The Salesman in the Gloaming
The tragedy of the salesman Shelley “The Machine” Levene, the sympathetic figure played by Jack Lemmon in David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross has never been more relevant. In Mamet’s play-turned-movie, Shelly can’t close anymore and splits his time between excuse-making and complaining until, through a combination of his desperation and boss’s cruelty, he is left hopeless in a shameful interview with the detective investigating his role in stealing the Glengarry leads.
Twenty years ago, CEOs salivated at the notion that the Internet might enable them to fire their expensive field sales force. Today, their customers and prospects are doing it for them. Instead of embracing the change, however, today’s executives are pulling out their hair, desperate for their prospects to talk with their sales teams again. Marketing organizations have become discouraged SPAM jockeys, putting more and more emphasis on email campaigns designed to attract MQL’s or SQL’s, 99% of which never amount to anything. Sales teams are in agony because their customers won’t talk to them anymore. Worst of all, the buyers are frustrated because their potential suppliers refuse to support them in the ways they prefer.
If you’re a sales or marketing leader, ask your veteran sellers if their job is harder now. Nine out of ten will say yes, and the simple reason is their prospects don’t need them like they used to.
Changing buyer behavior requires a shift in thinking
Most salespeople today are disenfranchised, but it’s not their fault: the problem is their executive management doesn’t understand how their customers evaluate and buy today. Buyers prefer to spend their time online rather than directly engaged with salespeople. Many of today’s experienced, valuable, and expensive salespeople should be brought into the digital marketing fold where their specific expertise can be tapped. Sadly, until CEO’s reallocate resources towards digital, more and more sales teams will be disenfranchised, doubting their value, in the gloaming of old-school sales models.
At Forrester Research’s B2B Marketing show in Austin, TX, Forrester analyst Mary Shea put it more bluntly: “The sales process no longer exists.” Why? Because what matters now is the prospect’s buying process. Laura Ramos reminds us that it’s all about empathy. “Mindset change starts with empathy,” she said. Steve Casey, however, explains why doing that has become so difficult for sales teams. “Your prospects,” he tells us, “don’t want to talk to you.”
It’s pretty hard for salespeople to express that empathy Laura Ramos teaches is so important when their buyers won’t talk to them. This is today’s huge opportunity for B2B marketers: to pick up where sales teams get shut out. Marketers can reach those same buyers to create meaningful, digital conversations in similar ways B2B salespeople once did.
Also Read: The Modern Salesperson
Aligning the roles of marketing & sales
Because of the ways buyers now evaluate solutions – they use the Internet for business evaluations the same way we all do in our daily lives to research for personal purchases – marketers can now take over where salespeople are getting shut out. It’s been 25 years since Peppers and Rogers wrote The One to One Future. That notion became reality in the B2C world early this century; it’s reality now in B2B as well. The buyers already know it… they won’t engage with companies who don’t communicate with them digitally using ultra-tailored, personalized, meaningful content. Unfortunately, however, many CEO’s who want to sell to them don’t fully get it. The B2B companies who recognize this and respect how their buyers want to buy have a chance to run away from the pack. There’s been a winner take all finish in B2C online selling, and it’s critical that B2B companies, as a result, marketers organizations have become the engine that leading B2B companies are relying on to snatch the lead in the digital race.
Putting marketing first also helps the sales teams. At the Forrester show, Cate Gutowski of GE Digital said, “Our sales team wants to build trusted relationships with sellers, so together we can change the world.” Because of the work, GE is doing with digital, their sales teams have a chance to do that. When the information is digitized and made available to buyers on their teams, sales teams have the high-value conversations that are fruitful for both sides.
An idle salesperson is a broken dream. Salespeople’s self-esteem — as competitors, as artists, as advisors — is based on engaging with their clients in a way that makes a meaningful impact. Unfortunately, there’s a crisis in the world of B2B selling today and many companies aren’t as enlightened as GE. Until companies reorganize their sales and marketing teams, we’re going to be seeing more Shelley Levenes.
Recommended Read: Is Data Slowing Down Your Sales Rep?