You’ve probably heard that 65 percent or more of today’s B2B buyers have fully researched purchases before ever talking to a sales rep. This radical shift has changed the buyers’ journey in today’s business world and it come about because of the internet.
Where 10 years ago buyers would more or less count on salespeople to inform them of solutions to their issues, today that research is conducted for the most part without ever contacting a sales rep—until the buyer is ready to purchase.
Because of this change, sales experts have pointed the way to content marketing, so that as potential buyers are researching they learn about your products or services in the way you’d like them to. Social media (such as Ffacebook, Twiter of LinkedIn) has become an important marketing platform as well; it’s a question of reaching buyers in the places they might search for answers, and providing those answers.
But what exactly does this shift mean for sales organizations? How should sales management approach this problem as regards their sales forces?
Traditional Approaches of the Sales Management are Falling Short
For the last hundred years or so, sales methodology has changed little, despite vast advances in technology. At the core you still have prospecting, opportunity rating, a pitch that works most of the time, and the close.
But technology has finally overtaken us, and that technology has turned this sales methodology around. Now buyers primarily become prospects on their own and eventually reach out to the company, instead of the reverse. A sales rep reaching out with a pitch is more than ever before finding a less and less responsive audience.
A sales force has traditionally been staffed with salespeople that were experts in selling—but not necessarily experts in the industry and not an expert in the many ways a product or service would solve issues for a prospect. There are usually one or two of these types of experts available as tags, such as the tech tag in a software company. If there are customization questions involved, another type of tag is required—the sales rep might have to be the go-between between that expert and the prospect. But the average salesperson is lost once a very basic level of technical depth is passed. The sales pipeline management has changed radically in this aspect.
Within the B2B environment, there are companies reporting that traditional approaches of sales management are either less effective or not effective at all. The time is obviously ripe for organizations to beef up their sales forces to meet the new B2B challenges—or lose an increasing number of sales.
What to Do?
So the question becomes, how does sales management face these challenges?
There are a number of possible approaches. One might be to increase the number of experts within your sales force by adding them. Another might be to work from within, increasing the expertise of your existing sales reps. Yet another might be to trim down your sales force by taking out those that are less expert.
The bottom line, however, is to take a step back and view the entire sales approach differently, for we are moving into the era of insight selling. Instead of the traditional view of the “sales funnel”—with leads coming in through the top and closes coming out the bottom—the sales management must look at the sales process through the lens of the buyer experience.
In the next few articles in our series on surviving the changes in B2B sales, we will discuss in detail how these shifts might be accomplished. For if your company is to flourish into the new era of B2B sales, sales management must fully understand its implications and how best to position their sales forces for sustained success.
One key sales tool for insight selling is this one.