Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The 21st Century Sales Rep Challenge

As a follow-up to my previous post, someone asked me what I thought the main challenge would be for the 21st Century sales rep as we head into the second decade. I see a number of challenges all related to the core issue of the torrents of information that are flowing through our lives on a nanosecond by nanosecond basis. Consider the fact that our consumer buying habits are beginning to inform our B2B buying habits – we comparison shop online, we use our professional and social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc.) to get third-party opinions and reviews of the vendors we are considering. We are informed, we know almost everything there is to know about the vendor and their offering before we ever engage directly with them.

Meanwhile on the flip side of this equation, the sales rep is getting up-to-second intelligence on us. They are using business intelligence sites like Jigsaw, OneSource, and Hoovers to figure out who we are and how to connect with us. They are tracking us down on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. They are contacting those who know us (current colleagues, past colleagues, business partners even college roommates!). Their CRM and Marketing Automation systems are feeding them real-time information anytime we come within a click of their website. Just like the buyer knows almost everything about the vendor, they vendor in turn knows almost everything about the buyer before they ever initiate contact.

So back to the original question about what is the main challenge for the 21st Century sale rep – well it can be broken out as follows:

  • You need to filter all of the information available about the prospect to get to what is actually relevant to the sale (don’t confuse lots of information with useful information) 
  • Maximize every communication with the prospect whether phone, email, face to face (or tweet for that matter) by demonstrating that you are using the information you have about them to create value by aligning your offerings with their business issues and drivers
  • Make sure all communications are clear and concise (there is too much information noise – buyers appreciate brevity)
  • Be open and transparent with them – respect the fact that they can pretty much find out anything they want about you so don’t waste their time being opaque or trying to be clever 
In essence understand that we all struggle to find clarity in the wall of noise that this 24/7 torrent of information creates and if you can be a paragon of concise, precise, business-aligned communication you can cut through the noise and stand out from the crowd.

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