The new Digital age is leaving no function in the Enterprise immune to change. In particular, the past 5 years have witnessed a profound transformation of the world of Business to Business sales.
The new buyer's journey
Buyers have taken upon themselves to research the products, solutions and services they need or might want to consider. They do it on their terms, using the internet as their primary source of information. Gone are the days when sales representatives would be called or invited to “educate buyers”. The Corporate Executive Board found 57% of the Enterprise Buyer's Journey takes before vendors get formally engaged.
Content is the new currency
In response to this trend, Businesses have massively invested in building and sharing content. According to the Content Marketing Institute, marketers are spending 28% of their marketing budget on content marketing. This content is offered to help buyers and potential buyers in the early stages of their exploration. The quality of the content created has become a mean for businesses to build preference. But the widespread availability of great and valuable content on the internet can also disintermediate brands. So, the understanding of the information consumed by prospects is an essential proxy of their interest. It is further exacerbated by the Social Transformation. Indeed, Social Networks and communities of interest have become places where people share experiences, get feedback on products through peer reviews, and look for information.
Corporations used to have a few Buying Centers where decisions were centralized in the hands of a few, easy to find, roles. Nowadays, a growing number of purchases are made at all levels and functions in the Enterprise. This trend is exemplified by Gartner prediction from a few years ago that, by 2017, Marketing organizations would spend more on technology than their peer IT groups. Even large purchases made centrally now involve a much larger number of decision makers. Captera found that 2/3 software purchases involve 3 or more people. Finding potential buyers and other decision stakeholders has become a daunting task for sales organizations. Furthermore, the sheer volume increase of leads and potential contacts to handle has become overwhelming. So, they need to turn to the Internet to get the best possible insights on organizations and buyers.
Sales organizations have started to transform themselves to respond to these trends and become more effective. They increasingly leverage new communication tools to shift their engagements with prospects and buyers away from in person meetings to the phone, emails, online meetings or other forms of remote interaction. Marc Benioff, the founder of salesforce.com, coined the term of Inside Sales for sales done remotely. He keeps on reminding us that he only used Inside Sales during the first 6 years of his company. This trend compounds with the imperative for sales organizations to become more productive as pointed by Bain.
The rise of Inside Selling
Topo is predicting that in 2017, 85% of the hours spent by sales professional, will be so selling remotely. Accordingly, new roles have emerged:
Inside Sales to sell remotely,
Sales Development to engage prospective buyers showing potential signs of interest, give them information for their explorations, and detect the appropriate moment to connect them to a Sale Representative, and
Business Development to proactively identify potential buyers and reach out to them.
[Inside] Sales is enabled by technology
These roles exist because of the widespread availability of communication technologies that make remote interaction seamless and convenient. They have led to the emergence of a new set of tools to:
gain insights on companies and potential buyers,
steer interactions towards desired goals,
improve these interactions with relevant information,
increase sales productivity,
make remote selling smooth and effortless, and
use analytics along the way to drive and, in hindsight, improve the entire selling process.
Making sense of a new market?
I lived through this transition as an Executive of the Enterprise Software industry. Since I became an Advisor to technology companies, I often get involved in the implementation of Inside Sales roles and processes. It has given me a unique appreciation of how critical technology can be, but also, how confusing this space can be to its practitioners.
Yet, I found it has a lot of similarities with Customer Engagement, a domain that I know very well. So, with the help of Spoke and VBProfiles, I have embarked on a mapping of this new Inside Sales technology landscape.
In my next post, I will share existing market categorizations and why I thought I should create one.
Stay tuned and, in the meantime, share your thoughts!