There are many problems plaguing B2B sales organizations. The one that garners the most attention is the how buyers buy. For certain, they are "researching." They are also inviting more stakeholders into the decision making, some with a tenuous connection to the decision.
But the largest change in buyer behavior is their unwillingness to accept the poor sales experience of the legacy approach, as it creates no value for the contacts. The proof is salespeople who get a first meeting without acquiring a second meeting. More evidence is the number of opportunities in your pipeline that are old enough get a drivers license.
The linear B2B sales process is now largely nonlinear. The start and stop nature of the buyer's journey causes sales teams to struggle to efficiently pursue an opportunity. It doesn't help that stakeholders show up for some meetings only to return much later, making it difficult for them to move forward. The average sales cycle for a lot of sales organizations continues to grow.
Yet there are still more challenges for B2B sales organizations. In 2021, the Wall Street Journal reported there were 700,000 sales job vacancies and no one wants them. The article explained that the jobs pay better than other options and provide much more autonomy. When young people take sales roles their tenure is slightly greater than the life of a fruit fly.
Still, there is something even more important than the many factors listed here. It's something the community of sales organizations will need to address. What is this problem, you ask? It's the return of a negative stereotype of salespeople.
In the past, sales organizations and salespeople used aggressive sales strategies to reach their sales goals. Many salespeople selling their product or service put the deal above their customer or client's outcome. Salespeople had the advantage of information disparity, allowing them to conveniently leave out information that would cause the buyer not to buy. By hiding information, they created an advantage.
Once I tried to by a car from a dealer. The salesperson tried to take advantage of me. He gave me a low price for the car. When I asked about the term, he offered seven years. When I told him I wasn't buying from him, he brought in his manager (the closer). They refused to give me back my keys and tried to intimidate me into buying. The salesperson blocked the door with his arms.
Only because most salespeople have never been introduced to what was believed an effective sales strategy, I will share with you what pressure selling looked like: "Mr. Johnson, you do love your wife, don't you?" Johnson says, "Of course I do!" The salesperson continues, "You love your three beautiful children, don't you?" Johnson responds, "Of course, they mean everything to me!" The salesperson continues, I can't leave here without making sure your beautiful family will be taken care of you should something happen to you, God forbid. Sign here."
The only thing missing here is that you needed three “yes” answers before closing.
There is a truth about competition few acknowledge: Your competitor is often willing to do what you refuse to do. Here in the United States, the economy has grown ever larger. The United States is the third largest country by population and the largest economy. The estimates suggest there are over 32M businesses.
The first factor that professionalized sales wasn't asking your client about their pain point. It was the constant increase of the number of companies in most industries that provided more choices, enough that every industry is now treated like a commodity. The second factor was the long line of sales methodologies, sales techniques, approaches, models, and trainings.
These programs allowed for the evolution that improved the professional sales stereotype, even if Hollywood continued to find it profitable to retain the negative stereotype. It took a long time for potential customers and decision makers to invite B2B salespeople to sit across the table without worrying about being pressured to buy. The linear sales process made it easier to work through the sales conversation.
Sadly, we are now regressing, again acting in ways that cause buyers to resist sales reps, even you and me, and all of the salespeople doing good work.
I love technology. I own or rent a lot of it. It has made our lives a lot better and much more comfortable. You need technology to sell effectively. The long list of technologies we use in sales goes beyond the CRM. When I criticize technologies, it's not because the technology isn't good or helpful. What I criticize is how technology is used.
A techno-brute uses technologies to bludgeoned them with sales automation. Every day, my InMail box fills up with people who want to automate my outreach, promising I will close deals. I have no interest in automating LinkedIn. I have even less interest in contributing to the degradation of B2B sales. Email is no better.
Our conversation here is efficiency vs. effectiveness.The techno-brute believes that activity is efficiency, avoiding the fact that if it doesn't produce the result, it's inefficient. After spending years carefully targeting our ideal customer and the companies that would benefit from what we sell, some have returned to the "spray and pray" approaches that annoy contacts. No one needs an automated salesperson to "bubble up," an email that was deleted on first contact.
Introducing GPTchat immediately resulted in people using it to write cold emails and sales scripts. While the legacy approach completely commoditized the discovery call, we are now going to commoditize prospecting and cold outreach. You and I can expect more communications because tools like this allows the person who lacks the creativity and experience to craft a message. They use technology to ape a better salesperson.
B2B sales teams will be plastered with the techno-brute stereotype, a high cost to pay for someone else's bad behavior. The rules for sending bulk emails is that you must have permission and an unsubscribe link.
LinkedIn's contract prohibits using automation. Yet, if your InMail is like mine, yours has several people whose automation sends a message with a calendar link less than a second after you accept the invite. For fun, look at this person's profile when they invite you to connect, and see when they followed you. If it is the current month, it's likely sales automation.
In B2B selling you need to worry about efficiency and effectiveness. In the future, something like GPTchat will be the equivalent of power steering and power brakes. You won't notice it. When everything is technology, humans have an extreme advantage. This advantage stems from what and who we are.
When compared to humans, technology is dark and cold, algorithms lacking anything close to a soul. When everything is technology, your sustainable strategic advantage is being human. When something is a commodity, success means being different.