What does the salesperson of the future look like?
This blog summarises the points made by Bruce Rasmussen during the panel discussion on “Driving sales: Introducing the salesman of the future” – made at CRN’s Fast50 Awards, held on Friday 22nd November, 2013.
The salesperson of the future will be the one that adapts his/her selling processes to match the new way in which buyers buy.
People talk about the massive disruption that things like the cloud are making in the IT arena. An even bigger disrupter however, and one that’s not really been investigated by ICT sales teams, is the fact that even over the last three years buyers have fundamentally changed how they buy.
My consulting firm Carpe Diem works with vendors, disti’s and service providers – and we’ve had to change all of our sales and marketing consulting and training offerings to reflect this new buyer’s journey. I suspect most ICT sales organisations need to review the degree to which their sales processes map onto this new journey.
The 6 key things all salespeople must do to succeed in the 21st Century:
1. Deploy a sales process that matches with the new buyer’s journey
On average, buyers get 70% of the way through their journey before they reach out to a sales organisation (according to research undertaken by the Corporate Executive Board).
When they do reach out, they reach out to many of us – but there is only one winner and everyone else has wasted their time.
2. Challenge customers to shatter their status quo
Understanding this new buyer’s journey is the key to early engagement: research says that “relationship building” is actually the poorest performing sales profile. Instead we need to challenge customers to offer up insights that challenge their businesses and offer them a better way of doing things.
HOW we sell is now more important than WHAT we sell. Buyers want to be educated – they want to hear about the insights we can provide into their business based on the work we do across all of our customers.
3. Leverage social media
Certainly we need to “challenge” customers to “shatter their status quo”, thus starting them on a new buyer’s journey. We also need to use social media to hear when someone else has shattered the buyer’s status quo, starting a new buyer’s journey. Research says that 74% of B2B sales people that use social media outperform those that don’t so social selling is something that can no longer be ignored.
4. Innovate to reduce the cost of sale
Given the move to customers paying for everything as a service on a monthly basis, we have to dramatically reduce the cost of sale. Innovation here is important – for example a popular offering from my firm involves teaching field based technical and consulting resources to spot and report back on opportunities. This has immediate payback in terms of leads and customer satisfaction – and removes the risk of mis-hiring a sales person, an exercise we estimate costs nearly $200,000.
5. Align sales and marketing
The old days of marketing generating leads and throwing them over the fence to sales is dead – sales and marketing have to work together all along the buyer’s journey. In my firm, our marketing consultants work on every single one of our assignments, even if it is purely sales as recognise the two are so inexorably linked.
IDC reports that sales teams use only 25% of what marketing comes up with – so this change is well overdue.
6. Create a seamless and enjoyable sales process
So – this is all very well for achieving the initial sale – but how do we keep customers? What do we need to do to ensure customer loyalty – particularly in this era of SaaS, where customers can change providers instantly, with minimal switching costs?
More CEB research shows that – unlike branding, customer service, value for money etc – it is the sales experience that contributes to over 50% of the contribution to customer loyalty. The sales person needs to offer unique insights, and help the buyer navigate various alternatives, avoiding land mines along the way. Again, HOW we sell is now more important than WHAT we sell – particularly when it comes to customer loyalty.
Understanding the new buyers journey, and mapping our sales and marketing process to reflect this, is the key to unlocking sales and marketing success in the 21st Century.