What if you could figure out how to leverage new world marketing and selling (sales 2.0/web 2.0/social media) with traditional best practices sales processes? There is so much talk these days (aka-hype) surrounding the best way to engage and sell your customers. There are so many different things emerging at once that it can be simply overwhelming for someone to consider all of the options on how to go to market or sell your product or service. I call it the cloud of confusion and actually created a slide with some of the relevant hot buzzwords and acronyms that we are supposed to be aware of and leverage in selling today. It is intimidating and overwhelming! I think it’s fair to say that the jury is still out on the actual sales return that you can get on the investment of time, money and resources in social media for B2B selling.
I consider myself to be a hybrid in the sense that while I’ve been selling for 20 years, I’m always interested in new and better ways to sell. Kind of a perpetual student that also has lots of real world experience to apply. A “street” PHD in sales earned from successful and failed sales experiences over 20 years.
I worked for IBM, Lanier and Hertz during the first part of my career. I consider those experiences to be my sales boot camp days. I learned the importance of sale process, solution selling and good old fashioned prospecting. Remember when sales reps were expected to prospect and build their own pipeline? They were large companies that could afford to invest in young sales people and help teach the fundamentals of sales. They also leveraged industry best practices in their sales processes and methodologies. This time period in my career was the equivalent of my Bachelor’s degree.
Then I graduated to the Master’s degree portion of my career where I joined my first start-up as employee number 10. They were a boot strapped company that was sub $500K in annual revenues when I joined. We had some great people within the company and enjoyed tremendous growth and success over my 7.5 year tenure. We grew the average selling price from $10K to $250K with many enterprise class deals in the $1M+ range. We started out as a small, departmental MS-DOS based solution that ran on local area networks (LANs), transitioned to an enterprise class, MS Windows based client server solution and eventually developed a web browser based version that was sold through a SAAS model. We sold primarily to the F1000 and because it was an HR solution, we sold to virtually every vertical imaginable. It was an incredible experience that culminated in a successful initial public offering (IPO). When I look back on that experience, I realize how fortunate I was to be in a company that had true sale & marketing alignment. We worked hand in hand with our marketing team and truly collaborated on what we were experiencing in the field and what we needed to adapt to succeed and prosper. Why does everyone think that it is so hard to take a company public? I mean we did it with my first start-up experience☺
Next I graduated to the PHD stage of my career where I was the VP of Sales for start-ups and large publicly traded company. I co-founded several companies and served as a strategic sales advisor and mentor/coach for other companies. What I’ve learned is that there is always change in the business world and the pace of change is constantly increasing. Yet, some things remain the same such as having a compelling value proposition, being able to quantify your customer’s pain/needs, building a solution that addresses those needs and being able to prove through differentiation that your solution is better than alternatives. There isn’t any automation that can replace the fundamental human side of selling.
Having said that, you can leverage new world technologies and methods to sell more effectively. You do need to engage your prospective customers through community based selling. You also need to tailor your messaging to the buyers needs and offer graduated opportunities to engage with you. Lastly, you need to provide clear value to your prospective customers at each stage of the engagement model or you will lose them. Marry these new world (blogging/social media/tailored content/engagement community) concepts with traditional best practices sales methodologies/resources and you will have a clear sales and marketing advantage in today’s confused world.