Business to business sales trends for 2011

By Matthew Schwartz, Editor of Follow the Lead

As b2b sales reps budget for 2011, sales expert and author Steve Martin discussed Big Picture items in store for next year and their sales implications:

Consolidation on steroids: Martin points to a slew of major deals this year – SAP’s purchase of Sybase for $5.8 billion and Intel buying McAfee for nearly $8 billion – and predicts more of the same in 2011.

Sales implication: The buyer’s incumbents have an opportunity to expand their footprint while the acquired’s sales reps have an opportunity to demonstrate their value to the acquiring company. The deal, however, can end up being zero-sum game for sales reps. “It’s a double-edged sword,” Martin said. “While it creates opportunity for one rep it puts another sales rep at risk. Someone may win and someone may lose.”

Intra-company consolidation: Companies may drop coin for M&As, but are reluctant to hire in any significant numbers because of economic concerns and will continue to do more with less, Martin said.

Sales implication: B2b sales execs have to put problem solving atop their agenda. In the new normal, the “sale” is secondary. “You can’t be selling the same way you sold three years ago and go in [to meet a prospect or existing customer] with a big, complex sale,” Martin said.  “You have to think about how you’re competing against your arch-rivals and gain a smaller beach-head win in order to prove your operational value. Essentially you’re saying, ‘While our products are relatively equal, we’re the easiest to do business with in terms of economies of scale and fewer headaches.’”

“D-I-Y” Do It Yourself: Salespeople must establish themselves as their own brand. In an increasingly digital age – with inbound marketing as important as outbound marketing – sales reps have to leverage the Web and social media to differentiate themselves.

Sales implication: The onus is on b2b sales managers and reps to position themselves (and their companies) as thought leaders. “Start your own blog, create a business-oriented Facebook page,” Martin said. “Most important, you need to understand how to penetrate new accounts using online tools and be able to design effective e-mail campaigns. You cannot solely rely on your marketing department for lead generation.”