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Report from the Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston

Yesterday I had the privilege of hosting the Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston. More than 300 people registered, which is an increase over last year's event. It is amazing how much has changed compared to last year:

  1. Last year everyone was still preoccupied with managing the recession; this year people are focusing on capturing better opportunities and achieving growth.
  2. Last year social networking was high on the agenda; this year such topics as sales process, metrics, and sales and marketing alignment led to spirited discussions.
  3. Last year I was puzzled by a number of people who still believed that salespeople would not be able to adopt more than three or four Sales 2.0 tools; this year I was surprised by the number of companies that had already implemented six or more applications (and some as many as 12).
The Sales 2.0 movement is accelerating, and I was surprised by attendees’ sharply increased interest in staying on top of their game. One VP of sales operations said it best: "I am in charge of helping over 300 salespeople, and I want to make sure that I stay on top of the latest developments."

Here are the 10 ideas I found most interesting, in no particular order:
  1. Polly Sumner, president and chief adoption officer of Salesforce.com, showed her passion for technology, revealed how addictive and productive Chatter has become for her, and shared how she balances her hectic business life with her weekend passion for farming, growing flowers, and raising a herd of 90 cattle.
  2. The realization that many sales organizations design their sales process by looking at the rearview mirror, not understanding that what worked in the past is not likely to work in the future. The smartest companies in the room are thinking long and hard about the future.
  3. The idea that we keep clinging to the obsolete concept of a "sales process," not accepting the fact that in most cases, the customer is in charge of the buying process, which mandates that the steps salespeople make must mirror the steps buyers take. Smart companies are cocreating the sale with the customer.
  4. The fact that there is a parallel between the sales success triangle and the business success triangle. It goes like this: When it comes to looking at the effectiveness of a sales team, you'll notice that at the top of the pyramid are the top 20 percent, the highest performers. Below that, you find the middle 60 percent, and at the bottom you find 20 percent of the sales team – those who need to be replaced as quickly as possible.
    To achieve growth, successful companies isolate and identify the best practices of the top performers and share them with the mid 60 percent. This insight has been the basis for many successful corporate initiatives. We found a parallel universe in the market when it comes to examining the effectiveness of sales organizations. If you take 100 companies and analyze their success, you'll find that the top 20 percent achieve double-digit growth year over year. For example, Salesforce.com's 5-year average sales growth has been 49 percent. Companies in the mid 60 percent range enjoy single-digit growth rates, and the bottom 20 percent are threatened with extinction. What is interesting is that the top 20 percent of successful companies are fully exploiting the advantages of Sales 2.0. The poster child for Sales 2.0 success at the conference was Dave Fitzgerald, who shared how he has seamlessly implemented more than 12 Sales 2.0 applications into his company's sales process. The result: double-digit sales growth year over year for the past three years.
  5. The wide spectrum of technology savvy, ranging from companies that highly leverage their technology investment, to the comment I overheard from a first-time attendee: "I wish that our company gave us tools that we could use to do research on our prospects. We are still making cold calls." I saw an astonished facial expression when the other person replied, "If one of my salespeople made a cold call, I'd fire him. The cold call is dead!"
  6. The fact that sales leaders habitually measure improvement by comparing what they've done previously (which stopped working) to what they are doing today (and achieving average results) while ignoring the possibility that they could be doing significantly better. Which brings me to the conclusion that we need to make it our business to continually stretch the boundaries of what we believe is possible.
  7. The fact that so many companies have sales and marketing still separated by silos. We've entered a new world where collaboration is essential for survival.
  8. The realization that more sales organizations have embraced the necessity of creating a culture of measurement. Sales leaders can no longer afford to make decisions on hunches; they need to rely more and more on science.
  9. The idea that we are arriving at a point at which we must associate a metric with every process so that we can learn early if a process needs to be improved, changed, or eliminated.
  10. Dave Fitzgerald shared his best Sales 2.0 practices with a great level of precision. Here are some of his amazing numbers: A) Seventy-five percent of all sales leads are generated by marketing. B) The company spends $4,000 per sales and marketing employee on SaaS technology. C) The cost per marketing-qualified opportunity is $462. Best quote: "The beauty of SaaS is that it’s plug and play. If it doesn't perform, you can shut it off quickly."
The amazing speakers and presenters prompted a ton of tweets (search #s20c) and videos (www.DreamSimplicity.com). My takeaway: Sales 2.0 comes at a low price if you invest in it; it comes at a high price if you miss the opportunity. It's a good idea to jump into the water while it is warm, but it's not a good idea to jump into the water when it's frozen. Companies that miss the opportunity Sales 2.0 provides risk becoming a victim of change.

Late-breaking news: The next conference will be called Sales & Marketing 2.0. It will be held in San Francisco on November 8-9, 2010.

Today (Tuesday, June 29), we will tape our Selling Power TV Game Show, called "Make That Sale," in Boston at the Renaissance Waterfront hotel between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. If you are in town, you are welcome to be part of this world premiere. We'll start with a cocktail reception, and you can watch 10 highly talented salespeople compete in three challenging contests that require personal skill and technology savvy to win. A panel of judges will score each performance on a scale of 1 to 10. The highest scorer in each game wins an iPad. The audience favorite will win an iPod nano. Come and join this fun event. There is room left for 10 more people. It's free. To sign up, go to http://www.sellingpower.com/microsite/game-show

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Nick

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Jeff

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