If you have a sales background, I hope that every time you read yet another report about how business buyers have already made up their mind about what to buy before they’re willing to engage with a sales rep, it makes you cringe. It does that to me.
On the most obvious level, it’s true. No buyer has ever really wanted to talk to a sales rep. But before there was so much information available online, the door to product/service specs, descriptions and the all important pricing information could only be accessed through a sales rep so there was no choice. Now there are choices.
Marketing studies keep telling us that the business “buyers” of today do not want to engage with a sales person until they have already decided what they want to do. And businesses are supporting that choice. Since its what the buyers apparently “want”, businesses are putting out as much “sales rep free” information as they can. Marketing has taken over lead generation (It used to be called prospecting). When the leads have been acquired, marketing controls the nurturing process, feeding carefully planned bits of information at different points in time to move prospects along the purchase path. And because it’s relatively easy, affordable and can be managed in large numbers, automated emails controlled by marketing automation software are the medium of choice Marketing teams are doing their best to support prospects desire to self source information.
To some extent, that’s a good thing, but I have one big problem, particularly with the recent emphasis placed on the importance of “social marketing”. By supporting self sourced information, businesses are doing nothing to give their sales reps any more credibility when it comes to talking about what you offer, how well it works and what it can do for a company, than any Tom, Dick or Harry with a computer and an opinion- regardless of how valid it is. You’re freely giving your competitors or any disaffected person with an axe to grind, just as much access to a potential sale as your own sales and marketing team.
To me the simple solution is to introduce some one-on-one contact with every prospect at the earliest possible moment in a potential sales cycle. My personal choice would be that sales people do that, but it seems that the future of the sales rep is steadily being narrowed to that of a glorified order taker.
There’s really no replacement for talking to buyers and maybe, if you have something intelligent and helpful to say and they find that you’re actually rather nice to talk to, they’ll keep on talking.