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Gone Are the Days... Revitalizing Sales Reps for the New Century

Copyright (c) 2006-2023

It's the new millennium - has selling really changed? Is the evolution of change something we as sales people in distribution really need to focus on? Is sales in the New Century really so different that the concept of pioneering a territory and then servicing the customer as a life annuity has gasped its final breath? The answer to those questions is yes. So, now what do we do to prepare ourselves to pass through this time warp and become "A" players in the New Century?


As an "A" player in the New Century you must build business-to-business relationships through channels that other team members can service. The special buyer/salesman relationship isn't dead, golf is still allowed, entertainment is still acceptable, but the degree to which these tools are used has changed. Certainly, the focus and the gray matter behind the sales planning process must contribute more to the long-term goals of the organization. The sales representative in the New Century ensures that their products, their services and their company becomes the channel of choice. The primary objective is the same. "First Call and Last Look," but the methodology has evolved to a higher level. Transactions are no longer managed by the field sales representative.


Focus must now be on planning for the development of new customers and increased penetration of current high potential customers. The main responsibility of the salesman in the New Century is NOT TO INCREASE SALES, but to systematically and consistently increase the number of customers that call you D.O.C., (Distributor Of Choice). If you truly practice solution medicine for your customers, if you find their pain and make it go away, you will become their D.O.C. That means you'll always get the first call and the last look.


How do you know if you made it through the time warp? How do you know if you are or can become an "A" player in the New Century? Answering the following questions should give you a clue.

  • Do you know the 5 largest customers of your 5 largest customers?
  • What are the 3 largest sources of pain in their lives?
  • What are your customers' key profit and growth drivers?
  • What are you doing with the knowledge?
  • How would the customer describe your efforts to improve their business?


    "A" sales people in the New Century learn to develop Achievement Competencies, Influence Competencies and Thinking Competencies.

    1) Achievement Competencies

    Achievement competencies focus on results. They help you understand the concept of planning and creating strategies with effective action plans that support corporate objectives. They help you target high potential customers and lock onto that customer's growth objectives with laser-like clarity. They promote creativity, empowerment and initiative.

    2) Influence Competencies

    Sales people in the New Century no longer hit the road trying to meet a quota for the number of calls per day. The "A" player of the New Century focuses on multiple contacts within an account, seeking to match his company resources, including people, to his clients' needs. He targets his persuasion techniques, maximizes his personal impact and works hard to improve organizational awareness on both sides of the sales equation. The "A" player in the New Century promotes Tier Level Selling in his customer's organization as well as his own organization.

    3) Thinking Competencies

    The New Century Salesmen is a quick thinker. When he shoots from the hip, it's from a knowledge base that doesn't expose his company to undo risk. He can think outside the box and practices scenario planning within his own territory analysis to prepare himself for the future. He is a short-term planner and long-term strategic thinker.


    The "A" salespersons in the New Century are always striving for improvement. They gain the majority of their targeted customers' business. They increase market share. Transactions flow through a well-managed relationship that they have established. Their time is focused on growth rather then transactional service (the team and the system do the servicing).

    The "A" player of the New Century constantly seeks to enhance their selling skills and the knowledge base of the industry they serve. They no longer focus on product knowledge. They focus on their customers' products and industry knowledge. They have fine-tuned the basic habits of success.

  • The habit of prospecting
  • The habit of planning
  • The habit of using a professionally prepared sales presentation
  • The habit of goal-setting
  • The habit of record-keeping
  • The habit of efficient time control
  • The habit of self-development
  • The habit of continuous development of their industry knowledge
  • The habit of self discipline


    Salesmanship in the New Century has changed. Gone Are The Days of selling features and benefits. Today you must understand how your customer makes money and match the benefits of your product to his profit-making activities.

    Gone Are The Days of developing a personal relationship as the key to success. Selling in the New Century still requires that personal relationship but it must be expanded upon. You must become a business consultant and an advisor to your customer in this century.

    Gone Are The Days when your focus was on your product and services. You must now focus on industry knowledge. You must become an expert in the industry to provide real value to your customer in the New Century.

    Gone Are The Days that you dribble from the mouth creating rambling conversations and making unsolicited scripted presentations. "A" players in the New Century listen more than 80% of the time. I mean really listen and understand the customer's real concerns. They look for opportunities to solve problems, to take the pain away.

    Gone Are The Days of salesmen being high paid apologists. Sales in the New Century require quality and service as a given to enter the game.


    C2 means knowing and understanding your customer's customer. To become an "A" player in the New Century you must get involved with your customer's customer. New Century Sales requires that you strive to bring your customer more customers. It requires an understanding of their capital structure and suggestions on your part to make them more efficient. It requires your help in introducing them to new markets.

    Gone Are The Days that you compete with price, service and quality alone. Sales in the New Century depend on your understanding of the difference between price and cost. More importantly, sales success in the New Century depends on your ability to educate your customers on the difference between price and cost.

    Gone Are The Days of "Three Bids and A Buy." The purchasing mentality of your customers has changed. Innovations in their purchasing practice forces innovation in your selling practice. Today you must seek, document and get signed agreements from your customers on cost savings. You must focus on working capital reductions, direct expense reductions, indirect expense reductions (redevelopment of personnel), system reliability, inventory management and logistics solutions that contribute profits to their bottom line. Reduction of Your Gross Profit Is Not An Acceptable Cost Reduction.


    "A" players are not super humans. They simply focus their efforts on success. Ask yourself the following questions.

  • What are your Customers' Key skill sets? (What are they really good at?)
  • What would your customer's customer say they really value from your customer?
  • Ask these same questions of your own company.

    Remember, in some cases "Loser Customers" deal with "Loser Distributors." They often form a mutual admiration society. "A" players in the New Century quickly learn to recognize Loser Customers and refuse to waste valuable time on them.

    Take the time to really understand value added selling. Recognize its power in generating much more volume than the Old Century approach. The key is to completely separate selling goals from being genuinely helpful and understanding your customer's business. Real value added selling focuses on helping customers solve their problems, without trying to make a sale. Remember that Value Added is defined by the customer, its goals and its business.


    This may all sound Inter Galactic, overwhelming and you may even think, "What's The Use?"

    I know how to sell. I'm good at it and I've been doing it for years."

    Well, chances are you may be absolutely correct. You see, things didn't change overnight. When the clock struck 12:01am at the turn of the century, there wasn't a Big Flash, a Sonic Boom or a Major Revelation on how we as distributors are to change our practices or the way we go to market. The truth of the matter is that we have been going through an evolutionary process throughout the nineties, accelerated by improving technology and information distribution. The point is, if you were an "A" player sales person in the 90's, then chances are you have learned and practiced many of the techniques discussed in this article. Now, all you have to do is to continue to learn and refine your skills. If you haven't changed your style, learned new practices based on improved customer intelligence, and if you still believe in the sales model developed in the old century, you are probably struggling to maintain market share. Seek out additional training and advice. Look for a mentor. I'm betting that the majority of the readers fall into the first category. You have been involved in the evolutionary process and you are eager to face the challenges of the new century.

    To paraphrase Wayne Gretsky, "You want to skate to where the puck's going to be."

    I'll add, "Seek to arrive with an attitude - an attitude of success."

    About The Author: Shop Amazon - Top Gift Ideas - Dr. Rick Johnson ( is the founder of CEO Strategist LLC. an experienced based firm specializing in leadership and the creation of competitive advantage in wholesale distribution. CEO Strategist LLC. works in an advisory capacity with distributor executives in board representation, executive coaching, team coaching and education and training to make the changes necessary to create or maintain competitive advantage. You can contact them by calling 352-750-0868, or visit for more information. CEO Strategist - experts in Strategic Leadership in Wholesale Distribution.

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