Sales 2.0 Is It Real?

 In reading a recent article from BNET, I read that Gerhard Gschwandtner,  founder and publisher of Selling Power Magazine, was recently the keynote speaker at the Sales 2.0 conference in Chicago. In his address, he claimed that technology is replacing the sales professional. I find this hard to believe; yet, I have been around long enough to see a lot of things and people replaced by technology. So, I want to explore this a little.

I remember when airlines and grocery stores put kiosks in place vs. agents and cashiers. I thought great this is going to be challenging. Yet now these operate smoothly for most people and in fact I prefer them in many circumstances.

Can this happen to the professional sales person? What value has the professional sales person delivered in the past? Can the buyer get that value elsewhere? What can we do to prepare for this movement?

I have been selling for over two decades. In that time all of my sales training has been some form of consultative training, Miller Heinman, Xerox, Wilson and so on. In all of the companies I worked with, the belief was, that by serving the buyer with understanding and knowledge we would be the value provider and make more sales.

I see this trend for the most part still active today as I read and study the sales profession. The experts are still focusing on delivering value to the buyer by engaging their interest, discovering their needs, offering knowledge to facilitate the sale.

The proponents of this thing called Sales 2.0 will tell us that the buyer doesn’t need us. Once they discover a need, they can get all the knowledge they require from the internet and their social networks. Is this claim true? I recently made a presentation to a large healthcare consulting firm. In the process of our meeting I saw them looking at printouts from my firms web page. Clearly, they have access to information outside of my personal font of knowledge.

With the advent of Linked In, Facebook and other networking sites, buyers and sellers are engaging in conversations with each other and about each other. A few years ago, I was searching a Forum Board on a professional association’s website. I was looking to see what my buyers were thinking. I saw several instances where buyers asked each other “Who is the best seller of this service?” They shared specific sales representatives and company names. They also mentioned a few to avoid. Recently I read that Wal-Mart has stopped meeting with many vendor reps. Instead, they are buying directly from the web.

It is pretty clear that the buyer can get a lot of the information that was once delivered by a sales rep through other channels. But is it enough?!

I think it depends upon the product. If it is a simple sale and we are looking for, say, a Samsung HD TV a search on line will probably give us enough to comparison shop on price. But,…

–    Does it tell you about service after the fact?
–    Does it tell you about delivery and installation?
–    If something goes wrong with the purchase, is someone on the other end connected to you and do they have ownership of your relationship?

I think at some point buyers want to know the answers to these kinds of questions. And, the value of a sales professional is key. To continue with the HD TV example, my wife and I purchased one 2 years ago. We were torn between plasma and LCD. We researched on line and we visited several stores, but it was the quality and knowledge of the sales person, as well as the reputation of the store, that made the difference. We paid a premium for that expertise.

All of that being said, I believe a sales professional must also develop the online Sales 2.0 skills. We have to build and nurture our Brand on line. Here are some suggestions:

1.    Get a page on Linked in and Face Book
2.    Start connection with others on line
3.    Answer questions about your business on Linked In (You can become an expert this way)
4.    Post small articles on line related to your buyers business
5.    Experiment

Some say Sales 2.0 is the new magic bullet. My perspective is that it is just another tool in the bag. We cannot quit networking, asking for referrals, or cold calling.  What are your thoughts?

Take Good Care,

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3 Comments:

  1. John, I think Sales 2.0 is alive and real. I believe that this trend is happening not only because of the technology, but also because of sales people. Many sales people today don’t add any value to the process. As a sales coach, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard sales people approach their prospects with the line, “What are you paying for X service or product? I can get you a better price.” In the eyes of the prospect, this adds no value, as they can get a better price buy shopping online or going out to bid.

    The opportunity here as a professional sales person is to constantly add value. If you do this, both online and in person, you’ll thrive in this environment. For example, last year I got 50% of my new business off the web. The great thing, 90% of the leads that came to me from the web closed! This is because consumers are using online technology to educate themselves, figure out what their needs are, and find someone that adds value. So, by the time the lead comes in, they are very serious about working with you.

    Like you mentioned above, the savvy sales professional will tap into the technology and use it to leverage more leads, more sales, and to establish expertise. I think these are all good things!

  2. John,
    Sales 2.0 as a concept is real. It goes much beyond the technology question always pushed forward. It has more to do with how customers want to buy.

    This is why sales 2.0 is a wakeup call to sales people. If they cannot add value to the conversation and the relation, they risk to become obsolete.

  3. Thanks Christian,

    I agree with you. It really is just another set of tools that the professionals will learn how to use to add value to the conversation. The old days of the sales person being the source of knowledge and gossip about the industry and new trends are fast disappearing (if not already gone). We need to leverage the Sales 2.0 to become the expert in the industry.

    Take Good Care

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