In these challenging times traditional job descriptions and role demarcations are redundant. No more is this evident than in respect to the need for ‘all hands on deck’ in terms of sales & business development. We call this trend the ‘Open-sourcing of sales‘.
Sales Requires New Collaboration
Organizations can no longer afford to leave selling purely in the domain of the sales department. Companies must open-source their business development effort beyond the sales department to create a ‘virtual sales team’.
Selling used to be the job of a few, but with the economic slowdown it quickly became apparent that sales has to be a feature of all job descriptions. From the CFO who leverages his contacts to get into some new accounts, the project manager who adds his contacts to the sales database or the customer support staff who revisit past customer contacts – everybody has a role. A collaborative approach to selling is a new source of competitive advantage and overall revenue performance.
Crowd-Sourcing Your Sales
Every day your organization comes into contact with hundreds maybe even thousands of customers and prospects – that is many multiples of the number that your sales people come in contact with. To leverage this activity is to crowd-source your sales and marketing.
The basic philosophy is that everybody has a role to play in helping to find the next customer, as well as in keeping and growing existing customers. For some this is a major role, for example going out and meeting with potential customers. For others it may be a minor role, such as for example ensuring the customer is satisfied, or contributing to the company newsletter that is sent to customers and prospects. The list of possibilities is endless – there are hundreds of ways in which your company can use crowd-sourcing to get its message out further into the marketplace. Examples include more people:
- Being more active in attending events.
- Making more of an effort to network at events.
- Participating on the council of a professional body.
- Sharing contacts via LinkedIn and making introductions to people your organization should be in contact with.
- Providing an introduction to a brother-in-law who works in an account that your company should be selling to.
- Asking customers and suppliers for introductions and referrals, etc.
Crowd-Sourcing Beats Hiring New Salespeople
In most organizations there is simply no alternative to getting everybody involved in sales. Even if it was financially possible to triple the sales team this would not present an alternative, simply because the best people to represent your company are often your existing team rather than a newly hired salesperson.
Our experience suggests that the success rate in hiring new sales people is only one in three or four. Even those who do make the grade can take up to nine months before they are effective. So, hiring new salespeople is not necessarily the solution.
Moreover, buyers often prefer dealing with experts, technicians and practitioners, over salespeople. In the world of complex B2B sales your team’s knowledge of not only its products, but of the customer’s industry is key to sales success. This is the vital X Factor that a new sales hires won’t have.
Crowd-Sourcing Among Your Customers
Then there is one last, but absolutely vital group that you need to get to contribute to your sales and marketing. That is your customers and prospects.
The people who can best market your solutions are not on your payroll and they never will be. Yet, they can:
- Grab the attention of your customers better than any press release.
- Communicate more effectively than any brochure.
- Convince better than any salesperson.
These same people speak your customer’s language and know exactly the issues that concern them most. These people are your customers.
All too often referrals and recommendations – the most powerful form of sales lead possible – are left to chance with less than 40% of sales people we deal with actively seeking customer referrals or recommendations to sell to others.
So, how many of your customers have been asked for a referral in the past year? It is important because the closure rate from customer referrals is likely to be two or three times that of normal sales leads. In addition to higher win rates, referrals can result in faster buying cycles and improved sales performance.
Collaboration In All Aspects Of The Sale
Of course collaboration does not stop at generating leads, it has a major role to play at all stages of the sale, even after the sale has been one. Hence the rise of a team-based approach to sales. You will remember we talked about how the teams involved in bidding and managing major contracts increasingly resemble the United Nations!
In the 1980’s the airline industry brought us the concept of ‘moments of truth’ – every point of contact, or interaction of customers and prospects with your business – it’s people, processes and systems. That was long before terms such as open-sourcing or crowd-sourcing were devised, yet the principle is exactly the same.
As SAS’s Jan Carlzon put it every time a customer comes into contact with somebody employed by or representing your company is a moment of truth – an interaction that determines the customer’s impressions, experiences and satisfaction. Those moments of truth are sales opportunities too – as powerful as the salesperson’s sales pitch, presentation or proposals.
For more articles and papers, please visit The ASG Group website or the Buyer Insights portal.
Ray Collis is a Business to Business sales coach, Director and Buyer Research Practice Lead of The ASG Group and co-author of the ground-breaking book, The B2B Sales Revolution. For more information on The ASG Group or to contact Ray, please visit the company website, where you can download quality whitepapers on B2B Sales. Also, you can read plenty of articles from Ray on the Buyer Insights portal.
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