Sometimtes external events can bring unexpected changes in our professional lives.
These “black swans” represent the hubs where a person’s professional worth is valued. I think that for an entire generation of b2b sales in the energy and environment sector, the pandemic represented one of these crucial moments in professional and consequently personal life.
It has imposed the prevalence of an all-new virtual and remote contacts mediated by web platforms either in “one to one” mode as a zoom / Team’s link or “one to many” as a webinar or blog or post on professional platforms.
For an old dinosaur like me, recalling my graduate classes in natural science, these external events always lead me to think about the unexpected natural catastrophes that led some living species to adapt or perish.
For old salespeople like me accustomed to routine meetings, conferences, some follow-ups via email and offers new steps have been now associated in the digital trends.
Here I would like to share some thoughts by a NON digital native point of view, that I had to learn with blood and tears all skills necessary for digital sales and marketing.
Basically, I did what Sergeant Gunny did in an immortal film by Clint Eastwood from 1986 (so you understand my age): had to improvise and adapt to achieve the goal.
Pros of a new life in digital Sales
- You can create a multi-weekly action plan and not just a few days: a lot of time saved and optimized. In fact, compared to the normal life of a salesman who tries to plan visits and then invariably changes at the last minute, with all related stress to reorganize the tour, here we can, or even we MUST, carefully plan and schedule in due time digital actions and try to maintain their frequency and consistency over time.
That because in digital sales the constancy of “one to many” contact, with the continuous enrichment of contents, is THE RULE. It is a bit like the collections of stickers, you engage your target by ensuring consistency in the outputs and in constantly updated content.
- Finished the “buddy car-seller ” mode. It was an attitude sometimes recommended in some sales courses I have attended, including also the b2b one. They wanted salesman being the only interface with the customer even for complex situations, etc. In digital world, you are a testimonial of your solution, but you must be ready to explain very clearly the TRUE technical skills and if necessary, leave the hand to the technical sector, therefore less “one man show” and more teamwork, which is not really something that the sales guys and the department to which they belong are sometime keen to do.
- You can’t “promise more than what agreed with tech dept“. Let me explain it often happens that the salesman, pressured by the ever-increasing sales requests, forces the technical department or promise more than his structure can support. In digital sales this mode risks banning you since the first autonomous demo made by the potential target who evaluates your solution alone without any mediation and therefore immediately “weighs” your words.
- Enrich your technical background: you MUST study, not only digital sales techniques but also the more the better, what you sell: whether they are environmental remediation or air quality monitoring software or forecasts with the use of AI. The era of former tech guys who become salespeople because considered poor technicians and finally ” to sell you just have to convince with nice words”. What happens now is that created contents must be well founded and validated technically and above all CLEAR, ergo an old salesman must go back to the benches and know how to “prepare” his writings or his spoken interventions which will now be mostly directed to a wide audience and not to a small group.
Cons of a new life in digital Sales
- Costs. Surely you save time and money without travels and CO2 emitted, however, to produce b2b digital content you must rely on top level experts or platforms THAT ARE NOT FREE OF CHARGE, you have to merge your written content with videos, podcasts and you have to track all this. Ergo you save time of your private life because you do not travel so much but not money. This could be a risk for salespeople who are not working in large companies with sufficient budgets or in SMEs where the awareness of the change has not yet arrived.
- Risk of buzz: digital contents are inflated, we are talking about metaverse without knowing what it will be, but it is “cool” to throw the word there, as well as “smart” “intelligence” “AI. So, you have to use the terms when you know what we are talking about and about something that IS ACTUALLY smart, Intelligence, AI.
- Risk of a blog for “geeks”. In other words, when you create some digital articles or videos that is perhaps very technical will attract amateurs of the subject without real decision-making power, failing instead to attract decision-makers, for example the whole procurement sector. To remedy this, I see only one way: right mix of digital and then BE IN PRESENCE in strategic moments: trade fairs, congresses and immediate follow-up for direct contact.
- Lack of attention due to reduced contact times. Unlike what happens in a personal meeting, written content or even a videoconference do not allow you to have total control of the commercial action, you never really know what the other is doing, whether attentive or distracted. To remedy this, I can only suggest ending each action or event with some “call to action”: it was what some of my professors at the university did; to understand if the interlocutor wishes to continue the interaction create some click on “request offer” if you made a written while small questionnaire to capture the main points of interest would be very useful at the end of a videoconference.
In conclusion, from what I have learned on my skin, the new era will wipe out b2b salespeople who sell products or services that are not so technically founded or who do not have structures behind them with resources to effectively promote them digitally even if valid.
It will not reward those who cannot write or speak well in public or share the concepts they want to express to professionals in the digital sector who are then charged with putting them into practice,
It will eliminate those salespeople who don’t know how to work as a team with various company sectors or those who are not used to using tools to verify whether their network of business contacts is still aligned with its message or not.
In short ..if you look back in natural history .. there is hope even for b2b dinosaurs, if they want become birds.