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If there was one theme that consistently arose during our enterprise sales strategy forum a few weeks ago, it was that selling to business now is a completely different ballgame than it was 10 years ago. Our panel, made up of sales and IT executives from companies like Staples, HubSpot, and American Tower, among others, provided significant insight into how sales tactics have evolved over the past decade. Has your sales organization kept the pace? Here are the panel’s observations:
1) Interruption marketing is dead: Telemarketers and email spammers have made interruption marketing a thing of the past—at least as far as effective sales strategies go. Who answers their home phone anymore? Our email inboxes are constantly overflowing. These intrusions have been replaced by thought leadership—the content that vendors create and share, as well as the message they convey in speaking opportunities, in whitepapers and videos, etc. Customers have a great deal more leverage in the buying process and will pursue business with the vendors who are sharing valuable content and being transparent about their value-add.
2) Individuals, not departments, are champions: Organizations have employees with very precise needs who now have the ability to make quick business decisions when it comes to buying products. The IT department is no longer the primary entry target for salespersons; rather, it is the individual business line managers who own the responsibility and who have become “champions” for solutions and service providers.
3) IT is a catalyst for business: IT and the business units it supports are in much closer alignment today than ever before. IT is no longer simply a cost center; it has become a business enabler. Decision makers from both the business and IT sides often join forces in making major technology decisions. IT is aware that if it is not integrated in the business plan, it is not driving the business forward. Many sellers have stalled relationships because they do not play well when it comes to integrating with IT.
4) Today’s customer is a star student: Customers are more informed than ever before, so much so that they are regularly 75 percent of the way through their selection process before even engaging with sellers directly, according to Forrester Research. Today’s buyers often know more about the vendor’s product than even the salesperson—it is easy to conjure an image of an average adult shopper who knows every detail about the plasma TV he plans to purchase before stepping foot inside a Best Buy.
5) The tables have turned: The business world of today is more of a “buying process” than a “sales process”—the buyers possess situational control, and the professionalism with which they consume is often indicative of the strength of the opportunity for the vendors. Vendors are more focused on demonstrating value and providing easy P.O.C.’s (point of contact)/trials to help solve a problem quickly.
The roles of both the enterprise seller and buyer are transforming, and companies would do well to take heed of how this changing dynamic can impact their bottom line. But we wouldn’t be surprised to see a whole new list of changes in another 10 years.