? Yes. But your hard work will need to include digging deep to uncover and align value.

Will the reps of the future still need to prospect? Yes. There is no magic bullet. It will still take work. However, you’ll be able to prospect with insights that matter inside a network of people that know who you are.

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