At the beginning of this century Salesforce.com Inc. reinvented the B2B selling of their niche enterprise software and by 2016 they are about to be the 4th largest software company in the world. (Of course, who would have bigger big-data of best-practise sales techniques than a cloud CRM company?)
Isn’t it due to ask what the future holds for B2B IT companies and their salespeople that have been miserably trying to sell the old 20th century way?
I have spent my last 16 years analysing and rebuilding B2B sales processes for IT companies mostly in emerging markets like Brazil, Eastern-Europe, India and China. And yes, almost everything has changed about the role of a salesperson in IT during these 16 years. And yes, the salesperson of the 20th century has almost completely gone extinct, the few who survived have changed or about to be in almost every aspect of their jobs.
What killed most of the B2B sales rep jobs in IT and what is forcing the rest to change?
In 2012 Harvard Business Review published their famous article with the title of ‘The end of Solution Sales‘. In this article HBR refers to a “…Corporate Executive Board study of more than 1,400 B2B customers (which) found that those customers completed, on average, nearly 60% of a typical purchasing decision—researching solutions, ranking options, setting requirements, benchmarking pricing, and so on—before even having a conversation with a supplier…”
In 2015 according to IT Security Recruitment International approximately 70% of all B2B deals are closed or lost before the first human contact between the buyer and the seller.
Is it possible to sell an enterprise software to a corporation without regularly (or ever!) appearing in the decision making chambers? For some IT companies it is. The question is: would it be possible for you?
I have consulted many emerging market IT companies using CRM systems and I also advised a few to purchase a CRM according to their needs. In neither case was any salesperson from any CRM vendor involved. Usually the software manufacturer or any sales partner of them got into the picture at the very end of the process to handle the order. Their task was only to administer the closed deal usually on the phone and through emails and rarely any B2B sales person appeared physically. Even when they did it was because they insisted to come. There was definitely no need from the client side. Why would there be? What would have been their added value? Talking about the pricing, which was online, showing a demo, which was online, or presenting references, that were online?
(My 65-year-old mother regularly buys software on AppStore after reading some reviews and watching some demo videos and for her budget that decision is as big as a software purchase for a corporation.)
This is the direction where enterprise software sales gravitates to in the 21st century: proper digital footprints make decision-makers buy not meetings with salespeople.
Can you see the meteorite that finishes your sales department the way you know it?
I know, I know it is not there yet! Your clients are different and they need special care and personal attention. But I am not talking about your clients. I am talking about your competition who is about to cut their outbound B2B sales team and train them to become experts on inbound lead generation (by content marketing, community building, giveaway campaigns, etc…). Your competitors might be learning 21st century sales techniques right now as you are reading this post. Agile sales methodologies your sales team might have never heard of.
…either your old sales techniques go extinct or your whole company does…
I don’t know how easy or hard for your team to sell today but let’s gaze into the future to see your odds for tomorrow:
- Mainstream opinion – uneven, weakening growth (IMF)
- Near mainstream opinion – ever-increasing economic globalization (Al Gore)
- Alternative opinion – ever-increasing concentration of capital (Thomas Piketty)
Now let’s translate that to the future of IT companies in general:
- Lowering purchasing power of your customers
- Growing international competition in your market
- Rich corporations to bid against
Are you ready to reinvent the way your sales department works?
I don’t want to overwhelm you more but here is another source talking about ‘The Future of the Professions‘, and Mr Susskind and his son can really scare their readers about the changes of professions in the 21st century. (B2B sales jobs included!)
So if you have the feeling that your B2B sales in your emerging market is still in the past century, (1) diagnose you current sales processes, (2) learn about the new inbound selling techniques and (3) implement them before your company goes extinct together with your salespeople.
This is what I do.
I help companies to find out the IT specific B2B selling problems and their possible solutions. (by my free eBook, free audio book, low-fee online or high-priced onsite sales diagnostic services)