In today's episode, we're going to talk all about the state of sales and marketing: the state of sales today and ostrich marketing.
The Modern Buyer’s Daily Routine: Sales Conversation With a Human No Longer Mandatory
The first place to start: when you think about selling today, realize that it's no longer a given that buyers have to speak with a sales person anymore.
And this is a really big change over the past five to ten years. Think about the modern buyer’s daily routine in a digital-first world:
- Amazon 1-Click Ordering and Free Shipping -- Besides ordering products from Amazon, the modern buyer has an Amazon prime membership and is used to making 1-click additions to their shopping cart, with their purchases on their doorstep in anywhere from a few hours to two days later, with free shipping.
- Airbnb -- When it comes to deciding where to stay on vacation or when traveling for work, the modern buyer may use Airbnb, another very disruptive platform.
- Uber and Lyft -- When it comes to deciding how the modern buyer gets around their own home city or when they're on the road, there are still taxi cabs and airport shuttles. But wow, has Uber and Lyft changed that entire industry.
- WebMD -- When it comes to deciding, do you need to go to a doctor or not? There are a host of healthcare-related websites, some more credible than others. But WebMD has certainly become a household name.
- Amazon Alexa -- The modern buyer has that invaluable little hockey puck-like device in their home: Alexa. And the modern buyer is asking Alexa questions all of the time.
- Apple Siri -- The modern buyer has become very accustomed to using Siri on their iPhone; asking Siri questions all of the time.
- OpenTable -- When it comes to getting a valuable restaurant reservation -- either for breakfast, lunch, dinner, personal, or professional purposes -- does the modern buyer pick up the phone anymore? Sometimes, but OpenTable has completely changed the game.
Think about Amazon, Airbnb, Uber, Alexa, Siri, and OpenTable. How many of these platforms actually involve human contact where you speak with a salesperson? Zero.
And that's what's throwing traditional sales into a complete tailspin.
Now, it's not like your prospects and clients expect your company overnight to be quite as on the ball as Amazon, Alexa, Siri, and Uber. But this is the backdrop -- the context -- in which they're evaluating your company.
The Massive, Disruptive Shift in Power from Sellers to Buyers
In order for sellers, sales professionals, to stay relevant, it requires a very different shift in mindset, a very different context, and a very different way of positioning. Why? There's just been this massive, very disruptive shift in power from sellers to buyers.
So the question is if you're in sales, do you use these tools? Do your friends and family? Do your prospects, clients, and channel partners?
If your answer is at least “I think some of them,” then it's time to really rethink your strategy for how you engage. Why? Because sales no longer needs to be there to answer questions or explain things.
Obviously, it's a given that anyone in a sales role needs the ability to answer questions and explain things. But a heck of a lot of times prospects and clients are going to prefer the digital version. Either prospects and clients don't want to bother a salesperson, or they feel they're not ready for that sales conversation, or it's two o’clock in the morning or two o’clock on a Sunday afternoon.
Again, sales is no longer always going to be needed to answer questions or explain things, or in many cases, to even take orders. Thanks, Jeff Bezos! That's progress, right?
The Emergence of Sales Professionals as Experts, Advisors, Consultants, and Educators
The value of sales going forward will be when sales professionals are seen as true experts. In a digital-first world, sales professionals have to be experts in what it is that their company does best. Sales professionals need to be seen as trusted advisors, as business consultants, and as educators.
Salespeople, sales managers, and sales directors have to make it so that prospects want to interact with them.
Think about the legacy, traditional sales person; the person that's been in sales for decades. In the past, sales has been largely about interrupting people. Nobody thought of it as interrupting people at the time.
But let's face it when you email somebody that isn't expecting your email, are you adding value or are you interrupting? When you're making a phone call to somebody that isn't expecting the phone call, are you adding value or are you interrupting? When you go door to door in an office park, drop into businesses and want to immediately have a conversation about what it is that you do when they didn't ask for that contact, are you adding value or are you interrupting using brute force?
The days of sales professionals spending most their time begging for appointments, meetings, demos, and 15 minutes of time, has reached its peak. Why?
Because an awful lot of what's being delivered during those interactions can be replaced by really good persona research and buyer's journey mapping -- really good digital equivalents of those interactions. And no, the human interaction between prospects and sales professionals is definitely not going to be replaced 100% of the time, in 100% of those scenarios.
But for products and services that are heavily commoditized, that are readily explained, where it's highly likely that somebody is going to want that information after hours when a salesperson simply would not be available, or even during business hours when a salesperson has other meetings and is working with other prospects and clients, speed matters.
The modern buyer, in a digital-first world, expects everything to be instant. Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa, Cortana, Google, Bing, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Rethinking the Traditional Sales Development Representative (SDR) or Business Development Representative (BDR)
All of these tools and platforms have trained your prospects and clients to expect immediate gratification. So the idea of a traditional sales development rep (SDR) or business development rep (BDR) making 50 phone calls a day -- that may be what they're doing. But the question is, should they be doing that? Or should SDRs and BDRs take at least a portion of that time and reallocate it to something that actually makes sense to the modern buyer, living in a digital-first world.
The average business development rep dials 18 phone calls to connect with one buyer. We're not talking about somebody who's a customer or a past customer or even who's a qualified prospect. But 18 phone calls just to get to one shred of human contact. And you can bet how annoyed that person is when they get that phone call.
Callback rates are abysmal, less than one percent in many cases. So what that means: if the average business development rep is making about 52 phone calls a day, and their callback rate is less than one percent. Best case scenario, they're making phone calls all day long and perhaps getting two return calls in an entire Monday to Friday business week.
The State of Sales Today and Why It Needs to Evolve to Stay Relevant
This is the state of sales today -- where legacy sales is -- and why you need to rethink how it's going to evolve to stay relevant and valuable not only to your prospects and clients but to the businesses that fund that sales development rep and business development rep hiring and training initiatives.
And again, speed matters. Inbound leads that are responded to within five minutes are 100 times more likely to interact with you and allow you to figure out whether or not they're qualified. The drop off at 10 minutes, 30 minutes, and 60 minutes is severe.
Why is connecting within five minutes so critical?
Because business development reps are catching prospects when they're in the middle of thinking about your products, your services, your business, and if they're not that far along in the buyer's journey, at least thinking about some problems, symptoms, challenges, struggles, or goals very early on in the Awareness stage.
So getting to inbound leads within minutes is super important. Obviously, with 168 hours in a week, even the most motivated, driven salesperson is probably only going to be available 50 to 70 of those hours.
Again, this is why companies are investing in all kinds of artificial intelligence and chatbots and understanding personas and the buyer’s journey so they can get there even faster to start warming things up before a salesperson is available.
The salesperson that responds that quickly is also 4.2 times more likely to get an appointment with that lead.
If there is a personal connection, if the sales rep knows a colleague, family member, or friend of that lead, it can help a great deal. Perhaps you're connected on LinkedIn, friends on Facebook, follow each other on Twitter, or spoke even briefly at a recent conference.
So these are some of the trends, the backdrop, and the challenges that sales professionals are facing today. And these are some of the opportunities, and weaknesses of others, that more digitally-savvy social selling-savvy sales professionals are using to drive success.
Again, this is the state of sales today; where it's come from and where it's going.
Next, let’s look at ostrich marketing. Yes, ostriches, the birds that would love to fly around but can't.
They're not all that popular in most parts of the world, but you tend to see ostriches in safaris and zoos.
You certainly see ostriches when you look for them online or in YouTube videos.
Ostrich marketing is largely about people being in denial that the world is changing. What does an ostrich always do when it gets into trouble? Does it climb a tree and hide? Does it fly away? No. the ostrich buries its head in the sand, hoping that the problem goes away.
Marketing Strategy vs. Interruption Strategy
Yes, ostrich marketing, because that's the way it’s always been done. Cold calls, cold emails, renting email lists and spamming people, spamming LinkedIn connections, direct mail, print advertising, banner ads, and trade show booths.
These marketing tactics worked for years. All you need to do is get in front of more people. The problem is: getting in front of more people and interrupting them isn't what they want any more. The world has changed. People have rebelled against interruptions. Entire business models have been built up around satisfying people's itch to navigate around interruptions.
Some of these technologies have existed for decades. Caller ID is nothing new, but how many people answer phone calls anymore without first looking at caller ID?
Priority Inbox from Gmail -- that's a little newer and hasn't been around for decades.
All of these technologies are symptomatic of the modern buyer doing everything in their power to block out annoying, obnoxious interruptions from marketing and sales professionals that they don't want to hear from.
That's not going to stop marketing and sales professionals from trying to interrupt their way onto that person's radar screen.
Interrupting the Interrupters
But recognize that your prospects and clients are using a lot of tools and technologies to block you out:
- Netflix and Hulu are all about television commercials going away.
- The DVR (digital video recorder) has been around for quite some time, probably at least a decade.
- TiVo is all about people recording television content and watching that content when they want, 100% on their terms -- including fast forwarding through the commercials.
- With Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video, you don't even have to fast forward. The commercials are already for the most part removed.
- With satellite radio, Sirius XM, you don't have to be interrupted by commercials for one-third of the time that you’re listening.
- Spotify scratches the same itch.
So ostrich marketing loves cold calls, cold emails, renting lists, email blasts, spamming LinkedIn connections, direct mail, print advertising, banner ads, and trade show booths. The ostrich marketer loves to interrupt. But ostriches don't think of it as interrupting; they just think of it as marketing.
Again, the modern buyer is doing everything in their power to block you out.
The ostrich tends to spend a lot of time and effort on branding. But in most cases, the ostriches are ignoring their most important job. The most important job of a marketing professional in a digital-first world is making that their sales team look like rock stars.
How Marketing Can Support Their Company’s Sales Funnel for the Modern Buyer’s Journey
The marketer in a digital-first world needs to be obsessed with
- Generating leads
- Qualifying leads
- Nurturing leads into marketing qualified leads
- Tracking what's going on with sales opportunities and closed-won outcomes
- Using closed-loop reporting to tie together sales outcomes with contributing marketing input
- The new sales funnel
- Product/market fit (PMF)
- Average client lifetime value (LTV)
- Average cost of client acquisition (COCA)
- Average sales cycle length
- Buyer personas
- Buyer's journey stages and lifecycle stages
The problem: a lot of marketing professionals and their bosses are living in the past. They're thinking about what marketing used to be.
Today, marketing is very data-driven and obsessed with getting the right sales outcomes for the company. More nimble, more agile, and a lot more technical than perhaps marketing professionals needed to be in the past.
That's why you're starting to see the emergence of jobs like chief digital officers (CDOs) and chief marketing technology officers (CMTOs).
The Lack of Customer Intimacy Liability
In many cases, the ostrich marketer is simply too far away from their company’s end customers. Marketers aren’t spending enough time with their primary and secondary buyer personas.
Marketers haven't figured out who the negative buyer personas are that their companies shouldn't be wasting any time and resources on.
Because marketers are too distant from end customers, it’s really hard for them to give the right answers to product development, their marketing colleagues, their sales teams, and their customer support teams.
The reality: the company's marketing leader needs to take charge of all of this.
The Lack of Sales and Support Team Intimacy
In a lot of cases, ostrich marketers are way too distant from their sales teams. They don't spend enough time doing ride-alongs or sitting next to their colleagues in sales
Ostrich marketers also don't spend enough time with their services team. Again, sales teams and services teams are the ones that have the relationships with the people that matter most.
Most of the time, unfortunately, marketers are one degree of separation removed from that.
Think about the massive shift in how and when people choose to engage with sales professionals.
Getting Left Behind in a Rapidly Changing World
Ten years ago, people engaged with sales professionals early and often, when 10% or 20% of the way through their decision making process.
Today’s sales conversations only happen at the other end of the spectrum.
Most people are doing so much research online using search engines and social media that by the time they're open to a sales conversation, in many cases, 70% or more their decision has already been made up and that's been a massive change in buyer behavior over the past few years.
Most marketing and sales professionals simply have not kept up with these shifts in buyer behaviors.
Attracting Prospects Early and Dominating the Early Stages of their Buyer’s Journey
Marketing and sales professionals need to partner together to collectively dominate those early stage questions.
Those early stage searches about problems, challenges, struggles, and goals that their company is most relevant for.
Most of the time, marketing and sales, especially marketing, are investing in tactics like search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM). So they think about keywords that are synonyms for their products and services, as well as their company name and their competitors’ company names.
The reality, however, is that those keyword phrases are often picked very shortsightedly -- and only relevant at the absolute bottom of the sales funnel, the tail end of the buyer's journey.
It's so critical to get found early in the Awareness stage and in the Consideration stage of the buyer's journey to win, stay relevant, and earn that seat at the table as trusted advisors.
From a Liability to a Prized Asset: Updating the Ostrich Marketer’s Skillet and Mindset
So what should the ostrich marketer be doing to better their ways?
They should be thinking a lot about
- Thought leadership
- Competitive positioning
- Sales cycle acceleration
- Revenue growth.
It's all about having the right content, at the right time -- the right content plus context for the intersection of each buyer persona and each buyer's journey stage.
Think about three different stages of the buyer's journey:
Then make sure that you have traffic generating, lead generating, and sales accelerating content for each of your buyer personas -- so you fill in those boxes.
It's all about attracting the right people, in the right places, at the right time, and in the right context.
The Bottom Line on the State of Sales Today and Ostrich Marketing
Sales has changed tremendously.
Perhaps you’ve been living in a time-warp that is not even remotely reflective of the modern buyer and how the modern buyer lives, how they interact with each other and companies, and how they research and make purchase decisions in a digital-first world.
If this hits way too close to home, recognize that ostrich marketers need to get their heads out of the sand before their companies get buried by the likes of Amazon, Airbnb, Uber, Lyft and all the other counterparts of those kinds of disruptive businesses that are in their industry or will be entering their industry.
In this episode, you’ve learned about
- The shift in sales and power
- The modern buyer
- How legacy salespeople are still trying to stay relevant in a reality that just doesn't exist anymore
- What modern sales looks like
- The problems with ostrich marketing
- How ostrich marketers can turn their fortunes around to benefit their careers, their sales teams, and their companies
I'm so glad to have had you with us for this episode of the South Florida CEO Podcast. I am Joshua Feinberg, and we look forward to seeing you back again next time.
If you learned something valuable from this episode, please subscribe to the South Florida CEO Podcast on iTunes and leave us a review.
To get notified about upcoming episodes, be sure to visit www.sphomerun.com/ceo