While the economic forecast may be "uncertain," it is certain that customers are reducing their budgets and spending more carefully, forcing vendors to do the same. This economic challenge will accelerate the adoption of Sales 2.0 from a "nice to have" to a "need to have" philosophy. Customer preferences, the ever-rising cost of sales and the availability of next-generation technologies are making change mandatory for companies that want to outperform the competition and minimize the impact of the economic slowdown. And companies that continue to sell the way they sold in the past will become less profitable, or fail altogether.
What is Sales 2.0?
Sales 2.0 is not a new technology. It is the use of innovative sales practices to improve business results, creating value for both the buyer and seller, and it is often enabled by Web 2.0 or next-generation technology. Sales 2.0 initiatives typically center on process and custome-engagement improvements to increase sales productivity. Sales 2.0 practices combine the science of measurable, process-driven operations with the art of collaborative relationships, using the most profitable and expedient sales resources required to meet your customers' needs. Its goal is to produce greater, predictable, repeatable business results, including increased revenue, decreased sales costs and sustained competitive advantage.
Sales 2.0 initiatives require changing mindset and adjusting sales strategies. A relatively simple Sales 2.0 practice involves selling more through video or Web conferencing. This can be done by inside salespeople or by field salespeople who perform more of their jobs from their desks. Selling more efficiently should also mean selling more effectively, as many buyers now prefer to meet remotely via conference calls with video or Web conferencing, and salespeople benefit from additional selling time that otherwise would be spent traveling.
A traditional sales process that included three or four on-site visits might now have zero or just one face-to-face visit. The financial impact of reducing travel expenses can be significant and is easily measured, but the economics of giving your most expensive sales resources—your field salespeople—additional selling time is even more compelling.
Many products and services, especially those of relatively small to average value, can only be sold profitably with a remote or low-touch sales model. The definition of "small to medium orders" is different for every company, but they are generally those that fall into your bottom 50 percent in value. If ignored, these mid-market customers or transaction types are missed opportunities for organizations that rely solely or too heavily on a field-based sales model. And when they are sold through field sales, these smaller opportunities can derail focus and drain the organization's profitability.
Another Sales 2.0 practice uses some "science" to accurately capture key market information and metrics such as average sales cycle, average deal size and sales-cycle conversion rates. By using a defined sales process and data analytics, you can determine how your sales force should be structured and which customers and transaction types justify the assignment of field account executives, inside salespeople, channel partners or no selling effort at all. Data analytics in this sense can range from rudimentary (pen and paper) to moderate (spreadsheets, CRM, and most reporting systems) to advanced (dashboards and on-demand sales intelligence).
Rather than simply measuring the final result (revenue), a Sales 2.0 approach measures the effectiveness of every stage in your sales process by salesperson, giving managers the opportunity to provide targeted coaching. Data analytics also can be used to correlate and analyze the specific characteristics of your most profitable customers (size, industries, locations, buyer types, etc.) that produce the most revenue and profit. Sales and marketing leaders can then use this information to fine-tune your sales model and activities to ensure the loyalty of your most valuable customers and find more prospects like them.
How to Begin a Sales 2.0 Initiative with Limited Staff and Budget
A key Sales 2.0 tenet involves experimentation, often through testing new process ideas and piloting new technology. Testing a new sales message, pricing options, new technology or even a new sales process enables the organization to be innovative with minimal risk. Small pilot programs that use minimal resources enable ineffective ideas to fail on a small scale, while good ones can be rolled out more aggressively.
Becoming a Sales 2.0 organization requires that we proactively adapt and continually improve so we can become closer to our customers and weather the economic storm better than our competitors.
Brent Holloway is an inside sales manager for Verint Systems. He has more than a decade of experience in sales and sales management with high-technology companies. He co-authored Sales 2.0: Improve Business Results Using Innovative Sales Practices and Technology, published by John Wiley and Sons in December of 2008, available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com and other retailers. For more information, visit www.sales20book.com.