Buyers are moving away from reliance on a professional sales team. The old days of selling have have become irrelevant. It would be like managing your productivity with a PalmPilot today. It is not connected nor relevant in today’s ecosystem. Let’s look at the value of a professional sales team and the cost/benefit.
- Creating Awareness: Previously, awareness was built one relationship at a time. Executives sought best-in-class solutions to their business problems. The professional salesperson promoted new products and services in a marketplace that relied on dialogue and information accessed through relationships.
- Education: The buyer does not typically understand your value proposition. There are solutions today that the market has been educated about – CRM, Point Of Sale systems, On-demand printing, etc. – that forerunners have paid heavily for to educate buyers. Novel or niche products and services today have to help the buyer understand before they can say, “Yes.” It is expensive and necessary in the buying process. Salespeople were responsible for demoing products and explaining complex concepts in simplified terms to solve the buyer’s problem.
- Intimacy: Buyers want to know who they are buying from. The professional salesperson sought to make a personal connection to understand needs and present solutions. This was often done personally or on the phone.
- Nurturing: The timing of the sale relied on the buyer’s expressed timeframe or need. This required follow up and and availability of the saleperson to engage consistently. Often this was multiple touchpoints to check in and gently remind the buyer about the value proposition again.
If a video camera was placed on the average professional salesperson, much of the activity was focused on these activities. This, of course, was in an era of higher levels of attention. Buyers had a harder time accessing information and relied on the expertise of a salesperson. Furthermore, the demand of attention on the buyer was far less, thus affording more time and focus to understand the products and solutions she sought.
In today’s economy, buyers are completely different in their behaviors. Getting return calls and emails are difficult. The buyer is inundated with information. Information is not scarce. It is abundant. Your competitor provides a plethura as well as analysts, pr firms and customers. The buyer can feast on a self-serve offering of the information they require to make a decision.
The cost of a professional salesperson is upwards of $100K per year in expense. The ROI in the past justified the cost. CRM systems helped sales professionals to organize work and ensure reliable follow-up. However, today’s buyers do not require such service with easier access to information on their timeframes. They have extreme convenience and engage when they are ready.
Well-designed marketing automation systems nurture and drive the buying process in synchrony with the buyer’s behaviors. Because of inattention, the responsiveness of marketing automation allows for personal, relevant and timely information and action to occur as the buyer moves through stages in the buying process. The reluctance of a buyer to engage a full service sales process comes from the attention economy we live in. Thus, the preference is for a self-service process. Today’s leading organizations recognize the disconnect of heavy sales people processes and implement automation to heavily augment the selling process. Thus, fewer professional salespeople can engage with highly qualified and nurtured leads that are ready to buy. Marketing automation prepares the buyer with a precision and responsiveness traditionally lacking in the professional sales team.
The ROI analysis can be related to the cost of professional sales team people costs to a marketing automation system cost. The latter is far less with greater return on investment for many product and service categories, especially for the sophisticated sale. The case has been increasingly viable as buyers become less attentive in their behaviors.