Like many people, I’m a big fan of The Walking Dead.
If you’ve never seen the show, (how is that possible?) it’s set after a zombie apocalypse where the undead infects humans, who then turn into creatures called walkers that roam around searching for people to eat and infect.
I’ve got bad news: The same thing is happening to the good, old-fashioned, sales reps.
No, they’re not craving human blood and skin – though talking to some telemarketers and outbound salespeople, you’d think they were – but they are being transformed into a completely different breed of salespeople, and it's a scary sight to witness. It must change! Can we all agree?
Today’s reps need to focus more on solving problems and attracting prospects with a specific set of needs, instead of spraying out a sales message with cold calling and email blasts.
Why the old sales rep is "The Walking Dead"
Do a quick experiment for me. Go up to any of your coworkers, friends, or family members and ask them what they think of when they hear the term “salesman.” You’ll probably hear words like “manipulative,” “slick,” “fast-talking,” and “pushy.”
Not exactly a rave review.
Now think about the internet. We all walk around with powerful computers in our pockets, smartphones that connect to a massive network of knowledge that we can tap into instantly. With a quick Google search, I can learn as much as a salesperson knows about their particular product in about 30 seconds. Maybe a bit longer if it’s a complex, B2B offering, but the information is still out there.
The connectivity of the modern world means we no longer have to go through salespeople for information.
Customers weren’t exactly fond of sales reps before the Internet, but they needed them for the information they had about their products and industries. Today, that’s not the case.
Can you take a wild guess at what happens when a customer doesn’t like something and doesn’t need it?
They drop it faster than an anvil off the Empire State Building. But if today’s customers don’t need pushy salespeople, what do they need?
How salespeople can adapt to survive the zombie outbreak
I can hear the salespeople reading this article lighting up their torches and sharpening their pitchforks to come after me. Relax – I’m not calling you obsolete. There’s still a need for people who are friendly, good at listening, and enjoy helping customers find the right solutions. In fact, in future posts we will talk about inbound sales, and how salespeople need to go from an “always be selling” approach, to an “always be helping” mindset.
But the most sophisticated organizations are re-training their sales teams or hiring for a slightly different kind of business development rep. If you’re looking to grow your company by staffing up your salespeople, consider bringing on a support representative/salesperson hybrid. There are a few reasons for this:
Most buyers prefer to deal with one person who they can build a relationship with. This is especially true in B2B sales, where transactions have a long cycle. After three weeks of calls, e-mails, and negotiations with Frank, the sales guy, do you really think your customer wants to be handed off Joe, the account guy? Sales reps who can also provide support help create a more streamlined, improved customer experience.
Better data for marketing.
If your sales team also handles even a small number of support tasks, they’ll have much deeper insights into what customers are doing and thinking. A well-rounded view of customer behavior both before and after the sale means more relevant marketing, which will lead to new commissions and repeat business for the sales team. Everybody wins!
Fewer business expenses.
Why hire both a support rep and a salesperson when you could retain someone to do both? I’m not telling you to cut corners by pressuring your sales team to work more or forcing them to do things outside of their job description. But if you can delegate some support tasks to sales, even small ones that only take a few minutes, you can improve the customer experience and save money at the same time.
Kissmetrics has a blog post with a similar concept – check it out for more reading on this subject.
So, for now, keep your eyes out for sales zombies… and remember, Carl, save some pudding for the rest of us!
Until next time,