Enterprise salespeople have talked for many years about the critical points in their customer’s buying process. For most it incorporates some combination of the following: the initial realization that a problem exists, the scoping of the challenge, the search for an internal budget champion, the visualization of a solution, the long-listing of possible solutions, the early outreach to potential suppliers, their shortlisting, the internal proof-of-concept, the cost/benefit analysis, the final bake-off, the deal negotiation, and finally the sign-off.
When large sections of this process moved online a decade or more ago, many aspects changed. The timescales, the increasing number of long-listed suppliers, the lack of face-to-face time allowed for the salespeople, the fact that sales were only aware of the prospect’s interest far later in the process, etc. For ten years the majority of salespeople have struggled to adopt to this new way of working. And now the goalposts have moved again.
As online search has increasingly moved from desktop to mobile, so the buying process too has changed. Search results appear very differently on a mobile – the attention span is shorter, the search terms briefer, the convenience and immediacy more important. Online contextual text chat more relevant. Relevance and Immediacy have become watchwords. The right content, personalized, in real-time. The skills required of a salesperson are changing again.
I have a friend who’s worked as an enterprise salesperson for many years. She’s very hard-working, diligent, very engaging personality and always willing to travel. She says her skills are less valued than they once were – what’s the point of a great personality when your opportunities to display it are so reduced? When early-stage decisions have already been made on a mobile screen, only those shortlisted suppliers are now even getting to introduce themselves to the prospect. By then, impressions have already been cast – and that’s not ideal for any salesperson.
What vendors are now looking for are banks of prospect analysts, those who can watch a series of online queries and predict, then instantly supply, the information most likely to be of direct help to that enquiry. Sometimes its a real-world conversation, sometimes a relevant case study, sometimes a competitor comparison and at other times a business RoI argument. Offering the wrong option can kill the opportunity – with little hope of getting it back because you don’t know who’s doing the asking.
Mobile is certainly changing what triggers interest (and disinterest) among would-be buyers. And I think the salesperson will increasingly struggle to find a satisfying role.