While attending the Sales 2.0 conference in San Francisco last week a thought struck me. Here we all were gathered to hear about the latest technologies and automation of processes that are revolutionizing how sales & marketing is executed; It is all cloud-based, crowd-sourced, social-media enabled, driven by online tribal knowledge sharing and yet we were all gathered in a very traditional physical conference setting to listen, question, understand and network.
It really brought it home to me that the more we use technology in an intelligent way to automate the processes that underpin twenty-first century customer acquisition, the more we raise the bar for the still necessary occasions when the face-to-face interaction takes places during the complex, solution sale. In other words, because you know more about the customer and the customer knows more about you, your products, your competition, the more you need to differentiate yourself during your interactions by demonstrating a deeper level of understanding of the customer’s business drivers and be able to quickly and coherently outline how your solution can support those drivers.
The fact that you have so much more information at your fingertips about the customer that you have gleaned from Hoovers, OneSource, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Jigsaw as well as your marketing automation system and your CRM and a host of other sources, the greater the onus is on you to use this information effectively and to prepare even more (not less) for the sales call. It means you have to take all of this information and work harder to draw out the themes, read between the lines and even look at the career histories of your customer contacts to establish what is important to them.
Then once you are in communication with the customer regardless of whether it is through email, phone or face-to-face (or even Twitter for that matter) your line of questioning needs to be well-informed, well thought-out and laser-focused. Why? Because it is becoming increasingly clear that as all of these Sales 2.0 technologies and capabilities spread and as information about customers becomes as readily available as it is diverse, the final differentiation between sellers will often come down to their fundamental communication and core selling skills. Sales 2.0 will not compensate for lack of individual sales skills, on the contrary it is only going to expose them and make them more obvious.
So as technology advances and automates the selling and buying processes you need to make sure your sales people are advancing their skills in lockstep.