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Sandler Training | Chicago & Northbrook, IL

Will you be replaced…by a smartphone app?

It’s almost impossible to make it through the day without seeing or hearing an advertisement with the tag line, “We’ve got an app for that.”

Interestingly, it wasn’t that long ago that the word “smartphone” didn’t exist. And, if you checked the dictionary, “app” was an abbreviation for apparatus, appendix, or applied.

New technologies such as “smartphones” and smartphone “apps” play an important role in the daily routines of many people—the way they communicate with one another, the way they organize their personal, business, and social activities, the way they get from point A to point B, and the way they entertain themselves.

And, almost every facet of business has been touched, and ostensibly improved, by technology. Everything from scheduling orders to tracking deliveries; forecasting production requirements to ordering raw materials; documenting services to tallying billable hours.

How will technology impact you in the near future? Is your job in jeopardy of being replaced by a next generation smartphone app?

Maybe.

It depends on what you bring to the table—what value you add to the buyer-seller relationship beyond the transactional aspects of doing business.

From a customer’s perspective, interactions with salespeople can be characterized, at one end of the spectrum, as dealing with a clerk—someone who shows up, gets the order, and then disappears. Or, it can be characterized, at the other end of the spectrum, as dealing with a trusted advisor—someone who understands the client’s needs and goals and provides insight and help in satisfying them.

How would your customers characterize your relationship? At or near which end of the spectrum would they place your interactions with them? Unfortunately, for too many salespeople, it’s near the “clerk” end. These salespeople (and hopefully, you’re not one of them) show up on schedule, get an order, and add little, if any, additional value beyond occasionally taking the buyer to lunch or bringing donuts for the staff.

One might argue that there’s a certain efficiency to the “clerk” methodology. And there very well may be. However, your days as a clerk—operating as a “me too” or “milk-run” salesperson—are numbered. It’s only a matter of time before we see an ad that states: “Salesperson – Yep, we’ve got an app for that!”

Unless you change what you represent to your customers and clients…and bring something to the relationships that they truly appreciate and value, your company will be exploring those apps (quite possibly at your customers’ requests)…and you run the very real risk of becoming a relic—possibly sooner than you think.

How do you add value to the relationship? By contributing anything that helps your customers grow their businesses—increase revenues, decrease costs, or operate more efficiently.

Perhaps you can orchestrate a quarterly or semi-annual roundtable discussion with your customer and the people within your company who can provide technical, financial, logistical, or other information that could help your customer improve internal systems…and ultimately production, revenue, and the bottom line.
Maybe you can change your manner of interaction with your customers to make it easier for them to do business with you?

Possibly you can provide market analyses or industry trend information which can help your customers make better production, inventory, or sales forecasts?

What can you do?

If you’re having trouble coming up with ways to add value to your customer relationships, perhaps you don’t know your customers as well as you should. Perhaps your interactions with them don’t extend much beyond the transactional aspects of the sale. Perhaps a smartphone app would do just fine.

- Karen James

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