The New Untouchables

Thomas FriedmanThomas Friedman of the New York Times writes a very insightful column about the new untouchables in American Business. As unemployment soars around 10% and damned good sales people are looking for jobs – 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. The Sales 2.0 story is well chronicled. New research shows that new corporate projects start with a Google search instead of a call to a vendor. Buyers are educating themselves on our solutions, via the web and social networking, and are less receptive to the “cold call.” Corporate websites are optimized and stacked with unique differentiation, third-party research, podcasts, and recorded demos. You can even get a video message from the CEO. Marketing employs savvy e-mail campaigns, targeted messaging, compelling hooks, blogs, webinars, micro-sites, and e-books to pique the buyer’s interest. Tools like Eloqua empower Marketing with results about the effectiveness of their campaigns and highlight individuals who show the right buying propensities.

I heard a statistic recently stating that selling used to be 30% marketing and 70% sales. With the new 2.0 shift in the buyer/seller paradigm – that percentage is now reversed. 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. Value-added re-sellers and strategic partnerships are seen as a more effective alternative than inside sales forces. Outside sales forces have been pushed inside with web-conferencing and online demonstrations as cheaper vehicles for selling. Outside sales forces have been moved to named account representatives to hyper-focus on the most productive clients. 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 recent 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.

With this insight – it is no wonder that sales people are experiencing a “jobless recovery.” 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. If our buyers can learn more about us online, then we should learn more about them. The information highway is a two-way street. Become an industry expert by reading the same whitepapers and joining the same social networks they do. Twitter is an amazing tool to keep your finger on the pulse of your industry. Set up an account and listen to what thought leaders are saying – for free! Finally, remember that your biggest competition is no longer tangible, it is Google. 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.

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One Response

  1. question, I agree with you- it’s never been more important to be as you say sales 2.0 minded… but can we be over doing it with technology, mass marketing- though savvy and cool… could our prospects be looking for the old human sales approach?

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