Sunday, August 24, 2008

Why Not Sales 3.5?

Wait a minute. The first conference on Sales 2.0 was held less than a year ago in San Fransisco and we are still trying to understand what it is all about. Admitted, the world is moving fast these days, but so fast that, speaking in software terms, we would have had a major release and point releases in just about 10 months? I do not suggest that we have moved that fast. It is probably more a matter where you are starting from.

The '2.0 phenomenon' is general and not limited to Sales. I see it first as just another indication how strongly we are impacted by the INTERNET. If you are not 2.0, you are not state of the art. This in itself can be a motivator to coin the term Sales 2.0. We do though still not know what it is, except perhaps our wish to express that our way of selling is state of the art. Maybe finding the answer to the question what the state of the art way of selling is, might therefore help us understand the meaning of Sales 2.0

Could the state of the art way of selling mean to do everything necessary to serve a Web 2.0 empowered self directed buyer? Maybe, but I doubt that I would find many followers for this interpretation.

Listening and reading what is said about the subject, I get the impression it is much more about applying Web 2.0 technology (e. g. blogs) to sales organizations. It is hoped that the technology together with the use of new phenomenons such as social medi will increase sales productivity. I can not help having the impression that Sales 2.0 is sometimes seen as the next wave or replacement of the current CRM/SFA implementations.

From “The Customer Management Scorecard “ by Neil Woodcock, Merlin Stone and Bryan Foss, we know that Information and Technology should be looked at as an enabler rather than a deliverable. So, following the technology oriented definition of Sales 2.0, we risk having similar disappointments with unfulfilled hyped expectations as we have with the current generation of CRM/SFA systems. In the cited book, it is also mentioned that focusing on the People and Organization aspect has a high correlation with business performance. Asking the question what a state of the art sales person does or should do, might therefore be another way of finding a definition for Sales 2.0.

In the foreword of Jeff Thull's book “Mastering the Complex Sale”, John Sullivan makes a convincing case that, with respect to the role of a sales person, we have entered Era 3 around the mid 90s of the last century. Sullivan defines the role of an Era 3 sales person as being a source of business advantage. In “The Prime Solution” Jeff Thull presents findings indicating that in the early years of this millennium, still only few firms consider themselves already being in Era 3. The majority of firms are though still in Era 2. From this perspective, the label 2.0 no longer indicates the state of the art way of selling and Sales 3.0 would be more appropriate. Although it is pure speculation on my part, it might well be that Lee Levitt had similar thoughts when he chose the title “Account Management for the 3.0 Customer” for the April 2008 issue of his “The Science of Selling” newsletter.

Now why have I added 0.5 to make it Sales 3.5? It is not only to be provocative and trying to be different. I believe that for being successful in front of a Web 2.0 enabled self directed buyer, we need to add some aspects to those originally recommended for an Era 3 sales person.Understanding the requirements for a salesperson to successfully operate in Era 3 might though still be a good foundation if you plan to move to Sales 2.0 in whatever definition you chose.

The following list of books (ordered according to the year they were published) have helped me to understand different facets of a capable Era 3 sales person:

Selling is Dead” by Marc T. Miller and Jason M. Sinkovitz, “Selling to Big Companies” by Jill Konrath, “Exceptional Selling” by Jeff Thull, “Counter-Intuitive Selling” by Bill Byron Concevitch and “Selling Results” by Bill Stinnet.

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