Sales 2.0: Don’t Buy The Hype

4 minute read

Sales 2.0 is being trumpeted in the market place by a variety of well intentioned, venture backed vendors as the next wave of sales automation technology that will improve sales productivity, reduce cost of sales, increase customer loyalty and drive sales performance through the roof. Sound familiar? …many of those same promises were part of the first generation sales force automation vision that proclaimed SFA would change the world as it improved the productivity of sales people, sales managers and sales management. Unfortunately, it only met the needs of the latter resulting in adoption, usability and value issues.

Fast forward to today’s internet based prospecting, selling and dynamic buying environment where potential clients educate themselves and demand the sales rep to provide value beyond describing product features, advantages and benefits and you have a whole new set of promises.

The technologies behind the hype of Sales 2.0 are driven by web 2.0 advances that capitalize on internet based communications and traffic such as wiki’s, blogs, mash-ups and advanced search optimization. These capabilities have manifested themselves into a wide variety of point applications for social networking, interactive web based communications, web traffic monitoring, email activity tracking or prospect data and intelligence gathering. For some of these new applications, they are simply technologies looking for problems to solve.

Sales 2.0 is – or should be – a focus on adapting customer engagement strategies to the rapidly changing environment that is dominated by the unrelenting evolution of the Internet. While leveraging technology should be a part of any approach, it is an enabler that is driven by the following:

Buying cycles: Buyers, not salespeople now control the flow of information, making them savvier than ever before. They have developed their own processes for assessing, selecting and negotiating with vendors, and added a number of formal and informal decisionmakers challenging traditional sales cycle and sales methodology thinking to embrace this new paradigm.

Sales and marketing integration: With prospects taking control of their own buying cycles, the importance of sales and marketing integration has never been greater. Reputation and branding and demand creation activities result in leads, leads that require nurturing and qualification before engaging a field or channel sales resource.

Sales readiness: Increasing sales productivity – the ability for salespeople to make more calls of higher quality – is the focus of a concept that SiriusDecisions has named sales readiness. While sales skills and sales process remain essential, in a 2.0 world sales readiness includes a heavy focus on sales knowledge.

Knowledge management: Salespeople must provide value in the context of the prospect’s business by translating features into compelling business solutions; this requires them to be more knowledgeable about their company, their products/solutions and the markets they compete in.

Collaboration: The development of new sales roles combined with the growth of product/technical specialists applied to a typical sales/buying cycle means that collaboration has become much more important for sales organizations. In a 2.0 world, ad hoc sales teams will form based on unique opportunities spanning business units and product sets as complex customer requirements evolve.

Sales Technology: Supporting, enabling and powering this complex world of sales 2.0 is the sales technology infrastructure. It provides sales managers and sales management with the visibility needed to manage sales, but also a set of applications that will facilitate selling for sales people.

A portion of the hype behind sales 2.0 technologies is certainly justified, but only when these technologies are deployed with the specific goal of fostering the components I have identified above. And just as sales organizations develop coverage model, compensation or customer engagement strategies, they also need to develop a sales technology strategy. Which is a topic for another day…..

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