On my LinkedIn profile, I recently posed the question “How many of you categorize someone who is responding to web marketing leads, as a sales person?” The responses were fascinating, ranging from “I would not classify someone responding to web marketing leads as a sales person. At best, I would classify this as a pre sales function” to “without question, they are a salesperson. I assume they need to try to make a sale with that lead so they need the characteristics of a sales person. They may not eat what they kill, but still provide a significant sales function” and everything in between.
The debate generated by that one question also revealed some deep-seated biases when it comes to “true” sales people. Many felt that unless an individual was out beating the bushes for leads, meeting with prospects and closing deals face-to-face, they were inside sales reps rather than seasoned, strategically focused sales professionals.
From my perspective, that kind of thinking is a bit outdated in this Web 2.0 world. With as many as 60% of sales professionals now operating remotely when they aren’t visiting clients, and with such online tools as webinars, business and social networking sites and web conferencing at our disposal, we are limiting ourselves if we don’t take advantage of today’s global business environment.
As Thomas Friedman points out in “The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century,” technology has changed the way we do business in the 21st Century. Used properly, it makes us smarter, more efficient and better able to respond to the changing needs of our customers.
We don’t have to be face-to-face to be strategic partners with our clients. In fact, I’m willing to bet that most clients would prefer it if we didn’t insist on so many in-person meetings. They, too, have embraced the power of the Web to maximize their productivity and streamline their days. And if we don’t demonstrate that we, as sales professionals, can function just as effectively in an online environment, doors will soon be closing.
That is not to say that we need never see a client in person again. There are some deals that simply require that personal connection. In fact, it is the ability to recognize when that is the case and go on to make the sale just as effortlessly in person as they do online that defines today’s true sales professionals.