Forrester released some new research called Death Of A B2B Saleman in which they claim that over 1M B2B salesman will be replaced by the year 2020 with eCommerce.
Now I am no prognosticator, but I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night, so I feel like one. All kidding aside, as a past salesman myself, this makes perfect sense to me. I felt like a dentist being a sales rep over the last number of years, it was like pulling teeth to even get a conversation with a prospect. Even when you did it was just a curtesy driven by their overwhelming sense of guilt after the 2,000 communications that went un-responded to and the $200 steak dinner at the conference.
Let’s face it, people don’t want to engage with sales anymore as they don’t feel there is anything they can learn that can’t be found on the internet or through discussions with colleagues.According to a study of B2B buyers by Accenture Interactive
“only 12% of buyers want to meet in person with a sales representative”
So what do the remainder want to do?
“conduct research and purchase on their own with access to a sales representative via phone or online chat”.
Ok, so I can sense you are already already getting defensive about how complex your business is, or that this only applies to small dollar transactions and simple services. To some degree you are right and you are making the same argument I would have made, but my own experience contradicts that. I purchased Hubspot for close to $10,000 a year and the first time I talked with “sales” was getting a contract. I bought a $3,000 project management software only talking to sales to negotiate pricing and payment terms.
In fact of all the infrastructure I have purchased for Executive Answers there is not one time I talked with sales without being forced to by the vendors process. Now you might write me off as a crazy lunatic, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are many executives and buyers who are perfectly sane and want to buy the same way I did.
If you really ask yourself – doesn’t this ring true? Aren’t your sales rep struggling to hit quota’s? Don’t you see the glassy eyes of lead gen reps knowing they have done everything they can think of but still can’t book a discovery call? Don’t you find yourself refreshing your salesforce dashboard hoping the pipeline deficit is just outdated? Aren’t you investing more in content and marketing than every before?
You need to accept that things have changed forever
We are not going back to the days of salespeople “making it rain”. It is a clear and sunny day, and if you really concentrate, you can see the train coming and all the pretending, territory adjustments and sport-analogy-filled-all-hands-meetings are not going to change the fact that the buyer is now in control, and your better focus your efforts on courting them through their process before you get left behind.
What does this mean for:
- It means marketing is more important than ever before.
- It means you need to forget about campaigns and segments and focus on conversations and relationships.
- It means you need to educate and inspire, not try to convince and convert.
- It means your website is now your top sales rep and better perform like one.
- It means you need to understand your buyer, their process, their questions, needs and concerns and be able to showcase that knowledge as you differentiate your solution.
- It means you need to focus on inbound sales and not outbound.
- It means you need to map your buyer journey and be able to track buyers through it.
- It means you need to stop talking so much and listen more.
- It means there can no longer be silos across web, marketing, lead gen, sales and customer success.
- It means all these data sets, staff, technologies and strategies need to be cohesive and be treated as the experience just like how your subscribers look at them.
- It means you need to embrace mobile and eCommerce.
- It means you need to deliver a world class customer experience because your customers and subscribers hold more influence than you do and will dictate your growth.
A Brave New World
I know for some people this is a radical shift, and for others this is a confirmation of the direction you are already headed, and others are left somewhere in between. The good news is you can make the changes above to start aligning your process to the buyer journey and you will see improvement. The other good news is sales people are very expensive, all the salaries, benefits, travel and dinners. Forrester claims you can reduce the cost of selling and servicing customers by introducing self-service by as much as 90%, so this becomes a huge cost savings effort enabling you to invest in marketing, reduce your price point to compete or spend on innovation.
The other good news is helping companies adapt to this modern buyer journey is what we specialize in at Executive Answers. So if your company is behind the curve or just needs help optimizing your transition lets connect @execanswers.
About Executive Answers
Executive Answers helps SaaS companies design, execute and optimize sales and marketing strategies that align with the modern Subscription Buyer Journey. Comprised of SaaS veterans with experience working for Taleo, Responsys, SuccessFactors, Meltwater and Zuora. www.executiveanswers.net