I'm facinated by the dramatic changes in behaviour of B2B buyers, and in particular their increased use of social media to seek opinions from peers prior to approaching sales organisations.
I see 2 key drivers for this: - a lack of trust in the motives and behaviours of salespeople, and a resentment of the behaviours of marketing managers who focus on "cut through", in essence "throwing rocks through buyers' windows".
This (deliberately inflammatory) post hypothesises that sales people can't be trusted - and probably revives many archetypal views of "the sales person". My background is the IT industry, so I will use this as well as B2B in general to illustrate the points made.
My generalist - and admittedly inflammatory - statement is that as a community salespeople are not trusted. In his book "The Speed of Trust", Stephen M R Covey advises that trust relates to BOTH character (ie intent, integrity) and ALSO credibility (ie capabilities and results).
So - where's my proof?
IDC's 2010 Buyer Experience Study reports that, on average, 50% of sales calls are made by IT sales reps that are insufficiently prepared. Unlike professions such as medicine, accounting, law, many trades - sales lacks any rigorous or widely recognised accreditation dictating entry to the profession. Particularly for IT channel members sales must be one of the few jobs where you can walk in, earn over $100k per annum, with little or no training. Frost & Sullivan in 2006 documented that the 1st and 3rd highest market restraints in the Enterprise Content Management market were "difficulty in understanding business benefits" and "mismatch between business needs and solutions offered". These factors related directly to sales person performance. There goes "capabilities".
Results. I have no formal statistics on the number of IT projects that "fail", but the number is not negligible, and the consequences are high. In my home town a $64m public health payroll implementation has failed - and will take $209m to fix. No doubt a sales person was responsible for early reassurances that this project was actually on track.
Intent. Predominantly IT sales people are bonused on orders, revenue, margin etc. There's minimal focus on recommending the right solution, successful customer outcomes etc. Temkin Group reports the 5th highest organisational obstacle to great customer experience (all industries) is "lack of incentives & rewards". Sales people are goaled on "making the sale" - not specifically "solving the customer's problem".
Integrity. Look no further than feedback from sales teams themselves. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management (#2, 2009) cites studies where 49% of sales managers surveyed report their salespeople had lied on calls, 34% report their salespeople had made unrealistic promises, 22% report sales of products that customers didn't need.
I'm obviously trying to be provocative here - but I'm convinced the growth (for example) in social media usage by B2B buyers reflects an accelerated shunning of salespeople, and moving to talk more with trusted peers prior to engaging with vendors and channel members.
So - comments please - how widespread is distrust of sales people - and what should sales and marketing professionals do to address the situation?