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March 2011

Is Your Company Selling the Way Customers Want to Buy?

When Eric Berridge (Cofounder and CEO of Bluewolf) presented at the Sales 2.0 Conference on March 7 in San Francisco, he asked the audience the following question: “How many of you in this room have a formal sales process?” And only about 20 percent of the crowd – which represented about 450 companies total – raised their hands. That is truly amazing, because it means that so many companies out there are not selling the way the customer wants to buy. They lack a formal process, and instead their salespeople are making it up as they go. That leads to inconsistencies and inefficiencies. Here is the sad part: companies that consciously fail to pay attention to their sales process are unconsciously preparing for the failure of their business.

Successful companies are run by leaders who continually transform their business model by staying in synch with their customers. Over the past 10 years, Bluewolf has helped companies transform their business through an innovative process called agile consulting. The result: greater operational efficiency and higher customer satisfaction.

Last week I was invited to present my views of the attributes that make companies consistently successful to a group of 150 Bluewolf consultants on the Big Island of Hawaii at the Fairmont Orchid. If you take a look at classic American companies that are still around many years after they were founded, you’ll find that each has a defining quality that has helped them stand the test of time. Consider this list:

Tiffany’s – founded on value
National Cash Register – founded on innovation
Mary Kay Cosmetics – founded on enthusiasm
Prudential – founded on trust
New York Times – founded on integrity

These companies have one more quality in common: the capacity to create a culture where employees continually adapt and co-create with their customers.

Mary Kay Ash famously said that if you get up three times a week at 5 a.m., you gain an extra day a week. Today during my presentation I called on an inside-sales team leader and asked her: “What time did you get up this morning?” She said, “I got up at 5:20 a.m. because I had to make calls to the east coast and help run the workshop today." This level of professional dedication is one of the attributes that make Bluewolf a powerful leader in this growing industry.

An interesting example of what drives Bluewolf’s success culture is their vacation policy: they don’t have one. You are free to take vacations whenever you want, for as many days as you want – as long as your job gets done and you reach your goals and milestones. It’s really extraordinary, because it shows how much they trust the people they’ve hired to get the job done. It creates a great sense of freedom and independence, and that creates a culture of agility across all departments.

While Bluewolf consultants help their clients through an agile consulting process, the culture of Bluewolf shows the same mental agility you’d find at a Mensa meeting. Instead of hiring consultants from their somewhat stodgy competitors, they are recruiting smart-as-a-whip 20-somethings. These employees are allowed to choose their own titles when facing their customers and their only boundary is their own capabilities. Bluewolf recognizes that it is the value of their work counts more than a title on a business card.

Case in point: when I called on a young women to have her explain her contribution to the company she said, “I’m 22 and I’m in charge of recruiting new talent.” She has been on the job for only six months and according to her account, she has recruited heavy hitter sales consultants who have already produced several million dollars in revenue. Hello! Here is a wakeup call for old-school consulting companies. The world is changing so rapidly that an agile, ambitious and dedicated younger person will outperform that old school consultant that holds a degree in a field of knowledge that expired 20 years ago.

We all need to wake up to the fact that the way customers buy today is changing faster than the way companies sell. Customers want to buy differently, and companies need take the right steps to keep up. I challenge you to ask yourself: what is my company doing to adapt our processes, enhance our technology footprint and transform our business model in more effective ways, in a shorter period of time and at less cost?

Sales success has never before been so elusive for the clueless and never so close for those who learn to stay agile. Aloha!

Join me at my next speaking engagement at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston, on June 20, 2011.

Six Reasons "Salesperson 2.0" Will Grow Your Business


During my opening keynote speech at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, I went out on a limb to make a prediction about the future of sales: of the 18 million sales jobs that currently exist in the U.S., I believe that only three million of those jobs will be necessary by the year 2020 (for more details watch my video interview above with Brett Clay, author of Selling Change). 

Why did I make this prediction? The shift to a digital landscape has affected the B2B selling and buying process on almost every level. Sales 2.0 technologies have given rise to “Buyer 2.0,” who learns about products and services online -- well before talking with any sales rep -- and trusts peer endorsements on social media more than a sales pitch. 

Now I believe we are moving into an era of what I call “Salesperson 2.0.” Based on information I heard during presentations and panel discussions last week, I've put together 6 success traits of this new breed of sales rep: 

  1. Salesperson 2.0 is in-the-know about technology and is proactive about using Sales 2.0 solutions to become an overachiever. Derek Dean, Director of Sales Strategy at Reed Construction Data, told a story about how one of his average-performing sales rep began making more than 150% of quota, out of the blue. When upper management called the rep in to ask what he was doing differently, it turned out the rep had discovered Glance Networks and was using the solution for client demos to get remarkable results. 
  2. Salesperson 2.0 goes where the buyers are. Statistics from Eric Berridge, Cofounder of Bluewolf, revealed that 70% of a customer's buying decision is made before a salesperson gets involved. All business processes have moved online, or are well on their way there. To remain competitive, salespeople need to be comfortable operating in the online world and show proficiency in their understanding of the way customers want to buy.
  3. Salesperson 2.0 knows how to engage prospects in a dialogue. Reps must be ready to engage in online conversations that are happening every day. The more salespeople can capture, initiate, or extend those conversations, the more successful they will be. 
  4. Salesperson 2.0 excels in social media use. In our Social Selling University workshop with InsideView's Koka Sexton, Phone Works CEO Anneke Seley, Chess Media Group Cofounder Jacob Morgan, and others, it became clear that Salesperson 2.0 wants to work for a company that is innovating social selling practices. Christian Sutherland-Wong, Premium Subscriptions Product Manager at LinkedIn, said that more than 1 million companies have already adopted company LinkedIn pages for lead generation and prospecting purposes. 
  5. Salesperson 2.0 uses the right devices to connect to buyers online. The gadgets of choice for Salesperson 2.0 include Smartphones and tablets. I noticed a huge rise in the use of tablet devices like the iPad among the 500+ sales leaders in attendance last week (FatStax Cofounder Rusty Bishop saw so many iPads at the conference that "it was almost shocking"). Many of our sponsors were using iPads as free giveaways at their booths.
  6. Salesperson 2.0 uses video to communicate. Dave Fitzgerald, Executive VP of Brainshark, declared that retention rates rise from 10% if the message is spoken, to 65% if viewed in video. Video solutions like Brainshark, Veeple, or VSee are making messaging and team collaboration more accessible and engaging than ever. 

Sales leaders cannot ignore that we are living in a real-time environment where information delays stand in the way of sales success. We are moving from a “me culture” to a “we culture,” where a higher level of democracy rules among sales teams. A sales manager’s conversations with his or her team need to integrate all levels of existing knowledge so that "Salesperson 2.0" best practices can be shared across the board.