Last week we had the pleasure of attending our 10th SiriusDecisions Summit in Nashville, a
gathering of over 2,300 sales and marketing professionals.
There was plenty of content, conversations and cowboy hats.
And plenty of controversy too, with SiriusDecisions taking on three big industry myths, with important new research findings:
#1 - Death of a Salesman? Popular metrics indicate that buyers are 57% percent of the way through their purchase process before they engage a sales rep (CEB). Forrester concurred, reporting that digital experiences are replacing sales reps at a rapid pace, foretelling a 22% decline in the number of B2B sales reps over the next 5 years = a total of 1 million sales reps expected to lose their jobs.
Vice President and Group Director Marisa Kopec flat-out debunked these common industry
perspectives as “urban myth”.
The SiriusDecisions research appears thorough, involving more than 1,000 B2B executives who were involved in a significant purchase decision within the past six months and tallied 500M in B2B purchases across North America and Europe.
According to the research results, Marisa reported that B2B buyers interact with sales reps at every stage of the buyer's journey. According to the study, more than half the time, rep involvement starts at the beginning of the buyer’s journey. For more complex purchases, sales rep engagement starts at the beginning of the journey two-thirds of the time.
In fact, the highest level of engagement with sales reps occurred during the education phase of the buyer’s journey, the first decision gate in the purchasing decision process.
These findings directly contradict the other analyst findings that b-to-b sales reps’ roles and importance are declining due to a disintermediation by B2B marketing and digital resources.
The bottom-line: B2B marketing is not replacing B2B sales, so more B2B marketing doesn’t equate to more effectiveness. Sales reps are still VERY relevant, however we do need to recognize that buyer’s have changed, and Frugalnomics is in full effect.
As a result, you need to enable sales reps to engage effectively throughout the buyer’s journey, especially at the critical early stages of influence. The ability for sales reps to help buyers navigate the journey, gain consensus from committee decisions, and articulate your unique value – all critical for continued relevance and competitive sales success.
#2 - Content is King? Although large amounts are spent every year to develop and deliver content, and these investments are growing YoY, SiriusDecisions reports that almost 2/3rds of the content marketing investment is wasted!
In a survey of almost 300 firms, 65% of content spending was wasted.
Half of the waste was attributable to sales reps not being able to find the content. While the other half saying t the content wasn’t good or useful.
More is not more when it comes to content. Prospects and sales reps are all to easily lost in a sea of content.
The bottom-line: You have to guide sales reps to the right content. You have to track the usefulness of the content, to assure you are investing more in the content that is being used and has a bigger impact. And you have to deliver better content that is more concise, personalized, value-focused and interactive.
#3 - More Activity = More Effectiveness? – Sales reps are busier than ever, but this is definitely not making them more effective.
According to, Jim Ninivaggi, service director of SiriusDecisions’ Sales Enablement Strategies service, it can take as many as nine tech tools for a rep to prepare for, execute and follow up on a sales call.
Jim recounts a “day in the life” just preparing for a sales call:
- Check the calendar to confirm the schedule
- Visit SFA to review the opportunity and stakeholders
- Log into LinkedIn to review the participant profiles
- Send an email to confirm the appointment
- Back into SFA to log the activity (email sent)
- Over to the sales portal to get a call planning template, and download the right presentations, case studies and product information for the call
- Check the sales intelligence tool for recent announcements (mergers, financial results, leadership changes, etc.)
- Customize the presentation in PowerPoint
- Review and update the pricing, quote and proposal
- Before leaving for the sales call, check Google maps to see how long it will take to get there, and find a nearby coffee shop.
And you can expect a similar set of activities post meeting. All these steps require a sales rep to constantly visit different resources and access different applications, losing momentum and adding much overhead.
According to Jim, the costs are cumulative, with reps spending an inordinate amount of time on low-productivity tasks; critically lowering the time they spend selling and effectively engaging prospects.
The bottom-line : You should gain a deep understanding of the activities your reps are doing, then explore ways to maximize the efficiency and optimize the effectiveness of those activities – what Jim calls activity-based enablement.
Jim recommended the following elements for activity-based enablement include:
- For pre-sales call planning. Provide a virtual workspace that reps can use to do all their day-to-day activities. Include access to external systems like social media, provide just-in-time asset recommendations, and enable auto updates to the SFA to ensure a single point for data entry.
- During the call. Provide portable tools that facilitate the conversation. Consider arming reps with tablets that can be used to capture do discovery, assessments and capture key conversation points – helping automatically tune the presentation and guide a more effective conversation. Build sales content into the device, as well as the ability to configure quotes and proposals in real time.
- After the call. Create a sales support function that provides reps what they need to keep selling. This should include a help desk to troubleshoot problems with sales applications; just-in-time learning and technical training; and a streamlined pricing and legal process.
More activity does not equate to more effectiveness. “Improving the productivity of your salespeople should always be part of a growth strategy,” said Jim. “And productivity is the one foundational growth strategy that is 100 percent within your control.”
The Frugalnomics Survival Guide - How to Use Your Unique Value to Market Better, Stand Out and Sell More