“It’s not enough to know that a threat is coming. You need to know whether it’s coming right for you”
The work of Clayton M. Christensen and Maxwell Wessel as presented in the December issue of Harvard Business Review on “Surviving Disruption” made me think of my own trade – B2B Sales – and if, where, and how it is experiencing disruption because of the role mobile, social, global plays in 3 different areas of sales:
- Transactional Sales – the need to respond quickly
- Consultative Sales – the need for insight
- Strategic Sales – the need for security & out-of-the-box thinking
Where and how is B2B Sales being disrupted?
1. Transactional – the need to respond quickly
I start with transactional sales who is transforming itself right now and it provides a valuable insight for the other areas. This market is bracketed by an Average Sales Price that falls between $20/month – $10,000/year e.g. a box.net account, an Evernote subscription, or a Video Conference Service.
What do Clients Want?: To solve a known problem with a known solution – to solve it now – and to solve it for a competitive price.
Client Risk Factor: Very little risk in a bad or a no-decision, most risk in a bad deployment
What do we normally do?: Deploy a number of Inside Sales Reps “dialing for dollars” using play-books/scripts
Prone to Disruption? Extremely High, happening right now, in nearly every market. This is the result of factors like;
- dislike for cold calls as part of society
- inhibitive cost of a multi-stage sales organization, and
- decreasing revenues from usage based business models
How to Survive and Thrive?; Build a 100% – designed for – online experience with engaging content that describes the value of the service. Help the decision process with online value-prop, online pricing, online competitor trade-offs, online whiteboard explanations, use of an advanced & rich online Q/A (user generated) database, a series of 30sec videos that explains ‘how to’. The organization is build around analytics that measure views, engagement, sentiment and is ready to respond instantaneously to changes measured using social media.
Transactional B2B sales are now happening online
2. Consultative – the need for insight
An example of consultative sales is a large Enterprise client like P&G looking for a IT solution, a large Studio like Disney looking for content management solution, or a large Medical Institute buying a lab development solution. Average annual spend ranges anywhere from $10k to $10M.
What do Clients Need?: Your insight to make an educated decision
Client Risk Factor?: Consequence of a bad decision results in a career set-back
What do we Normally do?: Develop a relationship, qualify the needs, provide information, offer consultation, do a trial, and facilitate the buying & deployment process
Prone to Disruption?: Increasingly high, started in high-tech sales, and is expected to disrupt other segments like Medical based on;
- detailed information of a clients decision criteria can be found on-line, and are not just available to those having a great relationship
- a new entrant in the market can build an online ‘brand-name’ overnight
- disconnect between marketing & sales departments to address new online needs
- lack of training discipline of an established salesforce to pick up new ‘things’
How to survive & thrive?: Transform from a sales manager that builds a great relationship into an organization that acts as a trusted advisor based on valuable insights where the sales manager excels at problem solving. To help a client with the buying/deployment process but also help promote/ roll-out the service successfully. Sales professionals must value a 24/7 on-line presence, where valuable ideas are presented, and have a trusted brand-name that is equal in importance to having a relationship.
New entrants in the market compete very effectively by embracing the
latest tools that offer ability to scale resources quickly
3. Strategic – the need for security & out-of-the-box thinking
In Strategic Sales you do not just look at the problem faced today, but in context of future trends and being a partner that can help eliminate risks and secure upsides over a 5 year time frame.
What do Clients Like?: Security & risk management. Insight alone is only valuable combined with an out-of-the-box solution executed together as if it were a Joint Venture.
Client Risk Factor?: Understanding where the future is headed and taking the wrong action is not as big of a problem (a learning moment?) but not knowing what is going to happen is a big problem (ignorance) as is knowing but not taking any action (incompetence).
What do we Normally do?: Research based on a Key Account Sales plan, combined with some sort of a Consultative sales approach, and apply Challenger Selling or Trust Triangle Selling.
Prone to Disruption?: If Information is Power – then based on new tools + methodologies Strategic Sales too will experience disruption. However good news is that the skill-set required for Strategic Sales demands a frequent and persistent hands-on coaching program similar to pro-athlete training and most companies are unwilling/incapable to make such investments..
How to Survive & Thrive?: Coaching of top performers on use of online sales skills/tools/content in the context of a trust based/provocative sales methodology. Transformation of Inside Sales into Client Intelligence Centers. Use of digital listening skills to develop a detailed understanding of the client as a person, as a company, and their market. Teaming up of Marketing, Sales and BizDev expertise for Idea Creation, not just for one account/opportunity, but a structural approach to align these 3 powerhouses so that they can create value for the client.
Online listening, Idea Creation, Solution Presentation, and Success Sharing
So to answer my own question, is my world being disrupted – Yes. But I welcome it in the hopes that it will disrupt today’s sales processes which are entirely based around hitting a financial target and not making a client successful.