Gerhard Gschwandtner is CEO of SellingPower magazine and a B2B selling industry pundit.
I spoke with Gerhard this week and asked three questions regarding his outlook for the B2B selling profession in 2014
1. What do you see happening to Consultative Selling in 2014?
Consultative selling, Value base selling, Challenger Sales, Insight based selling are all labels that talk about potentials not realities. The reality is that the buying journey has changed and customers are consulting their peers for insights, they challenge salespeople on the value/price equation.
The buying journey is no longer linear and there is no one sales channel. Sellers need to be multi-dimensional and multi-channel.
Their messages and stories need to be aligned vertically (from CEO down to end user) and horizontally (steps of the buying journey).
Therefore, the new sales approach has to be adapted in real time, one-on-one, in a way that leads to a WIN (what’s important now). And NOW is an acronym for (no opportunity wasted).
We seem to be more preoccupied over labeling a process that’s defies labels.
Every buyer is different, every buyer brings a potent mix of emotional, rational and irrational challenges to a sales encounter.
It’s the buyer’s role to bring the compost and the salesperson’s role to bring the seeds (ideas, insights, challenges, value, advice, recommendations) and if they collaborate constructively they can make things grow.
If you want a new label, I’d suggest that 2014 is the year of collaboration and co-creation.
2. What about salespeople selling rapidly commoditizing SaaS products?
Over the next 5 years I expect half of these salespeople will be gone from the ranks, as suppliers figure out ways to enable buyers to self-serve across more of their buying journey.
The top 20% of B2B sales reps will always do more and figure out how to remain viable. The bottom 20% will vanish and half of the middle 60% will evaporate.
Some will leave the profession, but most will either move “inside” or into “customer support” roles.
New positions will be created; we’ve already seen the rise of sales enablement, sales operations, and demand generation and roles will emerge with titles like “inbound marketing manager”, “customer success manager”, “customer satisfaction manager”.
By reading the signals in the B2C space, suppliers will figure out ways to better serve customers across their buying cycle and at the same time reduce their cost of sale.
- Outside Sales Rep Quota $1M OTE $150-180K + $20K Expenses
- Inside Sales Rep Quota $1M OTE $70-90K
- Customer Service Rep OTE $37-40K
3. What advice would you give sales professionals who want to stay in B2B sales?
Good question. Technology is moving at 200 MPH, process is moving at 60 MPH and people move at 6 MPH -when they are running.
Lets start with People skills and with mind-set.
- Mindset means a will to succeed, but also not being afraid to fail.
– Being vulnerable is new for a lot of salespeople and too “touch-feely” for many. Yet, the salesperson’s willingness to put themselves in a position of vulnerability generates customer trust.
– It means salespeople need to put emotional skin-in-the-game.
– Being OK with a “no” cuts both ways – accepting the buyer’s “no” gracefully is a sign of professionalism. But being prepared to say “no” to a buyer who will be better served with an alternate approach is the hallmark of the top of the sales profession.
- Salespeople should invest in their own continuous improvement. Sales enablement by the company needs to be matched by self-enablement by the salesperson. With all the dynamic changes around us, the road to learning never ends and to use an old cliché, there is no traffic jam on the extra mile of self-enablement.
- While salespeople often suffer from the fear of being rejected, buyers suffer from similar fears such as making the wrong purchase, the fear of being taken advantage of, or the anxiety about taking a risk by investing in a solution that might not work out.
The funny thing is that these fears prevent salespeople from making calls (call reluctance) and on the buyer’s side they translate into indecision, procrastination and avoiding the salesperson. Emotional intelligence- empathy, listening, rapport building and story-telling skills are no longer nice to have, they are the table stakes of todays top performers.
Technology is moving fast and there is a constant stream of new products to help manage every single facet of selling.
But tools are not the sticking point, people are. Real time engagement of leads and prompt follow-up is becoming more important.
Having said that tools like your product WittyParrot, that help share tribal knowledge and best practices and that save salespeople time and lift their game are likely to get used.
I heard a story about a sales rep this week who runs his customer communication from his iPhone.
If he is unable to get the buyer on the phone, he sends a 20 second visual voicemail to his prospect.
If he has a successful call, he follows up using Siri – dictates a note and closes each call, before he moves on to the next one.
Change happens slowly, much slower than people think. People have time to retool, companies have time to figure out and create new process, but change is a constant imperative for tomorrow’s leaders.