The water-cooler talk and audience questions on Monday and Tuesday at the Sales 2.0 Conference gave us a sense of what top-level sales leaders (Sales VPs, Directors, CEOs — the folks who are the core of Sales 2.0 Conference attendees) are most concerned about. And our great keynoters and panelists provided perspective on what sales success will look like in the future. Here are 8 of our impressions, plus a couple of practical tips we picked up:
1. A growing number of companies are depending on/developing inside sales teams for lead qualification/nurturing/etc. Phone Works CEO Anneke Seley (who literally wrote the book on Sales 2.0) said — perhaps provocatively (?) — that inside sales teams are often more “innovative” than field sales, in that they are usually the first ones to be open to and explore new ways of approaching, finding, engaging customers.
2. Today’s Sales 2.0 solutions and social media platforms give sales orgs a 360-degree view of the buying and selling experience. Accordingly, companies are creating new infrastructures to monitor and traffic inbound and outbound interactions with customers. (For example, speaker Jeff Hayzlett noted during his keynote “The Social VP,” that when he was CMO of Kodak, he appointed a Chief Listening Officer to act as a “traffic controller,” monitoring and funneling customer comments and concerns to appropriate internal departments.) Sales 2.0 solutions also allow companies to develop and track customer engagement opportunities, and that’s had huge implications for sales management; now, analytics and metrics inform sales process and management best practices.
3. Our audience at the Social Selling University workshop on Tuesday afternoon with Jacob Morgan, Koka Sexton, and others, showed that execs are hungry for extended conversations on how they can leverage platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress, etc. for b2b ROI. There was an acknowledgement among conference attendees that CRM and “social selling” functionalities are only growing in influence — for many younger reps, the older tools of the trade are simply irrelevant. [Update: Jacob Morgan wrote a really interesting blog post about the trouble with CRM systems and the approach of "bolting on" social networking functionalities based on what he heard at the conference this week - check it out!]
4. On a related note, there is an awareness among top-level execs that they need to create a sales culture that embraces the way future decision-makers (i.e. the up-and-comers among their sales teams) are already thinking and operating. They need to provide the solutions that younger generations are already comfortable with (mobile CRM technology, for example) in order to empower sales teams to sell more effectively and efficiently. But even though the younger generation might be more comfortable with technology that can help sales teams perform better, they still need the direction and wisdom of execs who have spent their careers learning how to excel at the fundamentals of selling.
5. Companies are waking up to the issue of content. Why? Good content stimulates discussions, and customers who talk happily about you, your company, or your solution can only help with sales. But because conversations are happening on social media, you have even less control than ever over the what, where, when, and why customers talk about you. Sales execs at the conference wanted to know: what makes good content? How should we produce it? What do buyers find compelling? What format (note: video is a hot one) should we use to deliver it? What delivery method (tip: blogging platforms trump email blasts) should we use? Here’s some advice we heard during Craig Rosenberg‘s panel on the phenomenon of “peer-powered decision making”: he challenged companies to do webinars, panels, and videos with customers *without* mentioning their own company name. Product pitches can be spotted a mile away on social media. That means it makes more sense to focus on open conversation and value-adds. “Always be helping” is the new “always be closing.”
6. The ability to implement meaningful change — in sales culture, process, and vision — is critical to the growth of sales teams and the longevity of a sales leader. Real-time information makes it unwise to wait for innovation to come to you; active attempts to find best practices through conversations with peers and exposure to the latest solutions are imperative for keeping pace with change. Keynoter Michael Weening stressed that transformation is a process that requires diligence, patience, and a collaborative mindset. (He recommended that all sales leaders read The First 90 Days, by Michael Watkins, for a fundamental understanding of change management.)
7. More than ever, sales success is customer success. The successful company of the future will make everyone (not just sales folks) responsible for the sale — including marketing, sales ops, and customer support teams.
8. New gadgets are the platforms of change. Mobile devices like the iPad (for presos) & video conferencing software (for training and internal collaboration) are just two examples of tools that many sales execs are currently using to do business, better. How do you use Sales 2.0 tools and processes to build relationships in an online environment? (Here’s a video clip of keynoter Paul Melchiorre, Global VP at Ariba, talking about just that).
Check out more impressions and takeaways from the Sales 2.0 Conference over at the expert network on Focus.com, search for hashtag #s20c on Twitter, or catch Miles Austin’s Day 1 and Day 2 recaps.
Thanks to all our attendees, sponsors, and speakers for contributing to the conference. Community and collaboration can only help the b2b sales community thrive and grow.