This is my first time attending the Sales 2.0 Conference. As an advocate for marketing professionals, I feel like a bit of a spy since this conference all about how to enhance the art and science of sales by combining sales process with Web 2.0 productivity tools. Some of this makes me nervous because it is not so much about enabling sales (which is good) as it is about making sales self-sufficient in demand generation.
Gerhard Gschwandter is the founder and CEO of Personal Selling Power and he wasn’t kind to vendors and analysts in his opening remarks here. And with good reason: in this economy doing what sales and marketing have relied on in the past isn’t working. Buying the best technology doesn’t insure more closed deals, greater customer retention, or higher profitability. Analyst advice is”two steps behind” where problem seekers and solution providers are trying to go because Web 2.0 changes things so quickly.
Rather than drown in an ocean of information, sales needs to learn to swim efficiently in this new socially connected, information saturated milleu. This means learning how to get closer to customers, understand our real place in the market, and orchestrate technology and process to make customer interactions more engaging. Gerhard offers 6 steps to help sales and marketing deal with this situation, which I interpret here and include my thoughts in italics:
1) Ditch the pitch. It’s not about you, but about the customer. Work on having a conversation and building a relationship, not just putting the right message out there. (I agree: Web 2.0 and social media make it easier for prospects to learn about you long before the first sales call. Sales presentations need to be about “how we help you” not “who we are.” And it’s marketing’s job to give sales the tools to do this well.)
2) Learn to be consultative or become extinct. Getting closer to customers is about listening to their problems and helping to find solutions, not just putting out new features and functionality. (There’s a lot of emphasis on consultative, but only 10% of vendors are seen as strategic. This is hard to do, but feels like the new holy grail in sales. Big step for those who are order-takers.)
3) Co-creation is key. Spec and price sheets are old school. Customers don’t want to be sold to, they want help developing new business capability. (Precisely – so customer success stories, references, and how-to guides are essential in proving that we know how to deliver new business capacity, not just technology. The tech industry is evolving from tech to service delivery, for sure.)
4) Redefine selling. Based on your market, products, services and target customers, design the sales process that supports your business goals — don’t just rely on what you’ve done in the past or what sales process consultants tell you to do. (Hmm, I’m still seeing a lack of well defined sales process. Unless the process is completely broken, getting to consistency and repeatability is probably more important than wholesale redesign at this point.)
5) Use more science. Manufacturing quality management tolerates fewer than one mistake in 1000, 10k, or 100K. Sales and marketing tolerate one mistake in 5 or 10. We need to change that. (Right, and marketing needs to lead the way. Both sales and marketing need to be measured on the same lead-to-opportunity conversion metrics. Sales can’t take all the credit and neither should marketing. Dashboards, analytics, and tracking keep everyone honest and on the same page.)
6) Customers will create companies. Web 2.0, social media, and the Internet put buyers in the drivers seat. (Yes, marketing’s charter is now to listen to customers express their needs, model these demands into known patterns of problems, match their products/services to these models, and map out the communication needed to move buyers from one stage to the next in the buying process — eventually turning them over to sales to take the relationship from online to physical.)
Scott Santucci followed Gerhard and introduced Forrester’s Model-Map-Match methodology that can help shift to a customer-first focus. The upshot of Scott’s presentation? Content is king in the selling process. We worry about process, people, and technology but tend to overlook content, which fuels the sales conversation. Marketing needs to help sales put the right information (not message or positioning) in front of customers at the right time — as defined by their needs, not ours — to create two-way, co-designed solutions that enable faster adoption and shorter time to value. Check out the MMM process for yourself.