Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sales & Marketing Alignment?

Every time the subject of sales and marketing alignment comes up it seems like everyone is in violent agreement (regardless of which of the two disciplines they come from) that this needs to be a priority and the time has come once and for all to get everyone on the same page if not the same team. And yet, this rarely seems to actually happen and so year after year sales and marketing alignment continues to be a conversation topic rather than a strategic imperative. (Of course there are companies who have executed this quite brilliantly but they remain exceptions).

Why is it so hard to accomplish this alignment? It must be hard after all if everyone agrees it should happen but very few attempt it, right? But this is where I struggle because I don’t believe it is that difficult at all. There seems to be a level of deliberate inaction. The reluctance seems to be born out of a fear of role dilution and the steady erosion of traditional lines of demarcation resulting in the blurring of skill-sets and expertise.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Time to Rethink your Sales Force?

In the ever increasing world of disintermediation where buyers can source information on products or services directly and bypass much of the traditional buyer/seller relationship the need to structure your sales force according to these buying patterns becomes even more crucial.

Neil Rackham and John De Vincentis explored this concept in their prescient book “Rethinking the Sales Force” which was published in 1999 but speaks even more directly to the challenges facing organizations today. One of the central arguments is that you need to segment your sales force according to whether it is a transactional or a consultative sale. This may seem on the surface to be a statement of the obvious but stop for a moment and think about how many sales organizations straddle both and how many sales people will grab transactional business to offset the longer sales cycles of a consultative sale. During the 1990s in sales organizations it was still common to have a percentage of sales people focused exclusively on transactional selling, another percentage focused on consultative selling and then a large chunk in the middle who did both. What has happened, however, over the past number of years is that the middle has started to get squeezed as the percentage of transactional buyers has increased due to all of the factors I listed in a previous blog entry (consumer buying habits infiltrating B2B buying and the ever increasing ease of purchasing driven by technology advances). Equally the consultative side of this equation has also expanded as buyers become more sophisticated at the higher end and look for greater value creation from vendors. They don’t just want to know how your product can help them but they want your insights on their business, the industry and they want you to become the illusive “trusted advisor”. Taken together this puts greater demands on the caliber of your consultative seller and greater strains on your support organization.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Oscar Wilde in the Twitter Age

I read this article today about how GM is employing people to scour Facebook and Twitter and all the other social media venues in order to be proactive in their outreach to solving customer issues. The idea is to change poor opinions to good ones and good opinions to great ones by going out on the internet and engaging the customer on their turf- whether that is Facebook, Twitter, automotive discussion sites etc. This raises an interesting issue and puts a new spin on the famous Oscar Wilde quote “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about” – in our new social media world there could be something worse and that is being talked about but not being aware of it!

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.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sales 2.0 Conference Debrief

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.