The highly experienced sales coach Ian Dainty in Canada posts about the ‘No Decision’ sales outcome.
I think we’re relatively close to making a dramatic breakthrough in understanding how B2B buying decisions are being made. I mean really being made – and it’s definitely not via Twitter! Much as hundreds of marketing agencies would like you to believe, there’s little insight into real sales to be gained by understanding who tweets most noisily about a given subject.
Following last week’s reblog about Josiane Chriqui Feigon’s ’10 Reasons why Inside Sales will displace Field Sales teams by 2015′ I wanted to review how that impacts our understanding of the major B2B sales influencers.
She says that 57% of the B2B buying process is now completed before ever connecting with a salesperson. As an addition to this point, she says we have 20m salespeople apparently ( I assume this is U.S. data only) – and that number is predicted to be reduced to 8m by 2020 – largely because of this ‘reduced’ role.
Now that’s clearly not a message any salesperson would want to accept – that they’re there to navigate the prospect through only the final 40% or so of the process. It means the salesperson has less opportunity to redirect that choice than ever before. I don’t have data but I wouldn’t mind betting ten years ago much less than 40% of the sales process was completed before the salesperson typically entered the fray, leaving them plenty of time to persuade any would-be buyer.
So now the salesperson is correcting impressions already made about their brand rather than initially setting them. And if there’s one complaint I’ve heard more than almost any other from salespeople it’s that they get to hear of opportunities too late in the day, where they’re having to respond to an already shaped RFP (Request for Proposal), they’re invited in only alongside multiple ‘less worthy’ alternatives or they’re having to force-fit their offering in to a less than ideal already-in-place framework.
I often say that assuming a salesperson manages to get in to a one hour meeting with his/her prospect per month then that’s the one hour of the month I’m least interested in, because only the salesperson is relevant for that hour. I’m interested in the 21 days six hours each month when the prospect is hearing from everyone else but the salesperson. And if the salesperson feels they’re now facing a reduction in influence as a result, well that just makes those influencing during those 21 days six hours even more important. And even less feasible for marketing depts. to ignore.
This brings me to a second point Josiane makes. The rising number of strong influencers in any B2B decision – varying from 5 to 21 according to her – allied to the fact that telecommuting means many of these will work away from the central office – means that scheduling an on-site meeting with the committee of decision-makers will be almost impossible. 85% of buyer-seller interactions will therefore happen online through social media and video. Most salespeople today will dread this thought since they base much of their confidence in their persuasiveness to their in-person face-to-face skills. Skills that are far harder to convey on a Skype call.
Yes of course there will have to be a very different type of salesperson required (a subject I’m sure I’ll write about soon) but an undeniable conclusion to this dramatic sales shift is that the role of ‘behind-the-scenes’ influencers will only increase.
If any company boss had to make a choice between sales or marketing, it’d be an easy choice. Let’s set aside for the moment the argument that the two are inseparable. One is in place to serve the other. One is the journey, the other the reward.
It’s easy to find a number of very attractive marketing blogs – written by very accessible personalities, constantly updated, plenty of dynamic content, thought-provoking anecdotes, vox-pop videos, etc. At the top end you can say there’s the Seth Godins’ and Martha Rodgers’ and Jackie Hubas’ of this world all the way down to those from niche regional marketing agencies.
And then we get to sales-focused blogs. Even I get bored when I search through them. Is there not much to say on the subject of the sales process? Or trends within it? New insights into customer behavior? New ways of understanding how to cut-up markets? How to short-circuit the often tortuous sales cycle?
Ok there’s a few sales rockstars such as Zig Ziegler, but the books he’s written stay firmly in the ‘niche interest’ sections whereas Seth’s are right by the checkout. His books always focus on ‘the story’ and we all like a story. Doesn’t making a sale require a story too?
Maybe the marketers take all the good bits that the sales blogs could justifiably cover. Maybe the marketers see themselves as already covering the sales topic too. Of course it’s possible the sales experts are too busy selling to be actively blogging too. Or maybe those interesting sales blogs are out there and I just haven’t found many*.
There might be more to write about on marketing, because in the pursuit of perpetual interest there’s always a need for ‘new’. The range of topics within the marketing field could be way broader than those for sales.
But it still jars that when it comes to sales & marketing, reading about the journey is more fulfilling than reading about the reward.
*Of course there are exceptions. Bob Apollo’s Inflexion-Points comes immediately to mind.
I’d love to be told I’m wrong. That those blogs are out there. Be sure to let me know.