Well, collectively, we have done it. Those of us driving a new smart digital frontier of consumer sales in the cloud have done it. We have created a kinetic maelstrom in reduced physical store traffic shifting and motivating consumers from shopping malls, from big and small box retailers to the first inch of a mobile piece of glowing glass. The bulwark posture and sluggish tactics of brick retailers does not seem to be panning out as clearly expressed through the cold steel of reported P&L’s for the year. Retailers continue to defer or ignore words like showrooming, active retail apps, cloud advantaged competitors and much more. All while ShopperTrak reported once again in 2013 holiday shopping declines in mall formats and large retailer physical stores.
According to ShopperTrak, retailers had only half the holiday store traffic in 2013 than they did in 2011. The third party research company reported declines of approximately 28 percent for 2011, 16 percent for 2012 and 15 percent for 2013 while online sales rose by more than double the results of brick and mortar sales during our past 2013 holiday season. Clearly it is the end of selling as we know it and time to do something about it.
Based on our new market realities our ability to sell to brick and click retail merchants has emphatically hyper-evolved and changed forever. As we know, our new smart digital economy causes an even greater emphasis by all companies to focus heavily on optimizing return on sales and marketing investments. Retailers are aggressively changing, charging and marching across all consumer facing channels and social environments to re-torque, re-fuel, re-muscle their business and traffic models. Profitable manufacturer strategies in 2014 must include smart selling and product pulling aggregation inclusive to brick, click, organic, social, direct, mobile, SEO and indirect channels of opportunity. And these strategies must be backed by significant levels of personal pro-selling skills, aggressive digital marketing proposals, digital accounting practices, hyper-fast measurements and speedy course corrections.
Salespeople must be subject matter experts across all viable and available consumer brick, click, mobile, apps and tool touch points presenting just how, where and when the brand will live, evolve and promulgate into omni-channel retail traffic opportunities. Just how the brand will bravely motivate and reticulate omni-channel retail traffic. The question to ask yourself is whether your sales organization has been given the dignity of digital and social networking knowledge to best compete in our new fast paced smart economy: to effectively compete, to defeat competitive camps. Have we invested in our sales organization so they can smartly invest with retail merchants to create the art of the possible to sell successfully across our new smart Omni-channel market place?
Selling, especially in our new smart digital economy is not for the faint of heart. Selling at its core is the ability to persuade your brand promise, to prove your superior product pre-claims are actually and profitably out muscled by juxtaposed competitive results. It is of course market gains through planned-organized consumer and channel command that create long term shelf productivity, long term and mutual profit results. Having said this, I believe there is just too little appreciation for our hard working, hard traveling sales people, sales leaders and those sales driving team members. The art of traditional selling was formerly referred to as the art of the possible through smart persuasion. In today’s brick, cloud, social and steel knitted micro-second algorithms, the economics of hyper-fast measurable productivity milestones with respect to product sales is both friend and enemy.
Costly advertising, promotions, public relations, social networking and all disciplines within mobile and cloud data mining and marketing apps must be on the forefront of selling, not the backend. In essence, sales results today are measured in minutes no longer in monthly cycles. This rabid change in retail and cloud sell-through cyclonic measurements demands intense education. In essence, it’s the end of selling as we know it. And in our new smart economy, the omni-channel aggregated language of digital, mobile, social and brick disciplines in retailing auger the new role and responsibilities of traditional manufacturer sales people.
In this coming year, salespeople will need to change their skill sets and adjunct their roles into newly integrated and united retail-cloud merchant governance. In most retail organizations today, cloud and brick merchants remain separate in P&L, in merchandising selection, even in many cases price and availability. Respectfully, let me be the first to harbinger a disciplined “Omni” change for all merchants in 2014 and beyond. This change will unite brick and click merchants under one seamless merchandising organization, one traffic focused P&L umbrella (as opposed to today’s separate organizations) creating a smart digital matrix of omni-channel opportunity. My auger also portends and demands personal protraction of skill sets for all manufacturer sales representatives shedding less relevant brick-sales-mechanicals while adding smart digital persuasions and proposals for your brand, product and services. Creating a true omni-channel merchant and manufacturer brand trafficking command post. Here are a few of the many changes and differences for the manufacturer sales role for years to come:
1. Omni-channel merchants, omni-channel salespeople: As individual merchants become responsible for both brick and cloud traffic, buying and selling success your sales force will be expected, charged and forced to do the same. This means all manufacturers' sales members must be trained and re-developed into savvy subject matter experts across all internet dynamics, digital marketing tools and apps, intercept promotions, mobile marketing tools e-commerce triggers and tools, social networking disciplines, digital price triggers: all retail merchandise Omni-channel disciplines and measurements.
2. Selling product commodities becomes all about omni-channel presence and pricing, not necessarily about best of breed selling skills. The dynamics of new smart selling needs to include a matrix-chess-board like approach to multi-modal push and pull in congress with relevant digital market drivers. Manufacturer sales organizations must become subject matter experts to sell their brands digital capabilities, to best exercise success even while competitive price dynamics threaten to tear down hard earned brand and product value.
3. Individual sales commission/bonuses will be replaced by broadly shared team bonuses: it takes a sales and marketing village to earn shelf space, it takes a sales and marketing village to ensure you earn and keep that same omni-channel shelf space through successful hour by hour pull-through sales.
4. Selling speed in congress with digital speed out muscles any traditional sales process: The internet is Darwin on speed. It offers the fastest unionization of push and pull on the planet. Omni-channel selling is all about capitalizing on the Darwinism of speed and productivity. Increases within the congress of brick and cloud Omni-channel productivity delivers increases in manufacturer and retail profitability. Manufacturer sales organizations founded, tuned and digitally advantaged for rapid merchant response to consumer demand and dynamics will gain brand, market and profit advantage.
5. Selling the value and investments of your brand and products: to any merchant starts with promoting your company presence across the internet, mobile devices, social networks, content apps, email marketing, brand apps and Omni-channel presence. Our sales teams need the overarching clarity and internal education of our brand and product pull power in this new smart digital market landscape. These are core articulating and pulsating sales tools and will become the standard bill of fare for manufacturer success in our new digitally enhanced omni-channel market.
Our new economic reality, across a multitude of digital apps and technologies designed to envelope and engage consumers home, business and mobile lives is smartly collapsing and merging physical retail with digital retail opportunities. Merchants are hyper-advancing, hyper-educating themselves in smart digital merchandising skills needed for successful omni-channel retail buying and selling. We must also docent and educationally prepare our most important manufacturer sales team members to advance in the same way. If not, our sales language, push and pull capabilities and merchant presentations will fall deaf against the mighty rule of retail Omni-channel change and union within our new smart digital economy.
Peter Weedfald is president of Gen One Ventures and author of Green Reign Leadership