I attended my second Sales 2.0 Conference last week. It was a great experience. And now it’s time to report. I’ve finally unburied myself from a week’s worth of snail mail (awkwardly the 1.0 world continued even as I immersed myself in the 2.0 world!)
There were many great things about the conference, including a number of great presenters like Bell Mobility's Michael Weening (who talked about Sales transformations) and Jeffrey Hayzlett (who discussed the impact of social media on business). I was particularly impressed with the facts and figures that researchers revealed. Here are a few:
Currently, there are about 18 million salespeople in the US right now. The prediction is that, by 2020, there will be fewer than 3 million.
My question, which remains unanswered, is how many of those are B2B v. B2C? It all goes back to the old argument that sales is going away as a result of technology. That's just not the case. Salespeople capable of helping prospects and customers through a complex decision making process will always be in demand.
Anyway, I was also impressed by another report shared at the conference. It showed some factors that impact clients’ decision making:
What does that mean? That the salespeople who thrive are going to be the ones who take the time to understand how their clients’ businesses work and exactly how (and, frankly, whether) their solutions can make that business work better.
Another interesting report was IDC's 2011 Sales Barometer, which showed how salespeople are spending their time. There were a few surprises (at least for me)...
- Direct Customer interaction: 46%
- Admin time (e.g., quotes, pricing, management reporting): 22%
- Preparing for customer or prospect interaction: 17%
- Territory Lead Development: 11%
So, what's the impact? Salespeople spend less than half of their time in belly-to-belly, face-to-face, direct selling! That means there's a lot more to the job than the sales interaction. With that said, I'm confident sales leaders want to see growth in that piece of the pie.
The conference really helps sales leaders think about ways that technology can make life easier for their customers and prospects. I encourage you to consider attending a future Sales 2.0 conference.
There's an annoying doomsday argument in the "blogosphere" that -- because of rapidly changing technology -- professional sales is dead or dying.
The idea rears its ugly head every now-and-then. And it often comes from technofiles (lovers of all things high-tech).
Apparently, the argument goes like this: Because buyers are able to use the internet to...
- Make transactional purchases; and
- Get information about salespeople and their offerings,
The sales profession is dying on the vine.
On the other side of the coin, they also say that technology gives salespeople an excuse to avoid talking to prospects because they can rely on a Twitter Feed, Facebook Fans, or LinkedIn Connections to meet quota.
That's a cynic's view of technology. It builds followers. It also ignores the very real, offline relationships that human beings need.
As I said in response to a recent Focus.com question, there will always be consumers who want to buy their shoes online, but I challenge you to find very many people willing to buy things like capital equipment, houses, thoroughbred horses, or airplanes without some input from an expert (i.e., a sales professional). Indeed, I was recently tasked with buying a healthcare plan for The Brooks Group's staff. I've never done that before. I wouldn't have dreamt of making that kind of decision without talking to a number of salespeople.
Yes: Thanks to the internet, salespeople will find some prospective customers with access to more information than ever before. However, there are always questions about products and services that prospects don't think (or know) to ask. There were a lot of healthcare plan-related questions I didn't know to ask. Thankfully, I came across a number of competent, professional salespeople who helped me make the right decision. There will always be a role for those kinds of professionals.
In essence, I agree with my friend Paul McCord on his point that the sales profession is safe.
"Sales 2.0" is really about using tools and technology that make the sales interaction -- and everything that goes into it -- more effective. Of course, I'm not going to tell anyone to ignore technology. That's just as foolish. Instead, the magic is in using technology that makes you more effective. I love using tools like SalesForce.com, Eloqua, Hootsuite, etc. But I also know that I can't hide behind them.
Regardless of what you call them, these advances mean that salespeople will need to be more "on-top-of-their-game." So, let's step-it-up!
"None of us on our own are as capable as all of us together"
I paraphrased my favorite Japanese Proverb to make a point: Too often, salespeople stall because they're afraid they don't have all of the answers. The truth is that they'd be much better off if they'd adopt the attitude that, by working together, they'll arrive at a better place.
Smart salespeople look to their colleagues, sales managers, prospective clients, customers -- anyone really -- for answers.
- A testimonial, for example, is an existing client telling a prospective client that you can do what you've claimed (or, ideally, more).
- A referral involves working collaboratively with an existing client to identify someone inside their network who can take advantage of your offering.
- A partnership is identifying someone you can work with to build business opportunities together.
- A network is a group of people looking to help each other create new business.
As we move into 2011 (and beyond) there will be more and more opportunities to collaborate. Could you partner with someone to write an e-book that would help your prospective clients buy from you? Could you find some experts in your field and coauthor a few articles together? Sure, these ideas may seem a bit far-fetched, but they could help you get discovered by a prospective client!
Are you taking advantage of online collaboration tools?
I'm a pretty good prospect for lots of people. I control three budgets (marketing, R&D, and operations) in a privately-held company and I don't have all of the answers to the problems I face. However, I'm terribly, terribly - at times unbelievably - busy.
So, with that setup, why do people think a Cold Call will work?
The chances of a cold caller catching me at a time when I’m able to pay attention to their offering is unlikely. Even if it’s something I could actually benefit from, I’m probably not going to be able (willing) to stop what I’m doing to focus on what they’re selling.
Cold calls frustrate me, especially when the caller is selling something I really do need. If you’re going to provide so much benefit, PLEASE get my attention some way other than an interruption. Here are some ideas:
- Find out where I am, and be there. I attend a lot of conferences. Perhaps you can connect with me there.
- I’m awfully easy to find on social media networks. Let’s tweet, link, or somehow meetup.
- You've probably noticed that I like to blog. Perhaps you could comment.
The key to connecting with prospects like me is to meet them where they are in a way that doesn’t interrupt them.
If you can do that…
…you’re doing a lot of good as a salesperson.
For the sake of my time, your time, and all time, stop the interruption-selling!