As a warning, I’m on a rampage and am channeling my inner Keenan, so I’m likely to explode and use strong language.
I’m seeing all the tired old statistics circulating again. The numbers are all over the place:
- Customers are 57-92% through the buying process before engaging sales.
- 72-94% of buyers are B2B buyers are researching on line.
- 68% of B2B buyers now purchase goods on line.
There are endless amounts of data saying that B2B buyers are letting their fingers walk through Google at some point in their buying process. There are endless research studies talking about B2B buyers are completing their purchase transaction on line.
My reaction is: Who Gives A Damn??!!!! (I know Keenan would have chosen another word)
I also think, all those numbers should be 100%! 100% of our buyers should be leveraging the web! 100% of the purchase transactions should be completed electronically!
All the people making these statements are trying to establish a causal effect around the death of sales people or the changing job of the sales person (In reality, I think it’s really driven by people wanting to shift focus and spending out of sales into marketing and web content, or sales people wanting to hide behind social selling.).
The problem with all of these analyses is a fundamental misunderstanding of what sales people do!
The implication is the primary role of the sales people are to be walking/talking data sheets and order takers! That’s the smallest part of the sales person’s job–and it’s been that way in my whole career in selling (which spans 3 decades!).
If that’s the real job of sales people, then line them up and walk them all off a cliff into the ocean. There are cheaper, faster, more effective ways to produce revenue.
These studies, pundits, and researchers misunderstand what professional selling is.
Yes, a small part of it is being an information concierge–providing brochures, data sheets, case studies, educating customers about feeds and speeds, features and benefits. But there’s so much more.
Great sales people help customers identify problems and opportunities to grow and improve.
Great sales people help incite the customer to change by helping them understand the consequences of doing nothing.
Great sales people recognize the customer struggles to buy. They know a high percentage of buying efforts result in No Decision Made. Great sales people help facilitate the buying process, aligning diverse agendas, priorities.
Great sales people challenge the customer’s thinking about what they are trying to achieve, their needs, priorities, alternatives they could consider. They also help customers understand risk and ways they can mitigate that risk.
Great sales people realize there is a “last mile” challenge as customers assimilate information from the web. They recognize the customer struggles with “What’s this mean for me?” They help translate what they customers learn about the solutions into what it means to them specifically.
Great sales people realize their customers have to create a business justification, they have to understand change management and create an implementation plan, they have to sell what they want to their management. Great sales people provide customers great leadership in doing this.
Great sales people recognize the ultimate differentiator is not the product or solution. In fact, the product is table stakes. By the time the customer gets to a short list, any solution will do.
Great sales people recognize they are the differentiator, the difference between winning and losing. The value they create in the buying process is what sets their offerings and solutions apart.
Great sales people recognize it is irresponsible to wait until the customer reaches out and engages us. They realize, not enough may do this, so they go out and hunt, finding opportunities and engaging customers.
Great sales people recognize it is irresponsible to let the customer fail to recognize they can and must change. They are compelled to seek customers succeed and grow, so they proactively engage people in thinking differently about their businesses.
Great sales people recognize that order taking has nothing to do with great salesmanship (or saleswomanship). An order results from great saleswomanship.
Great customers know there is much more to buying than letting their fingers walk through Google, getting information. They know buying is more than entering a transaction in a shopping cart. Great customers know they need help and welcome the insights and value created by great sales people.
I hope we can stop all this friggin BS!
We should agree, 100% of customers should be leveraging the web to get information about solutions. 100% of the purchase transactions should be executed digitally (EDI has been around for decades, there are all sorts of purchasing solutions, web based solution–it should be a non issue.) We should agree on the 100% as a goal so we can stop talking about this and distracting ourselves from the real issues our customers and our companies face.
Yes marketing people and consultants looking for funding will continue to use this as an argument to reduce sales spending. And a fair share of sales people will use this as an excuse to not be great sales people.
But none of this has anything to do with the real job of great sales people!
If you want to talk about marketing content, online engagement, online fulfillment, please do! These are all important in helping connect with and engage customers. They are important complements to the things that great sales people do, but don’t displace the need for great sales people doing great jobs.
Let’s cut all the crap in these tugs of war between marketing and sales. Forecasting or wishing for the death of sales is wasted breath.
Let’s focus on serving customers, helping them grow and improve, through that driving our revenues and share.