The Salesperson in Digital Era: Extinction or Evolution
By Badrinath J, September 19, 2016
The year 2020 seems to be like the apocalypse for sales personnel, according to Industry Seers like Gartner and Forrester, who believe that one of the most influential and admired roles of any Industry, the B2B Salesperson, would become extinct. So, would the future generation learn about the legendary sales executives through movies, books or tales of the ‘Salesosaurus’?
In today’s digital era, organizations have changed the way business is conducted. The King “customer” of today, not only has access to real-time information on products and services, but also the ability to engage with qualified firms using online tools & social media.
On the other hand, Marketing gurus from the Vendors/service providers are busy working on creating an enviable online profile, increasing Social Media presence, creating customer success story videos, self-help tools and other advanced sales technologies, to influence the digital age buyers, claiming to have made the salesperson, irrelevant.
Surely, the definitions of sales cycle and sales have evolved in the last few decades and continue to change, but this doesn’t make the salesperson obsolete. In fact, in the coming years, they’ll become more important than ever. So what makes the salesperson “The Digital Age Superhero”?
Be Socially Switched On
Thanks to the abundance of content, the buyer of today is well informed, and clearly now has the upper hand. So, by the time customers first talk to a salesperson, they are already overwhelmed with information.
The Salesperson has to be socially “Switched On”, to know all about prospects, key stakeholders, decision makers, info on the past, present & future (industry trend), quickly learn what buyers know about products/services and competitors. Use research to understand about buying trends and patterns and at what stage they engage vendors/services providers.
The traditional sales funnel is certainly a wrong matrix in this era; focusing on leads or converting them into prospects doesn’t necessarily assure success. The new age is all about the ability to reach out to qualified hot prospects, intelligently help buyers in filtering clutter of information and build long-term relationships.
Nurture data, Act Contextually
The Digital Age Salesperson is an active listener and is sensitive to customers’ needs and preferences. They use social network to research about decision makers to learn about their professional role and as well as their personal interests. LinkedIn posts, comments or a tweet would help us know the buyers’ individuality and interest to establish a meaningful personal connection.
Storytelling is often considered as one of the great tools of engaging and making a personal connection with people. Experienced salespersons could use their real-life narratives to demonstrate use cases, issues and possible challenges. Each prospect is unique and no two sales conversations are the same; the Salesperson’s ability to creatively present relevant stories, aids in establishing a real connection with the prospects.
Teamwork still works
The Salesperson in this era knows there are no secret pitches, nor can they protect access to their prospects/accounts. Successful Salespeople are great collaborators: they share insights regularly and work closely with their teams to discuss their needs, value propositions and best methods to approach a hot prospect. While the marketing team takes up the role of providing details about each sales prospect based on the actual content the prospect accesses, the Sales personnel involve themselves with marketing team to develop relevant content to influence the buying behaviour of their prospects.
While the Salesperson interacts with individual buyers and focuses on selling skills, the marketing team works on sharing focused content based on the prospect’ needs, inviting them to webinars, adding them to email newsletters, sharing ROI tools, competitive matrix/ charts and other tools to educate the prospect in informed decision making processes.
In conclusion, no matter what the industry gurus have repeatedly said for decades, Salespeople have not only survived but also evolved. I personally believe that as long as the buyer is human, Sales too, will remain human!