It is said that Mark Twain once famously quoted British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli who reportedly had said this: “There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies and statistics.”
Notwithstanding this quote, however, I have assembled five statistics that – in my view – encapsulate a new B2B selling paradigm. Below is a summary image for you, and further below I add my comments on each of the statistics and their predicted trend impact.
How to Read This Article
The headlines below indicate the impact that I am seeing , then I quote the statistic it relates to, including its attributed source, and then I give a short interpretation, and finally, my prediction on the ensuing trend for the future. Here we go:
1. Cold calling is dying out
“90% of Decision Makers won’t respond to cold calls” (HBR)
I think HBR is talking about an unsolicited call from an unknown person here. If that is the case, then, frankly, I am surprised that this figure is not 100%.
I mean, which executives do you know who have either the time or the inclination to take an unsolicited call ? In the cold light of day, though, it must mean that there are either very effective cold calling techniques still out there, or that there are still executives out there who have enough time on their hands to explore spurious opportunities, just in case they turn out to be worthwhile. Or, perhaps something else ?
Which do you think it is ?
On the flip side, it also means, I guess, that there are still sales reps out there who believe that “selling is just a numbers game” and that the more cold calls they make, the more sales they will close.
My Predicted Trend
My prediction is that this “numbers game” breed of B2B selling will diminish over time and that even high call rate outbound call centres will need to pre-qualify their suspects and prospects to a certain, higher, degree, and – importantly – that they will need to offer Buyer value of some sort, right from their first cold call.
A shameless plug here: Look out for my interview with Rob Garsden at LinkedInin which he describes how LinkedIn’s sales and marketing teams collaborate to generate sales leads. It’s really quite fascinating stuff…
2. There is now more than just one Buyer Decision Maker
“An average of 5.4 People are now are involved in the buying decision” (CEB)
B2B Sales reps used to look for the mystical “decision maker” within a prospect’s organisation to make their pitch to. However, gone are the days when getting the CEO interested was enough to secure a sale.
Firstly, even CEOs of large companies now have limited personal budget approval power, and secondly, they now need (and want) to include the senior executive team in the decision-making process.
This, of course, makes the sales process more complicated as there are now not only more decision makers and influencers involved but, to further complicate matters, they each have different perspectives on your offer, and they all need to be convinced that your solution suits their needs best.
According to CEB, we now have to convince a variety of executives in order to make a sales, such as the financial buyer, the technology buyer, the operational buyer, the strategic buyer, etc.
This means that your intrepid sales reps now must be very aware of the multitude of view points from which your offer can be looked at, and they must be able to articulate value in each stakeholder’s language. Marketers will need to work hard to collaborate with reps to help them to understand and deal with the different Buyers’ personas and their unique requirements.
My Predicted Trend
My prediction is that sales organisations will increasingly look for sales reps with outstanding people and communication skills, and that they will then equip them with technology and expert support to help them convince the multitude of buyers that their offer is the only one to buy.
Now, here is the rub: all this effort in time and resources comes at a cost, which means that opportunities will now need to be qualified out at a much earlier stage, and that we can thus only afford to go after the opportunities that are identified as high value. It also means that there will be even more distance between the traditional two-tiered hierarchy of sales reps: namely between the high volume / low value reps and the high value / low volume reps.
So, watch out for a new breed of highly specialised reps who do not come from a traditional sales background but bring their inherent people and communication skills into the sales process, and who are happy to work with marketing on high value / high impact content.
3. Buyers now select their Vendors BEFORE contacting them
“75% of Buyers use social media to find information on vendors” (IDC)
Only a few short years ago the adopted wisdom used to be that social media has minimal impact on B2B sales. Well, how we have changed our tune now.
Buyers have discovered that they can now vet vendors from a distance and without directly contacting them. Via the internet they can choose the vendor(s) that they then wish to engage with. This can happen without the knowledge of the vendors, and thus many of my clients tell me that they increasingly have prospects coming to them ‘who have completed their homework online and now know more about our products than we do’. This presents a problem to sales reps who often have a whole portfolio of products and services to represent and who can not possibly be an expert in all of them.
My Predicted Trend
Reps who successfully promote their own personal brand as subject matter experts will be the ones who attract Buyers first, as Buyers will increasingly not look to engage with sales reps but with subject matter experts who can help them make informed decisions.
Organisations will respond by hiring and training ‘hybrid salespeople’ who have subject matter expertise, as well as selling skills. Perhaps a good analogy is to think of them as pre-sales people who can sell.
4. The Buyers are taking control of the Sales Process
“Buyers complete 67% of their decision making before they contact a sales rep” (Sirius Decisions)
This statistic really ties in with the one above. It just goes to show the amount of effort that Buyers go to BEFORE they make contact with a vendor. By the time they contact a seller they have pretty much completed their decision making process and they are now just looking to validate their own online research on the vendor, and to secure the best deal.
My Predicted Trend
Vendors are responding to this trend with content marketing and marketing automation. Many organisations have not yet woken up to the fact that this means that sales and marketing will now need to REALLY collaborate more than ever in order to create and fine-tune highly engaging content.
The sales force will be attracted to advanced selling methodologies, such as CEB’s Challenger Sale and will demand that marketing provides the content ammunition to hit their targets with more accurately and effectively.
In this context it may be interesting to note that I have recently heard CEB say that the Challenger Sale is not so much a sales methodology as a business model and maybe even a go-to-market strategy.
I believe this trend will continue, so look out for new and emerging sales methodologies and strategies that aim to intercept the Buyers Journey and draw attention away from competitors at an early buying stage.
5. Adding value is now key for Vendors
“74% of Buyers choose the sales rep that was first to add value and insight” (Corporate Vision)
Here also, this trend ties in with the one above insofar as Buyers are looking for vendors who demonstrate subject matter and product expertise and who can imbue trust.
But I think there is another factor in play here that is not often talked about.
You see, after a Buyer has spent time and effort online researching potential vendors they just want to get to the pointy end of the sale. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, good old fashioned impatience comes into the frame and – unlike in the era of the traditional sales cycle – the Buyers are now in a hurry to push the sale forward.
It makes total sense then that the first rep who can demonstrate value receives the most attention. I.e. the early bird (who can demonstrate value) catches the worm.
My Predicted Trend
Sales reps will demand that their marketing team equips them with the right high quality content in a quick and easy format to access. Gone are the days of shared folders where new content is heaped upon old and no-one can find anything. Sales reps will rightly demand easy access to highly managed and curated content.
In return, marketing will require constant and constructive feedback from the sales force in terms of which content works for them, what does not, and why.
I believe that Smarketing® will become the norm.
I also expect this situation to create even more content marketing and social selling. However, the competitive differentiator will not be the volume of content that a vendor emits, but the time, place, tone and quality of content.
By the way, next to quality I think that tone will play an increasingly important role.
I presented you with five statistics and gave my own trend predictions. Now it’s over to you.
What do you agree, or disagree with ?
Let the discussion begin !
Thank you for reading this Post
If you enjoyed this post then please ‘like’ it and share it via Twitter and your other social media forums. Please also feel free to add your own comments or to ask a question about this post, I will do my best to answer them.
If you are interested in seeing what about other articles that I have written then please visit my LinkedIn Publishing page for more of my postings.
About Peter Strohkorb
Peter Strohkorb is CEO at Peter Strohkorb Consulting International with offices in Sydney, Australia and Atlanta, GA, USA. He is a global specialist in sales and marketing alignment and collaboration, what he callsSmarketing. He is also a published Author, an international corporate corporate Speaker, and an Executive Coach and Mentor, as well as an Executive MBA Guest Lecturer at the prestigious Sydney Business School.
Peter is happy to receive enquiries for consulting, coaching or speaking assignments.
If the subject of Sales & Marketing alignment and collaboration is of interest to you then please join our LinkedIn group, the Sales+Marketing Collaboration Community. It was recently voted into the Top 5 Groups for Sales Enablement on LinkedIn.
Join us now.