Perhaps you have read, Forrester forecasts that 1 million US B2B salespeople will lose their jobs to self-service eCommerce by the year 2020. There is an excellent article in Slate covering the same topic entitled, Death of a Salesman. Of Lots of Them, Actually.
The main theme of both articles is that sales people are becoming “disintermediated” by the internet. The authors use examples of how auto salespeople, travel agents, and stock brokers have lost their jobs to sites like AutoTrader, Expedia, and eTrade. There is no arguing that B2C sales careers have been severely crippled by the information age but what about B2B? Truly.
Steve Woods, Former CTO of Eloqua and author of Digital Body Language, argues that a B2B salesperson’s biggest competition is Google. I have to agree. Salespeople don’t get involved in the buying process until the prospect has thoroughly educated him or herself about our service. The latest research from SiriusDecisions states that buyers have completed 67% of their buying process before they contact a seller! Our competitive differentiation and online demonstrations are available for the world to see on our website so why wouldn’t they? Every piece of information we as salespeople once thought so sacred in the sales process has been reduced to a click of a mouse. If you are saying the same thing to your prospect that can be found online then you have added no value to the sales process.
To avoid the same fate as Willie Loman, we have to tailor our message specifically to the buyer. We have to give them something they can’t find online. Luckily, the information superhighway is a two way street.
- The first step is to get out in front of the buyer by knowing who and when they were on your website or opened your sales collateral. Companies like Yesware and LeadForensics will give this business intelligence as part of their offering. Were executives on your site or just functionaries? Was your proposal forwarded on to legal? The pages they selected will give you the insight into their concerns.
- The second step is to do a thorough search of the buyers. Search LinkedIn to see how long the buyers have been working in their present positions and where they worked before. Oftentimes we can get a glimpse of predisposition by understanding the landscape of previous employers. What groups are they members of on LinkedIn? Review their last 20 tweets to see what is motivating them to post on social media.
- The last step is to research the company itself. Try searching the company on Owler for a competitive graph. Datanyze will provide an industry overview to gauge the reach a company has in a certain market. My favorite site is G2Crowd to get first hand insight into user reviews of a software product. Lastly, try Glassdoor for employee reviews of the company. You can catch hidden gems from disgruntled employees. Think competitive advantage in terms of how you can give it to your prospect – not against your own competition.
- Find the relevant wins your company has in the prospect’s industry or had the same problem. Link your potential buyer with previous buyers of your solution. Win Stories that are relevant to your buyer by product or against a similar competitor will bring context to your value proposition instead of rote talking points.
With these bits of information you can begin creating a talk track around specific intelligence that will compliment what the prospect already has learned about your solution. Here are a couple more ideas on how to avoid disintremediation from Business to Community. My favorite is to adopt a challenger sales model.
Lastly – Geoffrey James as 6 ideas on what selling will look like in 2024: http://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/6-ways-selling-will-change-by-2024.html