Sustainability and sales

This has become vital for businesses. In academia there is the task of discovering facilitators and barriers to successfully implementing sustainability strategies and in this sense there are interesting proposals, although not necessarily in the field of sales and management.

This is due to the conceptual ambiguity of the term, but also because it connotes corporate policies and programmes, and thus topics such as buyer behaviour, marketing strategy and supply chain management have occupied the administrator’s attention. Problems may arise, because if sustainability strategies are developed, the sales force is responsible for conveying these priorities to the market and to interest groups or “stakeholders” and must be properly adapted.

Experts in this particular field define sustainability as “integrating environmental, social and economic responsibility into the personal selling function at every stage of its process.” These actions must be disseminated, communicated and demonstrated to all stakeholders, both internal and external, and maximize value for the organization and customers.

This is how business teams, by leveraging their adaptive capabilities, must incorporate corporate sustainability goals into their activities and achieve excellent metrics as an indicator of business performance. They must then be very clear that this area is their responsibility and, therefore, their superiors have a duty to prepare them. This challenge is in addition to the already known challenges of adopting technology, fully understanding markets, and being able to withstand the various crises that directly affect them.

It is clear that sustainability, which some time ago was something marginal, only listed on a company website or relegated to the end of annual reports, is today a strategic priority, which, when well managed, can become a priority. The element of differentiation in relation to competition. It is no longer an option, but rather an obligation.

Currently, there is no doubt about the financial return on investment in this area or that initiatives in this direction lead to improved performance, customer engagement, reputation, trust and collaboration, among many other dimensions.

Research conducted by consulting firms shows that the movement towards sustainability continues to grow. 48% of managers say increasing it is a top priority (11 points more than in 2021), but at the same time more than half (51%) also list it among the biggest challenges they face (19 points more than in 2021). ). (IBM, 2022). Gartner (2022) conducted a survey, and for the first time in history, CEOs ranked sustainability among their top ten priorities, stating that it can help them differentiate themselves from their competitors, while also increasing trust in the company. , 2022).

However, although 95% of these managers reported that they had tested the procedures here, only 23% confirmed implementing a strategy for the company as a whole (IBM, 2022). This importance they attach is due to the fact that customers expect this from them. Another consulting firm found in a study that 78% of people want a sustainable lifestyle and 80% consider it in many of their purchasing decisions (McKinsey, 2023). That is why more sustainable products are being offered and the market is increasingly investing in these offers, especially when there is a significant impact on this type of consumption by Generation Z (Forbes, 2022).

Although market expectations are high about a particular issue (not only in terms of supply, but also in terms of consumption), many customers do not trust or are cautious about companies’ claims about progress in this area. The supposed commitment for them is a ruse that hides their real intention: to improve reputation and get more and more customers through the associated rhetoric. There are strong actions to be taken, and this is exactly where Salesforce comes into play.

Sellers, properly oriented, must simultaneously know the value that a sustainability-focused company produces for the market and for society, and the value it desires, which should be equally directed to the same aspect. However, they should be able to disclose all aspects of the client’s brand, including performance specifications, cost, materials used and sustainability attributes, but they must tailor their proposal based on individual preferences. The seller must also build trust in the brand (i.e. not “greenwash”) and, if possible, reinforce certainty that their purchase makes a difference.

Many researchers in the academic world have shown that the strategies developed in “Communication and Sales” in this endeavor are essential and should be worked on further. Salespeople are certainly responsible for conveying the importance of sustainability to consumers and must be suitably qualified and trained to demonstrate, with evidence, the real relationship between the economic, social and environmental goals of those they represent.

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