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How Digital Disruption Is Changing the B2B Sales Process

Digital Selling is transforming the process of selling. Sales teams now need to handle themselves very differently from even five years ago, and the next few years are going to be a turbulent time to be in sales as new patterns emerge. The old way of selling isn't going to be enough. 

Enter the Dragon

Bruce Lee's movies used to be the guilty pleasure of my youth. Great martial arts action, lots of bad guys, and some cool kung fu. But Bruce Lee was also a philosopher, and he wrote his little stories into the script. There's a great sequence in "Enter the Dragon", where Master Lee is training a young boy, and he quotes the Buddha in this teachable moment:

"It is like a finger pointing at the moon. Don't concentrate on the finger, or you will miss all the heavenly glory” (Bruce Lee's version is here in this two-minute clip.)

Digital Selling is a finger pointing to the moon. It's seductive to be taken in by the hype and shiny-tech of digital selling. The point is, still, to sell.

1. New Buyers Enter the Scene

There used to be a time when there was an identifiable economic buyer, and you could go past the gatekeeper and sell to them directly. That's ancient history. Buying is more consensus-driven now. You have to sell by helping the consensus-committee buy from you. You have to weave together multiple stakeholders into one decision. Companies 'want to' take a larger number of risky bets that are individually smaller in size. That's all bad news from the sales front because now you have to spend more effort for smaller ticket sales. Because of all this, salespeople need to learn all the new ways that companies want to use internally, design thinking, lean startup and agile to name a few. There are a lot of new ideas woven into that, and those are the ways your new buyers want to engage.  

2. New Buying Process

Solution selling, selling with insight..there are a lot of selling techniques in the market. The big change is that the buying process no longer conforms to any particular selling style, and customers are themselves bumbling through their decision making process. To engage, sales people have to be very nimble. Learning to ask new questions, bring a new style of storytelling, a more patient approach to building trust, and a much more informed expertise to the meeting room. The whiteboard is your friend. Your inside-friend is still your friend. Someone influential leader called salespeople "coin operated idiots," and I hope that sales leaders will run away very fast from that mindset.

3. Customer Journeys

Customer personas and journeys are things that marketers used to think about. Now the boundaries between sales and marketing are blurring fast, and sales professionals better learn this new lingo before Master Lee slaps the head again. The sales process is now a subset of the customer’s buying journey because sales has to be concerned about questions like – Who is my buyer? How are they buying? How am I helping the customer? So, this focus on the customer and being consultative rather than pushing sales on a customer, means you need sales teams to be more aware of the buying journey. Customers are doing a lot of self-education online, and may reach out to a sales team for an in-person question or clarification...don't think of this as a buying sign and ping-the-heck-out of your customers. Cultivate patience, kung fu master style, because the customer will come back to buy after a long internal process of buy-in creation. 

4. New Set of Tools

There are a lot more tools now at a salesperson’s disposal – from social selling to CRM. There’s a lot to master. For social selling, salespeople need to master personal LinkedIn and leverage LinkedIn for Sales. Salespeople now have the challenge of engaging clients that are highly distracted. You can no longer just e-mail or call. It’s more likely that you need to email, call, email, call, text, all in one go. Salespeople also need to get friendly with marketing automation. They need to know how the marketing automation system fits into this whole story of the customer journey. And that’s just the beginning of the tools  salespeople really haven’t had to deal with in the past.

Digital Selling is a finger pointing to the moon

There's been a lot of investment into marketing technology...with sales technology sure to follow soon. All will be a distraction. Focus on the sales relationship with the customer and don't concentrate on the digital because, as Master Lee says, you will miss out on all the heavenly glory.

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