It’s a 2.0 world. Everywhere I look, there’s either a 2.0 on the end of a word, or social at the start of it. Hype and hyperbole bombard us with new shiny toys, and snake oil to cure what ails us.

However, beyond the rah-rah and kumbaya, there IS INDEED a shift going on around us. The shift is happening in the way that humans communicate, in the way that business is done, and in the way that technology opens up new opportunities for arbitrage.

Last week, a drive up the beautiful California coast from my home in Orange County, with temporary stops in Redondo Beach, and idyllic San Luis Obispo, ultimately landed me at the first of two immersive destinations, the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown San Francisco for the Sales 2.0 conference.

Given the Four Season’s iconic reputation for customer experience, it made perfect sense for approximately 500 sales and marketing leaders to converge and discuss some of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing customer executives today.

Key Takeaways

Illumination is starting to take place
Anneke Seley pointed out during her breakout session how 2 or 3 years ago, the concept of purposely telling your sales people to spend time on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn was heresy to many in the sales world. It was unheard of, and an utter waste of time. Today, there is a growing interest, and more and more stories are emerging like that of Dan Harding, who says that he achieved 25% of his quota from leveraging social tools, or as one person from the crowd shared that they make all their sales people check LinkedIn profiles prior to making outbound phone calls.

Sales is lagging other business functions in social media adoption.
Early adopters were blogging in the middle of the web 1.0 era. Hundreds of thousands have rushed to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn over the last half decade. From my vantage point, the majority of sales people still don’t see value in bringing this into their daily routine.

This doesn’t necessarily tell me that sales people are ignorant, technophobic, or just don’t get it. It tells me that the technology isn’t quite valuable enough yet to make a meaningful difference in the day to day lives of sales people. As with the previous adoption curve of core CRM functionality, if any tool, idea, framework will not “help me sell more”, I won’t adopt it. More so than any other role, the “time is money” adage is never more applicable to any other group than the hardworking professional sales person. They are a true litmus test of value as they don’t have the luxury to “play” or “experiment” with new tools. As illustrated above, however, the tide is slowly changing.

Social Media is forcing alignment between sales and marketing (or making it more uncomfortable for those who aren’t aligned)

  • 50% of materials marketers are creating aren’t being used by sales
  • 70% – 90% of leads generated by marketing are never followed up with by sales – Marketing Sherpa

Mark Wilson, VP of Marketing for Sybase, provided dozens of valuable insights during his keynote on Sales and Marketing alignment. The metaphor that sticks out most in my mind is the transition in mindset from the traditional concept of marketing passing a baton to sales to the mental image of a crew rowing together.

Crew Rowing

The role of sales will continue to evolve

For those who have been around sales, and especially in a complex, consultative type sales environment, the necessity of establishing the “trusted advisor” role will be nothing new. However, the emergence of the social customer has introduced a dramatic change to something right before our very eyes. According to a study from Sirius decisions, 70% of the buying journey is completed prior to speaking with a sales person. That’s pretty staggering, considering that sales used to be responsible for most of the education. I shared some additional thoughts with Adam Metz, in “The 5 Things most sales people don’t know about the Social Customer”.

According to Forrester Research, only 38% of sales people understand prospects’ needs and how their products/services can address those issues. According to IDC, only half of all sales people reached their quota in 2009. There is a slow and steady shift underway for the role that sales plays in customer acquisition strategy.

Customers no longer need sales people to provide them with product and company information. However, buyers are still looking for people they like and trust to help guide them through the evaluation process. As a guy who’s spent a significant amount of time as a sales person and as a consultant, it’s fascinating to watch the roles blur.

The shift of power to the customer
Gerhard Gschwandtner briefly touched on the growing importance for sales organizations to raise their head from the persistent focus on internal efficiencies and redirect their attention to the customer. I was pleasantly surprised to hear him even mention co-creation as a theme growing in importance.

Underscoring my previous thread of sales people morphing into true trusted advisors and consultants, imagine today’s typical sales person actively participating in a co-creation environment that might involve significant engineering and/or business design influence. There is a definable gap between where we are today and where things are heading.

This transition to the customer is illustrated by the rapid shift and evolution in strategy and tactics from CRM (Customer Relationship Management) to Social CRM, which is rapidly gaining traction across organizations of all sizes. For more on Social CRM, feel free to visit The Ultimate Social CRM Resource Guide, Part 1.

Other highlights

Jim Dickie of CSO Insights shared an amazing array of deep insights and anecdotes about increasing revenues through well researched and systematic insights and subsequent operational adjustments and improvements.

During a fireside chat with SAP executives, one customer shared her companies’ challenge and painful journey with implementing SAP’s ERP solution. In a somewhat awkward exchange (which by the way, Jonathan Becher, EVP Marketing and Chris Ball, RVP Enterprise West, did a nice job of handling), it provided a fitting metaphor for the current societal transition underway. The customer has a voice. The crowd is listening, and the company is on the hot seat and is forced to present a transparent and unified message.

The Vendors
While I was familiar with most vendors at the event (see a full list here), a new name for me was iMeet, created by PGI, one of the biggest companies you’ve never heard of (according to them powering more than 75% of the worlds conference calls).

iMeet provides a platform that takes web conferencing, social networking, and video technology, merges them all as one, and in my opinion provides the intermediary step between today’s web conferencing technology and ambient presence technologies of tomorrow.

Peter Stewart of PGi showed a number of witty spots and video segments that highlighted the challenges of today’s remote meeting environments.

Some interesting trends shaping the future of remote meetings are:

  • Ave. phone meeting is 4.5 people for 45 minutes, Add a visual and ave. is 5.5 people and 55 minutes
  • Over 1/3 of virtual attendees join from their mobile phones
  • Web conferencing has been around for 15 years. Only 10% of meetings include more than voice.
  • Having access to profile data in the midst of a meeting actually may provide advantages over meeting face to face by providing a deeper context of the person you are meeting with outside of the nature of your transaction.

It was a great time of seeing some familiar faces, and meeting several new ones. Kudos to Gerhard Gschwandtner, Selling Power magazine, and the entire Sales 2.0 conference team.

Comments

  1. Lisa G says

    This is great! What a thoughtful & insightful round up of your experience at SM20 last week — thank you Brian! Very interesting to see what made an impression (we’re also interested to see how iMeet evolves). Glad you picked up on the co-creation theme from Gerhard (expect to hear more in 2011 from him on that!).

    We hope to see you again on March 7-8 at the next Sales 2.0 in SFO … :)

  2. says

    Mark,

    Not explicitly, but I believe it certainly ties into the themes and trends I am seeing as well. It was great to get a chance to spend some time with you last week in Santa Clara.

    Talk soon,
    Brian

  3. says

    Really good summary Brian, thank you. I’ve tabled my thoughts on the need for a B2Me channel over at Mark Tamis’s blog. I do believe that employee and customer engagement are becoming inextricably linked. I’m not sure that sales and marketing people fully get (or need to get) that. I believe traditional sales and marketing skills will need to be supplemented by a return to “trading” skills in the coming years.

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