Sales 3.0 Conference: People, Process and Technology

We recently attended Selling Power’s Sales 3.0 Conference that offers success strategies for sales management. Their annual conference did not disappoint. It was also our first conference under our new brand, DoubleDigit Sales, and the reception couldn’t have been warmer.

If you didn't have a chance to attend the conference, below we’ve compiled our top 5 takeaways:

1. Sales: Art or Science? Art and Science!

For those familiar with the conference and paying close attention, do you notice anything different? The conference name has changed slightly. From Sales 2.0 to Sales 3.0. Why? The next “wave” of selling is here. What do we mean by that vague statement? No idea, it just sounded fancy and smart. Kidding. What we mean is that it’s heavily debated whether sales is more of an art or more of a science. Way back, when we didn’t have tools aside from our rolodex and a rotary phone (shuddering at the thought) one could argue selling was more of an art. Then along came tools such as the Internet, and then CRMs and marketing automation tools that greatly equipped us, salespeople, and customers with much, much, more information and ushered in Sales 2.0. Now, we have technology capable of structuring all that information that usually overwhelms us and provides us with insights and new ways of operating. Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. The game is changing again – from the amount of information we have available to us, to how it is presented to us, from what customers expect of us, to how they interact with us, and how and where we meet them in their buying process – got all that? So, the question is no longer whether sales is an art or a science, it’s solidly both. The important takeaway here is that the next wave of technology is upon us, it is our friend, not a foe, and we need to embrace it if we want to be successful now and in the future.

2. SMarketing – Yes, you read that right

Something all organizations struggle with to varying degrees is the level of alignment amongst Sales and Marketing. Both play the blame game, and it needs to stop, now. Ultimately to be successful Marketing needs to be responsible for revenue, as Sales is, and Sales needs to be responsible for Marketing.

Easily said, but how do we do this? Well it can be as complicated and complex as a re-org, or you can start today by doing something as simple as these 4 things:

  1. Have a monthly or quarterly meeting between the two groups to… drumroll please… talk. It doesn’t need to be more than a place to share ideas and learn – open minds only.
  2. Marketing should join sales on calls to listen and learn, not judge.
  3. Sales should join marketing when creating and executing a marketing campaign. Perspective is everything.
  4. Remove restrictions from the sales team and let them experiment with tools and technology that might otherwise exist normally in the marketing realm. They will astonish you with their creativity.

While basic ideas, if you’re not doing these at a minimum, I recommend you start.

Finally, related to the alignment amongst Sales and Marketing is the idea of who owns the customer experience. Often it falls under Sales or Marketing, yet they don’t have a complete view of the customer journey. If there isn’t a dedicated team for your customer experience, which often there isn’t, alignment amongst Marketing and Sales is even more critical to ensure the customer experience is… magical, or at least consistent.

 

3. Sales Enablement

A role, function, idea that shouldn’t be a stranger to any of us, but perhaps what is, is its true definition, responsibilities, role within the organization and metrics to measure against. Speakers from the Sales Enablement Society were among the speakers at the event and what became clear over the course of the event was how wildly definitions of sales enablement are, and how different the responsibilities are of people are who are in the role. The takeaway here is that often the role is loosely defined and while growing in importance it should have clear metrics and goals, and be managed accordingly. Sales enablement is not just about enabling sales, it’s about increasing team performance and the many avenues through which that can be accomplished (training, technology, etc.) and measured.

 

4. Managers – Coaching is NOT Optional

Ask yourself – what is your sales managers’ top priority? Is it ensuring adherence to process? Running reports? Selling? It should be coaching and developing talent. Sales managers need to be coaches first and foremost. It’s easy to forget this and it often slips down to the bottom of the to do list, but if your sales managers are not making this a top priority, or are not capable of coaching, then you have a problem (or if you’re like us, prefer to think of it as an opportunity). If you’re not coaching, you’re not leveraging your biggest lever to improve your team’s performance, you’re putting your goals at risk and you risk losing top performers who need to feel challenged to be fulfilled in their roles.

Further, we need to be asking ourselves what value are my sales managers bringing? Think of it this way: salespeople are measured on a variety of metrics, but what about the sales manager? Should they not be held accountable to metrics other than revenue which is a lagging metric at that? The number of one-on-one meetings they hold. The number of joint calls they attend. The value of those meetings as quantified by the sales team. Salespeople will sell regardless of whether they have a manager, so sales managers need to be measured on what additional value they bring. Believe it or not, suggest a third of sales managers hinder what their team would bring in if they didn’t have a manager. Crazy, huh?

The takeaway: Take a good hard look at your sales managers. What they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and how they’re being measured.

 

5. B2H – The Critically Important Role of Salespeople

At one point during the conference we almost thought we were at a technology show. However, no matter the technology being deployed to make us smarter, faster, better, there’s almost always still a role for people. And it’s not because we can’t automate everything and shouldn’t, but rather customers want and demand authenticity, tailored experiences, empathy and human connections.

Some interesting stats were shared that on the surface fly in the face of everything we just shared. The stats showed that the number of salespeople and size of sales teams is decreasing and will continue to, but their output is increasing and looks poised to continue to (and arguably must if the number of people in sales is decreasing). Technology and increased capability has enabled salespeople to be more efficient and effective than ever, and further equipping them with technology and skills will be imperative for success in the future.

Also interesting, while sales teams are decreasing in size, other teams are also increasing in size, furthering the need for sales skills beyond traditional salespeople. The rise of sales support teams, enablement, subject matter experts, customer success teams and others have helped make our salespeople more efficient and reduced the number required. However, as these other teams interact more with the customer and other internal stakeholders, it is critical that they are equipped with sales skills to generate insight, identify opportunities, speak a common language and have a common approach.

The takeaway? Technology can and will continue to do a lot more to disrupt the traditional sales process, and you’re on the wrong side of history if you don’t invest in some of it. However, while shiny, new and often an easier sell, technology is never a silver bullet and is only one side to the equation. What your people do with what the information technology provides and how they use it with customers is just as important. Ignore technology, or your peoples’ capabilities at your own peril.

There you have it, our top takeaways from the most recent Sales 3.0 Conference. If you couldn’t attend, we highly recommend attending the next conference in Philadelphia on December 4th. As always, if you have any questions about the conference or how we might be able to partner with you in this new era of sales, don’t hesitate to ask.