For the past couple of months I have been talking with my friends and colleagues about how B2B sales is changing as young people join the office, people use the web, and social media becomes a part of the process. This is the first part of my observations on how sales processes need to change with the times.
At my current company, I started in a sales role. My methodology for successful sales had a couple of key points:
- I used the gift of gab (I am pretty good at breaking the ice with new people)
- Demonstrated technical knowledge (although I am not an engineer I have a good grasp of enterprise IT and business technology)
- I spent a lot of time in the ‘get to know you’ phase trying to understand the prospects environment and challenges
- I positioned my products and services to the solution for their current problems, and explained how it fit their future growth
I know, these items seem completely obvious, but the when I spoke to my prospects, it was clear that not every sales person they dealt with took the same approach. Sales itch articulates a good process from the solution selling guide here, if you are interested.
Buyers today are a changing, but in my space, IT infrastructure, the sales process is different than let’s say a departmental software applications, or collaborative applications. The IT department, when choosing storage systems, realizes that if they don’t make the right choice they will:
- create a lot more work for themselves dealing with unforeseen downtime
- lose credibility with their colleagues if too many issues come up
- impact business operations if storage causs downtime to the critical systems (email, website, accounting, CRM, content management, whatever)
- risk their employment with a bad decision
- undertake a huge project when they decide to change solutions down the road is a big ordeal
Our sales cycle tends to be 3-6 months, but organizations start planting the seeds 12-18 months in advance. (This is why we need to nurture, although some sales people won’t agree. It’s my job to move people into active project mode, and keep those that aren’t away from the sales team.) IT people tend to research potential solutions from many angles:
- Look at their application base (current and planned), and the underlying infrastructure requirements
- Talk to their friends
- Go to tradeshows
- Read the trade publications
- Consult the analysts (larger companies)
- Check the user groups for their applications for recommendations
- Web searches
- Talk to their VARs and consultants
- Get educated on the options
So in my organization, although we rely on the web, we need to have a multi-faceted approach of reaching prospects and keeping in touch with them. Our first contact may or may not start on the web.
The next installment will talk a bit about what I noticed in my current shopping adventure for marketing automation, and my tips for sales people trying to reach these new school prospects.
To get ready for the next installment, check out this little video! (I had heard about this commercial, but never seen it.) Thanks to Marketing in a Web 2.0 World for the clip.