As the founder of Selling Power magazine, I’ve watched the profession of sales change dramatically in the past 30 years. And I think it is very, very tough for sales leaders out there today. Possibly the toughest it’s ever been.Fact one: The average tenure of a sales VP is somewhere between 24 and 32 months. There is a huge amount of pressure on newly-hired VPs to come in to a company and magically fix everything. The problem is that 24 months is nowhere near enough time to implement strategic change. Not only is this a terrible scenario for the VP, it’s also a surefire way to hamstring a company and its strategic initiatives.
Fact two: The B2B customer has officially gone digital. And many companies are failing to adapt to that fact. Today, 57% of B2B buying steps are completed before buyers connect with a salesperson. That’s a staggering shift. Yet B2B companies are not leading the charge to embrace the digital customer. They are not setting up online sales channels. They are not exploring social selling solutions. They are not adopting marketing automation programs. They are not outfitting their sales teams with tablets and mobile phones. They are not implementing sales enablement solutions.
That’s why you see so many sales cultures that are stuck in a rut, and so many sales teams that are failing to meet revenue goals.
This year alone, I have hosted three Sales 2.0 events for B2B sales leaders — in Philadelphia, London, and Boston. These conferences draw speakers and attendees from industry giants like Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft, to rapid-growth startups, to everything in between. The message I hear from these companies is the same: the good old days of selling are over. Everyone at some level is feeling the pain of being left out of the technology loop, and they’re unsure about what their next step should be to remain competitive in this new landscape.
I have always believed that selling is an art. Today, however, no sales leader can afford to ignore science. Sales 2.0 and technology solutions are making the art of selling measurable in actual numbers. And that is going to have a huge effect on the way we lead sales teams in the years to come. My opinion is that sales leaders who make strategic decisions to leverage a combination of data and social insight will empower their teams and be able to deliver predictably successful results for their companies.
In October, I’ll be discussing the future of selling in more detail at the Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference in San Francisco — along with leaders from companies like PI Worldwide, Oracle, McKinsey, and CSO Insights. The agenda is packed with examples of how sales leaders can start taking those steps to push their teams to higher levels of success in a variety of areas. I invite you to email me with any questions firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on Twitter @gerhard20.