No one can doubt that today’s technology has changed the buyer-seller dynamic. Some would even say that selling is getting harder because of it. Traditional sales tactics are not as effective today as they once were, even though they are taught with a few modern-day modifications.
What is becoming glaringly obvious is that sales pros who fail to adapt to this new environment are having a more difficult time filling their pipeline and hitting quota. The science helps to show us why.
The recent HubSpot Sales Perceptions Survey shows a large disconnect between what sales representatives believe about their approach, and what buyers claim to experience. The global online survey was conducted earlier this year, and asked sales pros to rate their selling approach, while buyers were asked to rate their buying experience.
Interestingly, buyers reported that they found sales pros to be pushy, have poor listening skills and lacked a tailored "pitch" that demonstrated the value of their product or service. Yet overwhelmingly, sales professionals rated their abilities as extraordinarily proficient in all of these areas. So how are these two groups so far apart in describing the same experience? Perhaps a better question is, how are organizations responding to these findings?
Among larger organizations, training for sales staff is quite common, driven by both internal staff and external consultants. These events usually range from a few hours to a full day of training, but do these training sessions actually teaching new skills required in today’s environment? In short, are sales professionals internalizing meaningful skills, or are organizations spending training dollars reinforcing behavior that is quickly becoming outdated?
I can’t think of a department that is more deserving of professional development than a sales department, but if we truly want to see measured improvement in dollars and cents, we must match the skills being taught to the environment sales professionals find themselves in.
Buyers Are Making Decisions Without Sales People
Buyer discontent about their face to face engagement with sales people is only the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately, research is being ignored much sooner in the sales process. It is very easy to find data on today's buyer behavior, and it clearly shows some staggering trends:
77% percent of B2B buyers said that they will not speak to a salesperson until they had completed their own research (DemandGen Report),
55% of buyers said that they do their research by using social networks (IBM),
78% of sales pros using social media perform better than peers (Forbes); and,
64% of teams that use social selling hit quota compared to the 49% who don’t (Aberdeen Group).
The research doesn't stop there. A quick search on Google will show a tsunami of evidence that all points to the same conclusions, yet very few sales pros actually use social selling properly.
According to a study by PeopleLinx last year, only 31% of sales pros used social media in their selling process. So what is stopping progress on this issue? Well, as it turns out, the reason makes a lot of sense!
As you would imagine, implementing social selling strategies incorrectly can be a waste of time, and that is exactly what sales professionals are afraid of. The same research found that while 76% of B2B sales pros recognize the value of the activity, only 24% feel they know how to use social media for selling. When companies offer social sales training to their teams, the number of staff who say they use social networks as part of their sales process jumps from 28% to 74%.
The Rebirth Of Selling
The data convincingly points to an evolution in the selling environment, yet many sales professionals are unaware of the importance of adapting to this new reality, and as a result are falling further behind when it comes to quota attainment. Perhaps reaching quota is hindered by the fact that in some cases, the revenue goals for sales people are constantly on the rise, but this doesn’t take away from the fact that sales staff who use social selling outperform those who don’t, and do so by a large margin.
The reality is that in today’s selling environment the power has shifted almost entirely to the to buyers. The good news is that decision makers still want to engage with your sales professionals, but want to do so on their terms. Their terms include a vast amount of time gathering data and developing insights online, before engaging with a sales rep.
Our environment is evolving, just like everything else around us, but the good news is that we are early in the adoption cycle. Individuals who can see this change occurring have a window of opportunity to adapt to the new environment (and take the lion’s share of the benefits) before their competitors are forced to do so for little or no gain. Alternatively, organizations can sit back and let the opportunity pass by. Either way, the evolution is upon us… just ask science.