Death of a Salesman…..Updated

Slate has written an excellent article entitled, Death of a Salesman. Of Lots of Them, Actually. The main theme of the article is that sales people are becoming “disintermediated” by the internet. The author uses 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.

(Updated: Here is some reaction from the article!)

Steve Woods, 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. Our competitive differentiation, client case studies, even online demonstrations are available for the world to see on our website. 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 when and where they were on your website. Most marketing automation companies will give this business intelligence as part of their offering. Were executives on your site or just functionaries? 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.
  • The last step is to research the company itself. Try a Google news search on the company to see if there are any triggering events that prompted the call. Hoovers will give a brief overview of the company and the competitive landscape for free. Think competitive advantage in terms of how you can give it to your prospect – not against your own competition.

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.

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One Response

  1. I would have to agree with you about the “information superhighway is a two way street.” In fact, those B2C companies embracing this mantra of open communication beyond the store front to the online store, have grown market share and created a whole new type of buying experience. Taking into account the Brooks Brothers case study of implementing a Client Telling System (Similar to a CRM), they were able to increase their sales performers managing a book of business over one million dollars from 15 associates to over 50 in just two years. That is a 200k job in a mall, not bad if you ask me. Then there is Autotraders postings, which auto dealerships account for more than 60% of the listings. And Manheim owns Autotrader, which is one of the largest auction houses for automobiles. So the extension of the sales associate in the auto sector may perhaps be better described as retooled.

    I would also agree with you about the B2B sales opportunity being better with Google not worse. Today most Account Executive positions don’t only require an Bachelors degree, and they often want your education to have been in the same sector as the core competency of the recruiting company. Sales people today are referred to as Subject Matter Experts, and there is no better way to be a subject matter expert then to researching the relevant topic on Google.

    My Two cents.

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