Parallel Universes – Has Everything Changed for Sellers?

by | Dec 23, 2010

It seems that I live simultaneously in two worlds…  As the CEO of an online CRM provider, I’ve made it my mission to stay on the bleeding edge of marketing and sales trends, techniques and best practices.
I’ve blogged for a few years and written a few e-books on sales automation, sales management, web crm and email marketing software.  I’ve participated in online communities related to selling expertise and studies all the “gurus” of selling and marketing.

Based on this experience and day to day work with sales executives and users of our web CRM, I’ve worked to teach the art of consultative selling, asking questions and diagnosing pain and emotional motivations, to as many sellers as I can.

I’ve also learned a lot about Search Engine Marketing, Attraction Marketing, SEO, PPC, Email Marketing software and other marketing strategies that offer so many new opportunities to find, target and qualify leads for all types of businesses.


I’ve read the articles and books that proclaim that “Cold Calling Is Dead”.  Many of the experts and gurus I’ve come to respect and admire will tell you that the game of selling has changed irrevocably and some will even say that the age of the sales person is coming to an end.

I surmise that the vision is that with the use of the Internet, search marketing, your website, automated email marketing software and all the rest are supposed to attract the right prospects to your site, educate them and lead them down the path toward purchasing.
Don’t let my skeptical tone distract you though.  I’ve been implementing these concepts myself for several years.  They work.
The argument that no prospect wants or needs to talk with a salesperson though is misguided though.  I think it’s an extreme position mostly taken in an effort to sell a few things.


To believe that powerful search marketing, a good website and email marketing software can replace a salesperson is to completely misunderstand the role of a salesperson.  And that is really the problem isn’t it?


Most small business owners think of a salespersons role as finding prospects and telling them how wonderful the product is.   Of course, a search engine marketing campaign, email marketing software and a good website can do those things.


What about helping the prospect figure out what they need?  In my career I’ve sold highly technical products and the fact is that often, my best customers and biggest deals started with a prospect that was completely unfamiliar with the benefits of the product they eventually purchased.  In some cases, they didn’t even know that such a thing existed.


So, to my employers, my roles has been not only to find the prospect but, then to determine if they had a business use for my products that would justify investment commensurate with the price.  That means asking a lot of questions and leading the prospect down lines of thinking about their own business that they hadn’t entertained previously.


Some would call this consultative selling.  To me it’s about 50% instinctively looking for a win-win and 50% being educated about the customer’s business enough to ask the right questions.  That and having a good product to sell in the first place.

My point here is that this cannot be done easily with a website, email marketing software or even web crm.
In fact, if you try, you’ll likely find that you end up stalled in the same place that you’re stalled with your sales team today.  If you’re wrestling with motivating and managing your sales people to generate profits for your business, you will find the same struggles in developing a website.


To really manage sales people, you’ve got to be able to break the sales process into measurable steps.  You need to be able to objectively determine a qualified lead from one you should waste your time on.  The questions you would ask to make this determination are the same things you’ll need to build into your website, search campaign and email marketing software to funnel the good ones toward the Buy button.


I empathize, really I do.  You’re frustrated with hiring, training and managing sales people.  You’re fed up with listening to fish stories every month and watching disappointing numbers come in.  And therefore, it sounds pretty good when someone tells you that you don’t need all those people any more.  Just spend a few thousand a month with them on a new website, search campaigns and email marketing software and all your problems will be solved.

You’ve heard that before haven’t you?

I’ve got what I think is some better advice for you.  Use your current sales team to get the missing pieces figured out.  Work out a sales process they can follow consistently and you can measure.  The idea is not to get the process perfectly correct the first time.  The idea is to start somewhere and start measuring it.  The insights you glean from the measurements will help you get the process correct.