I’m noticing three very disturbing trends in sales and marketing that I think seriously threaten the relevance and livelihood of the average sales professional.
1) Marketing’s Impact on the Sales Funnel is Being Elevated and Evolving
The amount of money being dumped into Marketing Automation is proof enough this trend is not slowing down. Couple that with the amount of money being dumped into the field of Big Data and Business Intelligence and you have two industries merging to create an increasingly relevant message to a more targeted audience. This is pushing the value a Sales professional brings to the equation further and further down the funnel. For example, did you see Salesforce.com’s most recent release of the ‘Predictive Analytics’ tool for the Marketing Cloud? http://www.mrweb.com/drno/news20553.htm. Scary.
2) Customers Have More Access to Information
The second disturbing trend is the ease of access consumers have to information. This is nothing new, of course. It’s 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 the 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.
3) Sales Reps Are Tuning Out
The third and I think most disturbing trend is the lack of awareness of the first two trends, combined with overall laziness on the part of the average sales professional, particularly when it comes to the front end of the funnel and prospecting. I see more and more inside sales reps sending out mass template emails to their leads and thinking that is what prospecting is about. They’re using templates from marketing and are pretending to customize them by adding to the top of their email 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. They avoid 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.
Being Average is a Death Sentence — Here’s Who Will Survive & Thrive
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. Let me clarify those are the ones I think are in danger of becoming irrelevant. You know who I’m talking about — the sales reps who go through the motions, read scripts, send out template emails, who wait for the company to invest in training for them, and who generally treat sales as a task. Those are the ones who are on their way out. Alternatively, the sales professionals who take it upon themselves to improve their skills through training and seminars, who do research on accounts and find a compelling reason to reach out before making the call or sending the email, and who 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 — those are the ones who will survive and thrive.
One time I was in a training doing a Q&A with a team and one of the reps asked me how we, as salespeople, are supposed to stay relevant to the evolving buyer with all the tools and resources and knowledge they have. My answer was simple and to me rather obvious — we have to evolve and get better. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being average, and I surely don’t want to become irrelevant. The way I stay focused on this is to live my life by the rule of 1%. It’s about getting 1% better every day and focusing on continuous improvement.
Don’t be average. Get better. Good luck and happy selling.