It’s been a whirlwind of sessions, information, and innovation so far at INBOUND 2015! One of the best sessions I’ve attended so far was “The Future of IT Sales: The Customer Now Leads the Sales Process.” Self-proclaimed “recovering seller” Tiffani Bova, VP, Distinguished Analyst from Gartner, discussed the future of selling in a customer-centric world.
The most disruptive thing in the business market today is not technology—it’s the customer. While the customer undoubtedly benefits from technology (cloud, social, mobile and IT), it is the way that technology is empowering customers that is throwing sales reps for a loop. But sales reps traditionally expect customers to follow along the rigid buyer’s journey that has been set for them. Today’s buyers have the ability, and absolutely tend to skip around in their journey. They may start at engage, then evaluate; or they may right off the bat request a demo or trial. They can even move backwards in this journey. It doesn’t matter how sales reps want to manage buyers; they’re going to move in their own direction on their own time. And no buyer journey is going to be the same as the next.
Sales reps need to be nimble, helpful, and engaging. Tiffani suggests that if sales reps don’t engage buyers, they won’t take you seriously or value your credibility. The customer-driven sales organization of the future will have to identify all customer journey entry points and respond appropriately.
But how do you train and prepare sales reps for this type of interaction? If every buyer’s journey is different, what can we do as sales and marketing leaders to give sales reps what they need for every sales interaction? How do we ensure not only sales success but happy customers who are engaged and spread the love?
Tiffani stresses that sales and marketing leaders must work together to become more predictive and prescriptive in sales enablement. This includes both sides understanding how, when, and for how long a prospective customer has been interacting with your website or content. It’s probably true that marketers know if a lead has requested a demo, downloaded content, or signed up for a trial. Sales must know this too so reps don’t get burned on an initial interaction trying to show a lead something he or she has already seen.
To do this, marketing should not only start employing lead scoring, but should give sales reps an actionable “play” to better position them for an interaction. Whether this is a battlecard, a valuable piece of content, a playbook, or all three, putting context behind a lead will help sales reps better prepare for a customer-centric sales interaction. Marketers should define what content moves each lead through their journey, regardless of where that journey may start, and arm sales with the appropriate tools to excel.
Tiffani stated that an alarming amount of prospects report that the least valuable interaction they have with a company is with sales. This needs to change. Marketing should no longer provide leads to sales without context and accompanying content, and sales should provide appropriate feedback on different interactions, both positive and negative, so marketers can better prescribe content and prepare sales reps to handle the radical disruptions of the modern business market.