Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Relationships Salespeople's Biggest Competitor

Truly great sales skills are both rare, and genuinely valuable in the overall revenue creation process. The art of understanding the people, politics, and pains within an organization, and positioning your offering in such a way to navigate through to a closed deal is difficult and needed. In almost any situation, as you try to navigate the buying process, your competitors will be working to disrupt your progress and further their own.

This is definitely a threat, but many sales people seem to overlook an even bigger competitor to their efforts. Google.

Quite simply, the reason that you, as a B2B salesperson, are invited to meet with prospects is because you carry the promise of unique and valuable information. Whether it is insights into their business, unique perspectives of industry trends, anecdotes of what others in the industry are doing, or access to negotiation options on pricing, service, or terms. Only by providing that valuable insight do you earn the right to their time and consideration.

However, more and more, executives and mid-level decision-makers are becoming less willing to grant that time to salespeople. The reason is not economics, as this trend was here in good times and in bad. The reason is not even solutions that are competitive to yours, as this trend is affecting everyone. The reason is access to information. If a prospect can get information on your capabilities, understand the market’s opinion of your fit in circumstances close to theirs, and form an understanding of the effort and costs involved in making and investment, then the information you provide is not a unique value.

This makes Google your largest competitor for prospects’ attention. If you can’t add more value than Google (or Bing) in your sales call, then you should not go.

The major search engines do a great job of providing access to generally available information, opinions, and perspectives. To provide value, as a sales person, the level of information you provide needs to improve beyond this. To add value above and beyond the search engines, top salespeople need to provide unique perspectives on the prospect’s own situation, inside access to pricing, service, or terms, and intelligent commentary on which industry trends may be relevant to the prospect.

The early stages of buyer education are best done, in today’s environment, by the marketing team, using marketing automation and lead nurturing. This change in the roles of marketing and sales may be uncomfortable, but it is needed in today’s changing buying environment. The insights that might have been gained in the initial discovery conversation is best understood by observing the buyers’ digital body language.

Sales, as an art, will continue to be a key element of delivering revenue to a business. However, as access to information continues to increase for prospects, good B2B salespeople must continue to increase their ability to provide unique information and perspectives.
Many of the topics on this blog are discussed in more detail in my book Digital Body Language
In my day job, I am with Eloqua, the marketing automation software used by the worlds best marketers
Come talk with me or one of my colleagues at a live event, or join in on a webinar