The depth, detail and immediacy of information now available to buyers through web-based product engagement means customers are better armed than ever with knowledge about solutions available to them. By the time they engage a rep, they are farther along in the purchase decision and know enough about the seller’s product to recognize it as a potential solution to their problem. But they also know the other products or solutions available from competitors.
A challenger sales rep has to know the customer’s business well enough to bring insight and unique value as much as information to the buyer. It is not enough to say, “Hey, I'm Joe and here’s my widget. I can sell you widgets at this price. Here are our product specifications, speeds, fees, etc.” The selling motion has to be applied to customer problem solving. They know your solution is an approximate fit. Now, what they really want is time to value: “Okay, if we're going to buy this, how are we going to make it successful? What's it going to take for us to make it successful?”
This has changed the dynamic of building a sales team. It is why we’ve seen the evolution of the business development rep (BDR) or marketing development rep (MDR), someone who takes on early customer interactions to reach a certain level of qualification and then hands the prospective buyer to a more experienced sales team, typically with the sales engineering capacity to problem-solve for the customer.
These are pricing models in which the provider of a service or product only gets compensated if and when it delivers meaningful gains or value for the customer. If the provider delivers gains or value, it shares in the value that is created. We’re going to see more of that. The shareware business model has a characteristic of that: “Pay me whatever you want. We're just going to keep building this thing because we love to build it. We'd love your support, but we're not asking for money, per se.” It will vary by industry, but pricing solutions in this way creates better alignment between buyer and seller as it relates to an exchange of value.
Data-driven decision making is occurring on both sides of the equation:
Embodied within this trend is the issue of who owns the data, especially for businesses where data is an important attribute. Sales organizations are going to have to grapple with and understand how to operate in that environment. The B2B enterprise sales rep is not dead, as some people would have you believe. But there is a movement away from B2B face-to-face selling, and sales organizations will have to deal with how that changes the dynamics of their selling motion.
In this more fluid organization, you have to rapidly balance between people doing marketing versus selling versus customer support. People are realizing that the selling motion is just the smallest part of customer engagement. The customer success motion that takes place in the weeks, months and years after a sale is much more valuable if you are going to have a sticky customer. Subscription-oriented business models are becoming the norm, not just in technology, but in many industries, and that will only be continuing. When you are only getting paid one month at a time, you have to make your customer successful in the longer term.
Innovation is happening across all businesses, across all functions, often with profound change on a business and its sales model. Whether the change is born of technological innovation (an Uber driver or AirBnB host) or it comes from engineering innovation (implications of electric cars on gas stations) or through communications innovation (a Google Hangout with people across 10 time zones, we are seeing rapid evolution of business processes that remained stable for many years and often decades.
Business models are being reinvented every day. The impact of change on sales teams, both in terms of their own business processes as well as the implications for the companies they are selling to, is dramatic and will continue.