It seems that the death of enterprise sales teams has been greatly exaggerated. Often these broad claims were accompanied, once you dug deeper, with added context–such as in commodity sales situations, but overall the largely held perspective was that customers are in control with ready access to information and advice. This made sellers seem like an unnecessary evil.
And, yes, it was often perpetuated by calling up memories of the worst case selling experiences–whether it be unscrupulous sellers or untrained sellers or just lousy sellers. These memories had many just waiting for the day when sales would disappear.
Well, from where I sit, you’ll be waiting a long time. I will add my caveat—in complex buying situations, sellers are more critical than ever. And customers recognize this. This really popped for me as I continued to explore our recent tech buying study (that followers of my blog, research, and webinars should be quite familiar with–and more to come).
In that study, we saw a change from past studies–sales reps are valued higher than ever. Customers are leaning on sellers to help them learn about new solutions and make sense of all the information out there. Sellers are as important to them, or even more, as trials, detailed product content, and even independent sources. This is particularly true for the best situations–the high quality deals where customers are succeeding and vendors are in a good position to retain and grow accounts. The customers that deliver high quality deals rely on sales more than those that don’t.
This reliance reflects improvement in sales practices, but there is more work to be done. For those same customers that deliver high quality deals, a low-quality sales presentation is one of the top causes of them rejecting a vendor immediately. Expectations are high.
To deliver on that, vendors must prepare their sellers well. Help them build situational awareness skills. Coach them on how to help buyers make sense of things within the information deluge. Offer ideas to improve the customer’s business. Build confidence in the buying team that they are doing the right things, not just that you are the right choice. And all of this requires a consistently integrated (I hate the word aligned) effort across sales, marketing, success, service, and more.
All of these areas and more are focal points of the work that my colleagues in Gartner’s sales practice do to drive improved sales performance. It also permeates the work that our tech marketing team and broader marketing practice focus on.
Death of sales. Not gonna happen.
Rebirth of sales. The opportunity is here.
To imagine it, consider reflecting not on the nightmare sales experiences, but on the best ones. I’m confident that you’ll find examples that point the way to what the future needs to be.