By Ray Smith
The rise of the information economy poses serious questions to the conventional methods of driving a sale, and in the years since we started Datahug, the changes have accelerated.
The primary concern of the sales community of late has been the viability of the B2B sales rep in the face of what SiriusDecisions refers to as “disintermediation by digital buying behaviors”.
The huge availability of information from peers and industry sources on just about every technology available means that buyers are changing the way they make purchase decisions.
A fear exists in the industry that buyers are beginning to educate themselves on products long before ever talking to a sales rep, and that this shift may cut the sales rep out of the purchasing process entirely.
But as the findings from SirusDecision’s 2015 B2B Buyer Study revealed, this fear is unfounded. Buyers still interact with sales reps at every step of the purchasing process, just in different ways than they have in the past.
So what does this mean for a CEO building a sales team?
A modern sales organization cannot be built on the idea that buyers will be fully educated on a product before they ever start a conversation with a sales rep. Companies have historically used targeted marketing campaigns to create brand awareness and then brought in pushy sales reps to close a deal.
This strategy becomes ineffective in the face of today’s infinite sea of information, bombarding potential customers every single day. Counting on marketing to produce a stream of well-educated customers is like trying to lay a trail of breadcrumbs in a bakery.
The data found in SiriusDecisions’ study shows that buyers appreciate early engagement, and overwhelmingly view interaction with salespeople throughout the purchasing process as positive.
The idea economy is loud, disorganized and often contradictory. B2B buyers have responsibilities other than finding innovative technologies to improve their workflow, and most aren’t looking at all.
A new kind of buyer calls for a new kind of seller. Sales reps that sit at the end of a trail of breadcrumbs waiting for customers to come along asking to buy a product will be sadly disappointed.
The job of a rep is no longer to wait at the bottom of the funnel, but to start at the top of the funnel and guide prospects down. They must qualify them in, not qualify them out.
This doesn’t mean that they can do away with marketing. Quite the contrary – marketing departments are now more important than ever.
Historically, marketing used to handle only lead-generation and early-stage campaigns to move prospects through the top half of the funnel. Sales and marketing occupied entirely separate stages of the funnel. Once a salesperson entered the conversation, the role of marketing was complete. But now prospects bounce between marketing and sales throughout the buyer’s journey.
Where once there was a hand-off, now marketing and sales overlap for the entire length of the funnel.
For me, this means that the people I hire for my sales department don’t need to be able to sell ice to eskimos. More important to me is someone who can delve into an industry, understand the problems within it, and help build a solution to those problems with the help of the product they’re selling. I need salespeople who naturally look for the bigger picture and steer a conversation in that direction.
All sales teams today need to focus on helping potential buyers pull the information they need out of the modern maelstrom of information available to them.
To do this, rather than great talkers, we need great listeners.
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Engineer, Techie and Entrepreneur who loves to build innovative solutions and teams. Particular passion for data science, machine learning and prescriptive intelligence applied to sales.
Ray is co-founder & CEO of Datahug.com – the next generation sales platform
Ray previously worked for Accenture for over 6 years, implementing large scale IT projects around the globe.
Ray placed top in his Electronic & Electrical Engineering degree and went on to complete a research based Masters of Engineering Science in Advanced Digital Signal Processing.