I’m noticing three very disturbing trends in Sales and Marketing that are happening right now that I think seriously threaten the relevance and livelihood of the average sales professional. The first is the elevation and evolution of Marketing as it relates to the impact on the Sales funnel. The amount of money that is being dumped into Marketing automation field is proof enough that this trend is not slowing down. Couple that with the amount of money that is being dumped into the field of Big Data and Business Intelligence and you have two industries that are merging to allow Marketers to become more and more targeted and relevant to the right audience at the right time which is pushing Sales further and further down the funnel. It’s obvious from a B2C standpoint when you think about what’s happening with services like Google and Amazon. For example, I did a Google search the other day for a grill cover and ended up buying one online, now every website I go to is offering me other items that are related to grills and not just any grill, my specific grill. When I go on Amazon their suggestions for me are more and more relevant and interesting to me based on my search and buying history. This intelligence and ability to influence the buying process has already taken over the B2C world and is starting to make a significant impact on the B2B world.
The second disturbing trend is the access to information by the consumer. This is nothing new and has been growing ever since the advent of the internet but it’s now having a significant and noticeable impact on the world of Sales. We’ve all heard that stats that by the time a “lead” comes to us (i.e. fills out a form and says they want to talk) they are already 60-70% of the way through the sales process. They have already identified the issue, done a Google search for options, talked to their peers and social network to get feedback and reviews and most likely already have a preference for the vendor they want to work with. The only real reason they reach out to us is because they can’t get a proposal online. This access to information and the social vetting process is only going to continue to expand and push the relevance of Sales further and further out.
The third and I think most disturbing trend is the lack of awareness of the first two trends and overall laziness of the average Sales professional, specifically related to the front end of the funnel and prospecting. I see more and more Inside Sales reps sending out mass template e-mails to their leads and thinking that is what prospecting is about. They’re using templates from Marketing and pretending to customize them by adding to the top of their e-mail stuff like “I was researching your company and thought you would be a good fit for our services…” They are being forced to make 50+ dials a day and end up focusing on the quantity instead of the quality. This lack of awareness and laziness isn’t just limited to Inside Sales either. I see Field Sales or AEs continuing to rely on Inside Sales or Marketing to set them up on meetings and avoiding doing their own prospecting like the plague. None of these are examples of what I believe true Sales professionals should be doing related to finding new business for themselves.
If you connect these three trends (Marketing getting more intelligent and targeted, the buyer having greater access to information and the average sales rep being lazy with their approach) you start to see my concern for the future of the average sales rep. If Marketing and clients are getting smarter and Sales reps are staying the same or getting worse what do you think is going to happen? Notice I keep saying “average” sales rep. Those are the ones I think are in danger of becoming irrelevant. The Sales reps who go through the motions, read scripts, send out template e-mails, wait for the company to invest in training for them and treat Sales as a job are the ones on their way out. The Sales Professionals who take it upon themselves to improve their skills through training and seminars, do research on accounts and find a compelling reason to reach out before making the call or sending the e-mail, utilize the vast amount of available technology, tools and resources to learn more about their target accounts and take a genuine interest in their clients business are the ones who will survive and thrive.
I was in a training one time doing a Q&A with the team and one of the reps asked me a question about how we, in Sales, are supposed to combat the evolving buyer with all the tools and resources and knowledge they have. My answer was simple and to me rather obvious – evolve, get better. I don’t know about you but I don’t like being average and I sure don’t want to become irrelevant. The way I stay focused on this is to live my live by the rule of 1%. It’s about getting 1% better every day and focusing on continuous improvement. The image on this blog post is printed out and hangs in my office to remind me of this every day. Don’t be average. Get better. Good luck and happy selling.