Can your business survive without salesmen by exploiting B2B Marketing Technology?
There is always the question of whether something is too much or not enough?
[Alec Baldwin in the iconic film Glen Garry Glen Ross]
Are you spending more than you need on salespeople, when prospects and technology are doing over 60% of the work before a salesperson even gets involved?
There was more than a grain of truth in Alec Baldwin’s mantra of Always Be Closing taken for the 1992 film ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’. Selling in the 1980s and 1990s was all about closing the sale. There were many smooth-taking salespeople who could lead a prospect down the sales path and close them, without the prospect being aware they had even been sold to! There was money to be made and not every closed sale was an ethical one.
Most buyers, whether business or consumer, didn’t enjoy these tactics, so with the advent of the internet the control was starting to be put in the hands of the buyer. And this got us thinking about whether the systems and technologies available now could replace the traditional salesperson. Did businesses really need salespeople to close, close, close or should they be looking at other ways to reach out and sell their products now that prospects are more inclined to self-serve than ever before?
In a previous blog, “Four books, Seven years, One message for B2Bs” we reviewed four books that had a profound effect on us. These authors (Jay Baer, Brian & Jeffrey Eisenberg, Steve Woods and Eric Ries) all believe that a self-serving customer is a happy customer.
Customer ‘Self-Service’ is King
Their message is that the customer is now more likely to research the market, the product and prospective companies on-line before speaking to a sales company. prospects want to know you care about them, as a potential customer, before engaging with you. The role of salesperson, it would seem, is becoming less and less relevant.
Why your company can operate with less salespeople
It's an interesting proposition. And it seems to us that there are several issues here that need to be addressed:
- Are you compelled to employ sales staff because you always have?
- Is it because the salespeople provide a function that nothing and no one else can?
- Are salespeople employed because a business is not able to systemize/automate and put everything online?
- Is the product(s) so complex that online could never handle the enquiries or prospects properly?
- What is stopping you from being completely open and detailed in your communication with the browser so that when they make contact with you, they already know what they want?
60-70% of Research is carried out before prospects call you
The evidence is clear - we have become a self-serving economy. At least 60% of the buying process is carried out on-line before a browser speaks to a company. And that is not necessarily good news for our sales teams.
As consumers we pick and choose just about everything we want and if something is either not competitive or available when we want it, we switch, turn off, go somewhere else or lose interest. Therefore, we need to start re-thinking the salesperson’s role within our companies as our prospects are becoming more knowledgeable and discerning about what and where to buy.
However, whilst this truth may not endear us to many salespeople, we think there is significant scope to redeploy (we didn’t say sack) salespeople. There are still opportunities for our salespeople to become even more successful if we exploit all the marketing technology available and perhaps encourage them to participate in marketing themselves – more on this later.
Early Learning Syndrome!
If we put ourselves in the shoes of the buyer for a moment, and imagine we are looking to buy a product for our business, what would the initial process look like?
What normally happened…
- We would start by demanding to see salespeople, from several different companies, for them to educate us about the product we want to buy?
- We would expect them to visit our offices, explain their product, perhaps with a demonstration and then expect a quotation along with supporting references from other businesses who have purchased the product.
What’s happening now at scale…
We research the product we want to buy, read blogs, watch videos, listen to podcasts or read reviews.
If we’re interested in a supplier, we would visit their website to see what information was available and see how quickly they responded to enquiries.
We’d probably sign up to a newsletter to receive the latest information, particularly if we weren’t ready to buy just yet.
All of this activity is marketing driven and, by the effective use of the tools available, any company can hone their sales process. All the heavy lifting, previously done by the salesperson, can now be done almost entirely by using technology. The days of getting past the gatekeeper are numbered.
By using marketing technology, you can enhance, and even shorten, the sales process, making your sales teams’ job more effective and more profitable.
Show me the money…
As prospective buyers become more tech-savvy and want to do their own research or expect their staff to, we must provide all the information they need and want.
We need to build trust with the buyer by using all the means we have at our disposal. As a starting point you may want to consider the following:
- Videos of products (your salespeople can present these)
- Videos of interviews
- Videos of comments
- Videos of events
- Online meetings, webinars and seminars (again, a job for the sales team)
- White papers
- Information bulletins
- Online chat facility
- Online helpdesk
- Support Tickets with the option to self-serve
- Knowledge bases, with all the team contributing to the content
- Persona-based emails
- Comparison charts
The list goes on, but the objective should be to build trust with your prospective buyer so their decision to buy from you is the natural progression to all the valuable content you have provided.
And when looking to distribute content you need to post regularly so that your prospective buyers become familiar with your brand, (see our blog on branding "Demonstrating Authentic B2B Branding and You") and to build the necessary trust ahead of any purchase. If you are looking for a strategy for doing this, you also might want to download the sX Social 334 brochure (LINK) to give you an introduction on how to reach your target audience.
The question is, do we still need salespeople or at least, do we need them in the capacity that we have them now? Should we place more emphasis on producing valuable, quality content and use the technology available to distribute it? We know that prospective buyers want to carry out all their own research so if we’re not providing it, we and you are not even getting a look in!
Personally, we think that the time is pretty much here, when traditional sales teams can be radically reduced; forays into a sales territory would only happen when there is significant commitment from the customer – which makes the overall cost of sale that much cheaper, without compromising on quality.
So perhaps the time has come to re-think your company structure. The buyer now has an unprecedented amount of information available to them. Conversations are now taking place on-line and not with the salesperson.
Our recommendation is to ensure all your marketing technology is fully utilized and optimized and that it is working for you and not against you. You’ll be amazed at the results – and your sales team may be busier than ever.
About the Author
Nigel is the Founder & Managing Director of salesXchange and has been helping SMEs for over 25 years to develop their marketing, technologies and infrastructure to generate more profits, more efficiently. His recent book "Integrate! The Essential Business Technology & Marketing Handbook" can be downloaded from Amazon.