Chad Levitt from the New Sales Economy and a Sales Gravy blogger recently interviewed me about changes in the sales profession, Sales 2.0 and social media. I thought you might enjoy reading it.
Q: How have you seen the sales profession change since you started your career?
The biggest changes I've seen have been with the buyers. They're overwhelmed and stressed out. Each year, they're expected to do more with fewer resources and in shorter time frames. The last thing they want to do is meet with someone who is going to eat up their valuable time.
Prior to the internet, they needed a salesperson to learn about products or services that could help them run their business better. Now, all that information and more is available online, making a visit from a seller unnecessary.
Unless salespeople adapt to the changing buyer's needs, they'll be extinct.
That means they have to be business-focused, not product centric. It means they have to be idea people who are constant helping customers achieve their goals, as oppose to product-pushing peddlers. It also means they need to invest in themselves, so that they become the ultimate differentiator.
Blogging, combined with my e-newsletters which have 25,000+ subscribers, has been my biggest way of establishing thought leadership in my market space. My goal is to become ubiquitous. Right now, my blog is syndicated by a number of other sites. I've also done a ton of webinars in the past few years. These are typically sponsored by an organization that's selling to the same people I'm trying to reach, so it's a real win-win to have my expertise marketed to their database.
I'm also experimenting with several other social media vehicles right now. I have a Facebook page. I set up a Ning community for women sales experts. I have two LinkedIn groups too - Selling to Big Companies and Sales Shebang. I'm learning what it takes to lead a "Tribe."
I'm using Twitter as a way to deliver snippits of information and to share resources. I've done a number of podcasts – but for other people to post on their website. I want to do my own, but there's only so much time in the day.
I'm also gearing up to do lots more videos so I can have a bigger presence on YouTube. I even did a Internet TV program a few weeks ago. Although most think I'm pretty savvy when it comes to all this, I'm a total technophobe. I just listen to what my 30-year old friends tell me to do – and then do it.
Q: When did you start the Selling to Big Companies blog and how does it help stimulate qualified leads for your services?
I started blogging 4 years ago now. Since it's only one of my many thought leadership initiatives, it's difficult to determine which of my corporate clients have come through that door.
What I can tell you is that anybody who looks at my blog is convinced that I know my stuff! They can read my articles, listen to podcasts, sign up for some of my free webinars. It's a great way to test my expertise before hiring me.
Q: What do you believe are some of the biggest opportunities that Sales 2.0 offers sales reps? How can they begin to take advantage of Sales 2.0?
Sales 2.0 technologies make me drool – literally. From the moment I saw Jigsaw five years ago, I was hooked. The sheer amount of information that's available today is amazing.
Savvy sellers can leverage Sales 2.0 to get themselves in front of the right people at the right time with the right message – ultimately shortening their sales cycles, creating demand and differentiating themselves from competitors.
Here's what sellers can do to get started.
- For finding names, researching individuals, making connections, I love LinkedIn, Jigsaw, ZoomInfo, Netprospex, & Hoovers. I recently discovered Xobni too and was really impressed.
- To leverage business intelligence, my favorites today are InsideView – which alerts you to user-selected trigger events; Genius – which allows you to know if a prospect opened your email, read it, forwarded to others and more.
- To increase sales productivity, sellers can also use GoToMeeting or Webex to initiate conversations, demonstrate services, review proposals and more.
Q: What are your favorite social networks and do you use them?
I'm on Facebook and part of a few Ning communities, but for the most part I don't have a lot of time to be social!
Q: What do you think the sales industry will look like 10 years from now and what should sales reps be doing to get ready?
Right now, a huge challenge facing sellers is their inability to get their foot in the door. No one answers the phone, all calls roll to voicemail and no one calls them back. This will continue. But smart companies will have implemented strong thought leadership programs that attract "seekers" into their world – and database. They will be able to intelligently nurture these seekers until such point that they need to actually speak to a salesperson.
In many cases, these qualified leads will be handled by sophisticated inside salespeople who know how to build relationships and close deals without ever leaving their office. Buyers will appreciate it and be totally comfortable doing business this way.
There will also be sales consultants who help customers uncover and unravel the difficult internal challenges that prevent them from moving ahead with any major change initiative. These sellers will be savvy business people who have great expertise that adds significant value to the decision process.
And then there will be sales dinosaurs, those sellers who think that sales is still a numbers game and that it's all about making a good pitch. In ten years, most of them will be extinct but you'll always find a few companies who send their people out to "get the sale" without the slightest bit of understanding in terms of what it takes.
Q: What is the most important thing you believe sales reps should do to be able to compete in the New Sales Economy?
Be smart about sales. Each contact you have with a prospective client should be treated as the most important meeting in the world. If you don't do well, you can blow it. That's why it's imperative to do your homework in researching the company and the individuals. It's the price of admission.
But you also need to leverage the information you learn in terms of creating customer-focused messaging, insightful questions, provocative statements, and spot-on presentations. Plan your meetings in advance, then review what you've created from the customer's perspective. If it's not relevant or tied to an urgent priority, you're wasting everyone's time. Plus, you're killing your credibility.
My final word: THINK!