Call me old fashioned. When I think of the B2B selling process, I think of hitting the road and meeting prospects in person; “wining and dining,” as it were. I still find it a bit perplexing that you can close large, complex deals absent face-to-face interaction- you know, that “look me in the eye and assure me that you can really solve my problem before I write a big check” kind of interaction. In my own practice, I don’t picture FaceTime replacing the executive level recruitment process anytime soon. But a recent search for a B2B client of mine was an eye opener. When I went to visit their call center, I was amazed at how many big ticket, complex deals they were putting up on the B2B digital sales board without actually meeting their customers. Some of these deals were well into the seven figures. Not surprisingly, many of their inside sales reps were millennials. “Hey, this is what we know” proclaimed one of them. He said they can get all the information they need through video calls, the lead generation process, and of course, through social media. They even gave one example of a seven figure contract that they attributed to a blog article written by the client’s IT chief, in which he revealed a key weakness in their technology stack. I should note that their inside sales team includes a social media specialist, whose sole job is to research and engage with prospects and clients.
According to research by McKinsey, some 40% of the business-to-business digital sales process can now be automated, and the consulting firm predicts 50% is not un-achievable. In fact, among some high performing individual B2B digital sales contributors, it’s as much as 80%. Not surprisingly, there tends to be a direct relationship between use of technology and years of sales experience. A B2B digital sales rep with, say, five or ten years experience tends to embrace this technology to a much larger extent that someone who has been using the same methods for decades. I talk a lot in my writings and presentations about the convergence of marketing and technology, and the insatiable demand for these B2B digital sales “marketing technologists.” Lest I neglect another key segment of the digital marketing ecosystem, it’s just as important to be techno-savvy in sales. Thinking about a career in B2B digital sales? Good choice. In recent years, the number of calls and emails I’ve received from service and technology firms looking for inside sales reps has gone parabolic. The ones who land quickest, and have the most choices, are the ones who are comfortable with sales automation. Companies have had to transform the way they sell as customers look for solutions and not just products, while at the same time, augmenting their traditional direct and indirect sales processes with B2B digital sales. That’s especially common among SaaS providers, where clients can conduct online demos quick and easy.
Moral of the story: If you’re starting a sales career, technology is going to be just as important to your process as your pre-closing technique.
Jerry Bernhart, Principal of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC, is one of the nation’s preeminent and veteran executive recruiters in ecommerce, digital and multichannel marketing, and CRM. With more than 80 published LinkedIn articles, Jerry is the “voice” of best practices in the recruitment and hiring of ecommerce and digital marketing professionals. Jerry is also the author of the critically acclaimed book, “Careers in Ecommerce and Digital Marketing,” on Amazon, and participates in many leading digital marketing and ecommerce conferences. Jerry has been recruiting and placing marketing professionals for more than 28 years. Check out Jerry’s other insights on the Thought Leadership section of the Bernhart Associates website.
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