There is a lot of talk in the blogosphere about this topic and I’ll add my comments based on my past 18 years of B2B sales and marketing experience with products and services.
My title is ‘Global Marketing Manager’ and for all intents and purposes, I act as CMO of this global organization. One of my responsibilities is to create a thought leadership position for the business and one activity we execute is to teach a series of seminars. We also attempt to learn more about our customers by polling the audience. One of the questions I always ask is “How do you decide what [item] to purchase?”. Think about how you make a purchase in this modern age. Clearly and by far, the top choice is always ‘web research’ followed by ‘vendor website’. I remember a presentation by David Meerman Scott during the Eloqua Experience conference in 2010 where he showed a series of videos in several different countries around the world, asking the question ‘how many people use the Internet to make a purchase’. Every audience around the globe had the same response with about 90% raising their hands. By the way, if you haven’t read his blog, check it out, it’s informative and entertaining. Take away from this story – people buy using these 4 basic steps; gather information on the web, make a buying decision, engage with a few companies to confirm the decision, then purchase.
It’s way past the time to acknowledge the fact that the sales and marketing game has changed forever and will continue to change at a rapid pace. People (including people who comprise the so called B2B world) don’t need the ubiquitous field salesman as a source of information. It’s not that the salesman is not needed at all yet, but, a day will come in the not-to-distant future where the expensive, bag carrying salesman will be a thing of past economies and cultures.
Clearly, the game has changed. I fondly remember my younger days when I was a bag toting salesman traveling all over the country peddling my wares. Like many young and new salesmen, my company sent me to a sales training class put on by a franchise called Sandler Sales Institute. Dave Sandler founded the business and the selling method or philosophy which was based around the idea that I, the smart salesman, have information that you, the buyer, need or want. In days past, buyers needed the salesman’s knowledge about the industry, new technology, what other companies are doing, and pricing. Sandler taught us to use this leverage to gain commitments from the buyer and to forge a bond with the buyer to facilitate a perception of trust and reliability. This model is obsolete.
In the current age of the Modern Marketer, the Internet is now the primary source of information for individuals and companies to gain this valuable information during the early phases of the buying cycle. For example, we’re able to scan a bar code with our iPhone and immediately know pricing and availability around the globe. We are able to go to Yelp and instantly see reviews about a certain restaurant we are considering. We can search with Google, MSN, Yahoo et al and find a white paper about any and all technical topics. We can immediately post satisfaction or dissatisfaction with a product or service on Facebook where we have potential access to more than 850 million people around the world! Information is free and available, who needs a (potentially annoying) salesman anymore?
What does it mean to you, the modern CMO, VP Marketing, Marketing Manager, VP Sales or CEO? If you don’t know what it means, you had better get up to speed fast!
Feet-on-the-street sales is expensive and ROI is rapidly shrinking. If you want your firm to gain market share or even just survive you have to change from a field sales oriented culture to a holistic revenue generation team culture where content marketing, expert inside sales (consultants), and voice-of-customer drive the business.
Old model – marketing girls (not meant to be sexist, just realistic from my past experience) down the hall make brochures, set up tradeshows, and generate leads are dictated to by the field sales guys based on their latest whim, thought or impulse.
New model – a “revenue team” drives the business by understanding voice-of-customer in the clearly defined target market; creates relevant content (papers, seminars, webinars, micro-sites, etc) that help the people in the target market improve their daily lives; maintains top-of-mind awareness with ideal prospects; generates engagement with relevant people; responds with intelligent solutions, services and products to support a clear value proposition.
If you’re not aware of and following this evolution, you are already falling behind.