B2B Sales, Lead Generation and Marketing Blog

10 Ways 2011 B2B Sales Techniques are Different from 1991

Posted by Vendere Team on Wed, Dec 15, 2010 @ 16:12 PM

My how things have changed since 1991. Back then, you were a bright-eyed twenty- (or thirty-) something sales/marketing tenderfoot. One that blared U2 and The Police on the way to work, and remained untainted by the politics of business. One that just needed a lead sheet and a 90's cordless telephone to drum up business. You probably loved the movie Wall Street, and aspired to make a comfortable living. 

Fast-forward twenty years and you realize you were living in Plato's cave. What you thought you knew about sales in 1991 turns out to be the tip of the iceberg. Let's take a look at just how far we've come - here are 10 ways that sales techniques are different:

1. The "art of selling" has now become the "science of selling." 

The salesman of 1991 has effort and brute force on his side. The salesperson of 2011 has more of an instruction manual, complete with metrics, methodologies, and technology. He uses these things to fine tune his process.

2. Sales management can now dissect the sale. 

There was a time where salespeople were largely only measured on closes, because that's the only metric.  A salesman was bad if he didn't sell anything. Nowadays, we can see why exactly he's not selling well. Maybe he's not attending to his top-line funnel additions, or maybe his follow-up touches are not frequent enough. Management has a better idea of where the tweaks are.

sales funnel

3. The sales funnel has gone from opaque to transparent.

Any way you slice it, we can track a prospect through the funnel at all times now, from when he responded to that carefully-constructed e-mail campaign all the way to close. We now know how to execute demand generation; opportunity assessment tools now help layer the sales funnel. 

4. There are not-so-subtle nuances to selling major accounts versus traditional small transaction sales. 

What you've been trained on in traditional small sales may actually harm you. The formula used to be: Establish rapport, present your product, handle objections, close. While some elements still have their place in sales, people like Neil Rackham tell us that major account sales strategy is about preventing objections through proper questioning and investigating rather than answering objections. It's about identifying all personnel that will influence a decision and mapping out their roles.

5. Closed-loop automation has helped unite sales and marketing departments. 

In this system, data can easily be exchanged between sales and marketing, and customers can be tracked through the suspect-to-sale continuum. With the right technology in place there is a free flow of information that reveals who the customers are and how they like to be sold. In '91 though, coffee was for closers and you got a stack of leads tied with a bow (à la Glengarry Glen Ross), and little information on where they came from or their buying interests. Thus, marketing doesn't know how to fine tune their processes.

6. Sales staffs have become more compartmentalized. 

It's a function of the old economic principle of "division of labor."  There are many specialized positions that are geared towards certain chunks of the sales cycle: lead generation specialists for one.  There are even presentation specialists who can deliver a message as impactfully as a circus ringmaster.

7. CRM has allowed sales departments unprecedented views into their prospect base and current customers. 

Are you glad no one has a Rolodex on their desk anymore? I sure am. I know I'm preaching to the choir when I say that CRM does so much more than storing contact data, though. These systems have many technological components, business processes lie at its core. It can be seen as a more client-centric way of doing business, enabled by technology that consolidates and intelligently distributes pertinent information about clients, sales, marketing effectiveness, responsiveness, and market trends.

8. If used right, the company website is an indispensible weapon in the sales arsenal. 

Needless to say, the internet, itself, is probably the biggest cultural difference between 1991 and 2011.  Since the internet, a company's websitdescribe the imagee has gone from an online business card to a legitimate sales lead generation tool.  The tenets of inbound marketing have created a machine that can churn leads INTO the funnel better than any salesperson ever could.

9. More sophisticated frameworks and processes guide the efforts of the sales department. 

At Vendere, our sales process methodology has three levels: (1) demand creation, (2) opportunity processing, both guided by (3) sales management. This is one way to view it and naturally there are countless other methodologies. The point is that increased understanding of the sales machine has allowed companies to create meaningful processes and workflows.

10. Contact data is just a click away. 

Remember the old advice of 1991?  "Go find the phone book. There's all the sales leads you need."  Now, not only can salespeople use web-based data houses like Jigsaw to find prospects, they can go to your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and really get to know prospects before they even pick up the phone. 
And just for giggles, I'm going to throw in an 11th.

11. Companies now have the viable option to outsource sales. 

Back in the day, generally companies liked to keep everything under one roof.  However, B2B sales outsourcing has become a viable option, with some reporting that sales/marketing outsourcing is trending upward faster than any other department, namely IT and HR.

All in all, we should be thankful that these changes have occurred.  I'm looking forward to seeing what selling in 2031 will be like.

Topics: lead generation, sales, tips and techniques

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