Thomas Friedman of the New York Times wrote a classic column about the new untouchables in American Business. I found this quote to be quite prophetic, “In a world in which more and more average work can be done by a computer, robot or talented foreigner faster, cheaper “and just as well,” vanilla doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s all about what chocolate sauce, whipped cream and cherry you can put on top.” For Friedman – the New Untouchables have the ability to imagine new services, new opportunities and new ways to recruit work.
I thought about how the same concept applies to the noble vocation of selling. Forbes reports that 58% of executives consult the the web before they call a vendor to start a new project. Buyers are educating themselves on our solutions, via the web and social networking, and are less receptive to the “cold call.” Corporate websites are site optimized with messaging unique to the viewer, third-party research, info-graphics, and recorded demos. Top marketers employ consistent demand generation messaging across mobile, social, search, email, and web to pique the buyer’s interest. Tools like Eloqua and Marketo empower marketing with results about the effectiveness of their campaigns and highlight individuals who show the right buying propensities.
I heard a statistic stating that selling used to be 30% marketing and 70% sales. With the new shift in the buyer/seller paradigm – that percentage is now reversed. The latest research from SiriusDecisions states that buyers have completed 67% of their buying process before they contact a seller. Sales leaders seem to be adjusting their go-to market strategy with this paradigm shift accordingly. Marketing’s role is going deeper into the sales cycle to the point of handling the entire transaction over the web in some cases. As a result, Forrester forecasts that 1 million US B2B salespeople will lose their jobs to self-service eCommerce by the year 2020. Outside sales forces have been pushed inside with web-conferencing and online demonstrations as cheaper vehicles for selling. InsideSales.com, conducted research revealing that inside sales is growing 300 percent faster than outside sales, with 42,400 non-retail inside sales jobs being created per year. Key account retention is now the responsibility of senior leadership with advisory councils and strategic liaisons. As one CEO recently told me – “the days of the $100,000 doughnut-toter vanished in the wake of the great recession.”
Over the past two years, successful sales leaders survived doing more with less. These pioneers will only build on the lessons they learned – not return to unproductive habits of the past. Furthermore, as Software as a Service evolves into every aspect of business, it becomes less complicated for the buyer to understand, purchase, and even trial. The barrier of entry is just that much lower. The question then is how do modern sales people make themselves untouchable? I think the answer is to adjust and evolve. Today’s buyer wants to buy from a peer. We must embrace the new technologies and lack of control we once had in the buying process.
If our buyers are searching for information on our solution on the web – then be on the web – in the form of blogs, webinars, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Content is King after all. If our buyers can learn more about us online, then we should learn more about them. The information highway is a two-way street.
Try going to the BlueKai registry website to see what Oracle knows about you based on your web foot print: http://www.bluekai.com/registry/
Become an industry expert by reading the same whitepapers and joining the same social networks they do. Finally, remember that your biggest competition is no longer tangible, it is the web. If you can’t offer value over and above what a buyer can find online, then you are “touchable.” Be untouchable, be connected, be a resource.