Death of a Salesman?


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This Week in B2B Digital Marketing Podcast Episode #1: Death of a Salesman?

Forrester put 1 million B2B salespeople on notice at their recent Sales Enablement Forum in Arizona. The pendulum has swung so far in favor of buyers over sellers, they claim, that by 2020, there will be 1 million less B2B salespeople-1 million! –That’s roughly a 25% reduction. Buyers want to buy and not be ‘sold to’. Order takers are definitely goners. The landscape is changing fast and salespeople need to evolve or become extinct. According to CEB, buyers are 60%(others say more, up to 90%) through their decision making process and have already created a short list of vendors before sales is engaged.

Salespeople need to add value to the conversation in order to be successful. How will they accomplish this? We have heard how salespeople need to become credible thought leaders, leveraging insights, connecting via social, and picking up where marketing leaves off in providing an outstanding customer experience. The main obstacle that Sales faces today is not the competition, but rather it’s the Status Quo and the risk-averse nature of buyers today. There are many tools that salespeople can leverage and one very important example is storytelling. As John K. Bastes, a renowned business presenter says, “never tell a story without a point, and never make a point without a story.” A buyer must be engaged both emotionally and rationally.


What is important to note is that social is a somewhat newer medium for the modern day seller, and as such it needs to be incorporated into the larger selling strategy which still includes emailing, phone, events, old fashion networking and the like. Moreover, in regard to messaging, the focus must be squarely on the prospect, her challenges, issues, KPI’s, business strategy and goals. The old, ‘feature, function, price’ approach or the ‘we are the leading provider of widgets’ pitch no longer (did it ever?) resonates with buyers.

The reality is that the prospect has already done the research and knows who you are and what you do. He is looking to solve his issues. Those organizations that can demonstrate that they understand the buyer’s business, his pain points, and can paint a picture of the ‘to be’ environment and the specific value it brings, will be the most successful. Salespeople’s partners in making this happen are the marketing team. Marketing must engage early with these prospects, dissect and proactively uncover the issues, and then deliver relevant content to help move buyers along in their decision journey. Again, the focus should be away from the seller. Let’s just say for every four pieces of content, you want make sure you are talking about your company in only one of those four. Overall you want to be providing valuable information to the prospect. It kind of like it goes back to Jay ‘Jab Jab Jab , Right Hook’ approach espoused by Gary Vaynerchuk.

Going for the one punch knockout in the buyer’s journey can end with you being the one that get’s KO’d. Organizations need to build trust with buyers over time and that can mean several pieces of content, a live event and a webinar. In addition, there are an increasing number of stakeholders involved in a purchase decision. The ability to connect with each of the stakeholders is paramount, and both marketing and sales need to collectively work on identifying issues and building consensus. CEB says that organizations which successfully build a bridge to at least 6 stakeholders won more deals and those that had identified and engaged with 5 or less had a lower win percentage. So in summary, sales needs to do the following to avoid becoming a victim of Forrester’s predicted extinction.

1. Become a though leader-develop a specialization in an area related to your business. Blog and curate content around the subject and become the go-to authority.

2. Build your social network presence and start connecting-You need an audience for your thought leadership and content marketing. A recent study showed that 98% of those sales execs that had 5000+ LinkedIn connections made their quota.

3. Work with marketing to identify your target buyers and deliver relevant and personalized content in the channels where they participate.

4. Identify all of the members of the buying committee and work to build consensus among them for a greater chance of turning them into clients.

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  • fknowlton

    This was great. Looking forward to more. I have to agree that most people are researching and making most of their decisions before reaching out to a salesperson. This creates a great opportunity for Marketers and Salespeople to partner more in providing more value and help to prospective customers.

  • Agreed! This isn’t a sales vs. marketing conversation, but a conversation of how the two lines of business combine forces to better the customer experience. Social selling is one way for sure.

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