Three years ago, I wrote an article dismissing the idea of a “Retail Apocalypse.” That was before we ran into the COVID-19 economic buzz saw. It is sobering how many retail giants didn’t survive 2020, and the sheer number of retail jobs lost is staggering. 

I stand firm in my basic premise that inside these dark, stormy clouds is a silver lining: Now, more than ever, there is a need for high performance, top quality, retail sales professionals! From Baby Boomers to Millennials, Gen X to Gen Y there will always be personality types who want and need direction in the buying process.  

There will always be a need for the deep knowledge, experience and insight of sales professionals. However, the future will belong to the GenNext™ Sales Professional who understands and accepts facing dramatic changes in the playing field. 

Current sales professionals are facing clients who are expecting a new value proposition. In a world of AI and click-to-order, the GenNext™ sales professionals will need to successfully rise to the new challenge from her clients and employer: What value do you bring to the sales floor? 

Depth of Sales 

Most men get a haircut roughly every other week. This means each customer a barber sees in any given week is worth the revenue of 25 cuts each year! Here in the Metro NY/NJ area this equates to roughly $700 including tips. In the past year I’ve had my hair (such as it is) cut by no fewer than 5 barbers. Not that 4 did a bad job, it’s that none gave me a reason to spend all $800 (I tip well…) with any one of them. 

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I’ve never had one of those cool barbershop shaves. I’m sure I’ve needed one, but no barber offered this additional service. My barbers perform like so many current sales professionals, comfortable with selling what the client comes in asking for… offering no real VALUE. 

The GenNext™ sales professional will get a greater “Depth of Sale” from his existing clients. As an example, he won’t be satisfied with selling the sofa and loveseat, he will get the client to buy lamps and rugs. He will then invite the client to come back and upgrade both the master and spare bedrooms. Later he will sell the dining room and get the referrals for everyone who came to Thanksgiving and complimented the beautiful new furniture. 

In your line of sales, what would be your version of “Depth of Sale”? 

Book of Business 

During a Performance Coaching session with one of my high performing sales clients, I asked a seemingly simple question: “How are you planning on building your book of business this year?” 

She spent the next few minutes complaining about how her company needs to do more advertising. Her business was off in the past year because fewer people came in her store.  

Once I understood which path she was on, I interrupted: 

“The customers who walk in the door because of corporate advertising and marketing efforts are your company’s customers. My question is about YOUR book of business. The customers who walk in the door because of your efforts.” 

Her silence let me know that she was not yet a GenNext™ sales professional. Her value proposition to the company was a familiar one: you get me customers and I will close them. This is the kind of old thinking that will have you sounding like Jack Lemon’s character, Shelly Levine, in the 1992 movie “Glengarry Glen Ross”… 

The future of retail sales belongs to the sales professional who can build her own book of business. The one who can define several markets, develop them and generate revenue both with and without corporate advertising and marketing efforts. 

No More Comfort Zones 

As much as salespeople self-identify as outgoing, we all have an aversion to rejection. We see this aversion flare up when salespeople are confronted with change. When KPIs are increased, performance expectations are modified, or products are updated we can rely on a percentage of professional to view these changes as slights on “what they have done for them in the past”, attacks on the “years I have been selling,” or challenges to their current effort levels.  

The future of retail sales will belong to the GenNext™ professional who is comfortable with the fact that he will continually need to operate outside of his comfort zones. He will understand that his comfort zone is malleable and will actively work expand it. 

The Future Is Bright 

The internet has, for all intents and purposes, bridged the information gap between buyer and seller. Chatbots, targeted product advertisements and electronic payment tools will continue to siphon large percentages of retail business away from brick-and-mortar stores and showrooms. As long as our customers are human beings, with the hard-wired need for community and interaction, there will be a space for the Retail Sales Professional. 

The future of retail sales belongs to the professionals who recognize and capitalizes on the technological and cultural shifts that are taking place. The GenNext™ sales professional who creates, interprets and leverages her own business will define the new value proposition! 


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