It’s not often I disagree with Anthony Iannarino’s take on things. He recently wrote an article, 10 Half Truths About Sales.
I really don’t disagree with his views (perhaps this is a “Yes, and……” post). But what if we considered these to be 100% true, what does it mean for sales?
The post is really reaching out to counter the dozens of ill informed posts about the “Death of Sales.” I’m always amused by these posts. They are usually written by vendors or consultants who sell to sales people. Ironically, they are foreseeing the deaths of their own businesses.
Let’s walk through Anthony’s 10 Half Truths, but this time thinking, what does it mean if they are 100% true?
- Buyers are spending their time researching: I happen to think self education is fantastic. 100% of buyers should be researching on the web. What’s it mean for sales? Well, perhaps more opportunity. If more people are researching issues with their business, perhaps more will reach out asking us to help. Even if that isn’t the case, what’s it mean for sales—for years our value as information concierges has diminished. But what that does is frees up our time to focus on the most critical information that buyers will not get from their web research, that is, “What’s it mean for me? What are the risks? What return will I get?” Web research will only be able to address the general case—perhaps for a persona, perhaps for a certain industry. But the real value and opportunity for sales is the “last mile,” that is helping the customer translate what they learn to their specific situation. This is the real opportunity for sales, this is where we maximize the value we can create for them.
- Buyers are well educated and informed: I don’t know that this is true. Too often, they don’t know what they should be looking for, too often, they may be asking the wrong questions or missing something. But what if we accept that this is 1005 true? Why then to the majority of buying efforts end in “No Decision Made?” As sellers, we are always focused on which solution the buyer is going to select. But that’s not the most difficult part of buying. Today’s consensus buying is very tough, 6.8 people involved in the decision-making process. Buyers don’t get derailed in product selection, they get derailed because they can’t align priorities and agendas within the buying group. They get derailed because they don’t know how to buy. This is where sales creates, possibly, their greatest value–helping the customer learn how to buy (by being prescriptive), and facilitating their buying process.
- Buyers are spending their time on social sites: So what if they do? More power to them! This still doesn’t help in the issues I’ve identified in 1 and 2. (And there will be more as we go through the 10 points.) This is a non issue, we should encourage buyers to be socially engaged, we should engage them through every channel possible, but this doesn’t impact the critical value we create as sales people.
- Buyers now control the process: This is the height of sales arrogance. They’ve always controlled the process, as they should. But buyers need help. Again, if they control the process, why to the majority of buying decisions end in No Decision Made? Clearly, they don’t know how to buy, they don’t know how to manage their own buying group to make a decision. Again, here’s where sales creates great value.
- Marketing is going to generate your leads: Wonderful, if they can! But this still doesn’t address the struggle buyers have in buying!
- Marketing automation can nurture relationships: This is a bit of a semantic discussion, I tend to agree with Anthony’s point of view. However, let’s assume that it’s 100% true. This doesn’t represent the complete relationship the customer wants. Yes, some transactional sales can be done untouched by human hands. But complex sales/buying is a struggle. Not just for the reasons I’ve already outlined–though those would be sufficient to cover this point. Buyers are people, they have fears, concerns, worries–personal as well as business.
- Inbound is better than outbound: What if this were true? What if 100% of our opportunities came through inbound? Again, all we are talking about is the very start of the buying process, there’s a huge amount of “selling” to be done in helping buyers. I’ll get to outbound in a moment, but briefly outbound is critical because not 100% of buyers will come to you, consequently you miss huge opportunities–even if you are making your number through outbound.
- Sales people are only necessary to close opportunities: I don’t know that this is a half truth. I think it’s wishful thinking from sales people who don’t want to sell. It’s clear buyers need sellers to help them buy. I think the core of the issue on the death of sales people is that too many sales people don’t want to sell, they just want to collect orders.
- The best sales people should not prospect: Again, I think this is not a half truth, but rather wishful thinking from sellers that don’t want to sell. But what it we could make our numbers only from incoming leads? That still leaves the majority of the sales opportunity untapped! We’ve talked about the struggle buyers have buying. But where do they blow up in their buying process? It’s roughly 37% through the buying process—long before the proverbial 57%. What about those that never recognize they need to change and never start a buying journey? For top performers, quota is something they pass on the way to meeting their personal goals. Even if they could meet their quota without prospecting, top performers will always be driven to look for more. They will be driven by wanting to provide leadership to convince their customers they should change and facilitate their buying processes.
- There will be fewer sales people in the future: Again, I don’t believe this to be a half truth, but wishful thinking (albeit self destructive thinking) from sellers who really don’t want to sell). If we don’t change, if all we do is continue to push products, if we don’t incite customers to change, if we don’t help them with their buying process, if we don’t create value with our customers–we will not be needed. But customers need this help and someone will do this with them—helping our customers buy and achieve their goals, helping their companies achieve their goals. I happen to think this is the sales professional. I think there are unlimited possibilities for people who can do this, I know our customers need and welcome this.
The death of sales won’t come because our customers aren’t buying and need our help. The death of sales will come from those who won’t change and sellers who really don’t want to sell!
Note: Most of the data cited in this post comes from the Challenger Customer and CEB. If you haven’t read it, you aren’t staying current with the practice—you don’t have to agree with it, you just need to use it to stimulate your own thinking.