Remember the very first music video ever played on MTV? It was called “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the British band The Buggles and was aired at 0001 hours on August 1, 1981, the day the cable station was launched in the U.S. Every disruptive technology is known to cause major upheavals in any industry. And digital marketing and social media are as disruptive as they come.
Even though the widespread adoption of social media in industrial marketing has been slower than general B2B and B2C marketing, it has had a serious impact on industrial sales, especially on the traditional role of the outside sales rep.
Digital marketing has also changed how industrial and technical buyers behave, search and consume information that they need at different stages of the buy cycle. They are time-challenged and want to interact with salespeople based only on their needs and schedules.
The impact of digital marketing on complex sales
I am deliberately making a distinction here between simple transactional sales and complex industrial or technical sales. The first type uses a self-serve model and is typically completed in the very first sales interaction, be it in person or online.
Complex industrial sales require many face-to-face meetings with several stakeholders within the customer’s organization. Often closing the deal requires participation by many members of your sales team.
Digital marketing, social media and the constant pressure to cut costs have radically changed this traditional industrial sales model.
Steve Woods said it best when he wrote in his blog post, “As the emphasis on face-to-face interaction as a way to build trust decreases in lieu of other ways of building trust, the need to be “in the field” also decreases.”
I read a blog post by Robert Lesser of Acquiring Minds where he talks about the ways that digital marketing has changed complex B2B sales. The key in my opinion is that these are all changes that are driven by buyer behavior and not the other way around.
Here’s how I see the impact of the changes:
Death of an industrial salesperson
Does this mean the industrial salesperson’s job function is dead? Not so fast! The famous Mark Twain quote, “The report of my death was an exaggeration” is very applicable here.
Social media and online marketing have forced the traditional salesperson to change his/her tactics like the rest of us but have not made them expendable.
Dave Brock in his post makes the most compelling case for the evolving role of today’s salesperson. He makes the following key points:
According to Dave, social media is not disintermediating the great sales people, it provides them the vehicle to be a more important contributor to their customers’ success. It changes the role of the salesperson and great sales people recognize this and are embracing it.
In other words, new and disruptive technologies can never make good sales people extinct. However, to remain relevant, they do need to embrace and master today’s social media and digital marketing tactics.
How has the role of the inside and outside sales team changed within your organization? Leave your comments below.
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