The Rebirth of the Enterprise Salesman

I recently came across Chad Garrett’s “Death of the Enterprise Salesman” and with Halloween quickly approaching, I was wondering if I might be stepping over my career’s grave in the near future. Fortunately, while Chad makes some excellent points about the evolution of the buying process, I don’t believe my Enterprise Sales career will be dead and buried just yet – and here’s why.

Chad’s first point is that there are much greater levels of education taking place before a potential buyer ever begins the conversation with a salesperson (he mentions 65-69% of buyers completing research beforehand). On top of that, according to IDC, there are 40% more stakeholders sitting at the table and participating in this research than there were 4 years ago. It’s easy to see why these numbers present challenges to B2B sales organizations, but what does it mean for the future? The answer all depends on what technologies these organizations are investing in.

For starters, the digital channels that prospects are using for research also provide a great deal of data to the vendor. Marketing organizations that care about their business development are leveraging all the data at their fingertips to learn about their buyers and influence the journey. More than that, they’re making sure they’re focusing on the right data. According to a recent DemandGen report, 70% of buyers rate the vendor website as the most influence in their decision making process.

If follows that if marketers and salespeople are interested in how they can identify organizations that are in the research phase, the website data is the first thing they should examine. If marketers are using analytics effectively on their company’s website, they’re learning about the buying behavior and mindset of your prospects much earlier in the process – and acting on it.

Ironically, this is good news for both the prospect and the salesperson. The salesperson is empowered with knowing the particular interests of the prospect – and he or she can provide outreach that’s more valuable to the prospect. In turn, the prospect can be more efficient in their education and evaluation phase – and dive deeper into probing questions. As a Demandbase salesperson, I can tell you first-hand that prospects appreciate value-driven conversations around their interests much more than any cold call I could make.

In his post, Chad talks about how the “Modern A Player” can get around these challenges by being a social influencer. However, it’s certainly not the only arrow in the quiver. Company Targeted Advertising is another way of engaging your prospects directly while they’re in the buyer’s mindset. If you combine both, congratulations, you’re ahead of the curve.

With all of the above in mind, one thing is for sure. The buying process is evolving – but so are the tools with which to support your prospects. One could argue that the sales cycle itself is lengthening – because the research phase grows at the same pace with which Big Data resources expose it. As an Enterprise Salesperson, knowing what the prospect knows before they know it was always our job. Only now, we’re walking the walk with real information, rather than a rolodex of leads.

All research aside, the Enterprise buying cycle can’t be managed by robots just yet. Until the Singularity occurs, I feel pretty great about the job security of the Enterprise salesperson – and excited about the future of consultative selling.