Sales 2.0 Conference Trip Report
Recently (okay it’s been two weeks), I attended the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. As a former salesperson myself, I was keenly interested in mingling with sales executives to get their perspectives on the evolving role of marketing and technology in their everyday lives.
Not surprisingly, the typical chasm between what sales expects from marketing and their perception of what marketing tends to deliver still exists. Salespeople usually believe that marketing is solely focused on brand development, and what they consider a lead is misaligned with what a salesperson believes is truly a sales-ready lead.
The revelation I did have, however, is how many salespeople now honestly believe they cannot be as successful without tighter integration of sales and marketing. Technology has not only created opportunities to be more efficient with marketing and sales activities, it has created bi-directional visibility. Marketing has much more visibility into the sales continuum with access to sales force automation (SFA) tools, and sales has increasingly more visibility into marketing’s campaigns and their performance.
There were three key takeaways from the conference for me.
The first is that salespeople are increasingly less likely to use a full-size laptop during the day; they rely much more heavily on mobile devices. If the informal “raise your hand” polls during the conference are any indication, at least 40% of salespeople will have a tablet by the end of the year. Their primary reason for using them beyond email today is to engage with leads and opportunities through their SFA system, but more and more salespeople are also relying on them for contextual knowledge during the selling process. Product marketers take note—you have to be thinking about positioning and messaging tools for salespeople in formats and sizes that can be consumed in minutes on these devices while talking with a prospective customer.
Second, the best way to close the gap between sales and marketing is for marketing to become better SFA reporting experts than sales. The mountain of data that can be harvested is critical to creating lead nurturing solutions that are really tied into your sales organization’s natural process. Never before have marketers had access to this level of real field data that they can act upon in virtually real time. It also means, that salespeople can be held more accountable than ever before as the gray areas are becoming more black and white every day.
Third, social media has not just reached the sales organization, it’s dominating the way many smart sales executives spend their prospecting time. My brief observation in discussions with several attendees at the conference was that they were ahead of their marketing counterparts in the use of social media. Sure, marketing has social media tactics in place to listen, engage and cultivate, but they mostly focused on brand and CRM initiatives. Salespeople are looking for Marketing to integrate social media more formally into their lead generation and nurturing campaigns. Today, most salespeople manage tools—like LinkedIn and Jigsaw—personally, but this time next year, most expect their organizations to deploy company-wide strategies and tactics for leveraging social media for sales management.
The producer of the conference had a startling prediction. He predicted that by the year 2020 there would only be 3 million outside sales executives compared to 18 million today. The reason? Marketing will become more effective at utilizing technology to capture and nurture opportunities, while sales will utilize technology to “sell” remotely—allowing true sales executives to be much more efficient by engaging with more prospects in a day. Also, the role of the inside salesperson is rebounding substantially. Companies are moving toward a more cost-effective inside sales model with fewer outbound sales executives.
While I think the estimate may be aggressive, the spirit of the observation is very telling. From mobile and social to virtual meetings, technology is not just maturing to the point that these technologies are functional, we as business professionals are beginning to prefer using them to increase our own productivity. For the most part, our prospects are not interested in schmoozing and endless flashy presentations. We only have to look in the proverbial mirror and ask “what or how do I want to engage with companies selling to me?” The answer? Help inform and prepare me to get something done in the most effective and efficient way possible. We can be friends later!