The Evolution of Sales 2.0

Updated: October 06, 2009

By David Thompson, CEO of Genius.com and Co-Founder of the Sales 2.0 Conference

In early 2007, when I first sat down with Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm and other best-selling business books, at Bucks Restaurant in Woodside, CA, we knew that the market was ready for technologies that could support a new selling model. From Geoff's experience with clients of his consulting practice and from my vantage point as the former CMO of WebEx, we had already experienced first-hand the shift to higher volume, higher velocity sales models and the resulting need for solutions to support the new breed of sales teams.

The New World of selling already existed, and companies like WebEx, Oracle and salesforce.com had already "cracked the code" of using the Web to sell more, faster. What was lacking, however, was a collective understanding of best practices and applicable solutions. Geoff thought the term "Sales 2.0" perfectly described this new selling model and the technologies that support it. From that was borne the idea for a Sales 2.0 Conference that would bring together fellow practitioners and solutions providers to articulate and evangelize best practices.

In his keynote address at the first conference in October 2007, Geoff asserted that the time had come for this event, where practitioners could share how they were using Web 2.0 technologies and techniques to sell faster and to better serve their customers. He said, "We are just beginning to define Sales 2.0. One thing is for certain, it will evolve." He couldn't have been more correct.

In two short years, Sales 2.0 has quickly become part of the business vernacular and has become a business imperative for companies looking for cost-effective ways to sell more without increasing their spending. We have learned a lot about Sales 2.0. Books, e-books, white papers, blogs, and now four conferences have been devoted to keeping pace with the latest thinking about how we can sell smarter with Sales 2.0.

In today's challenging times, Sales 2.0 has become a rallying cry not just for sales but also for marketers who are increasingly working with sales to grow pipelines, cultivate qualified leads, drive top-line growth and provide excellent customer service.

I particularly like how Sales 2.0 Conference co-host, noted sales expert and SellingPower publisher Gerhard Gschwandtner summed up Sales 2.0. In his opening remarks at the November 2008 conference he said:

"Sales 2.0 brings together customer-focused methodologies and productivity-enhancing technologies that transform selling from an art to a science. Sales 2.0 relies on a repeatable, collaborative, and customer-enabled process that runs through the sales and marketing organization, resulting in improved productivity, predictable ROI and superior performance."

I would add only that it combines the art of selling with the science of marketing where communications are increasingly personalized and everything is measurable.

With Sales 2.0, fiefdoms are disappearing and collaboration is emerging, as both sales and marketing are working together to do what we are all charged to do: increase revenue. I describe the underpinnings of this evolution in the latest edition of Sales 2.0 For Dummies, Executive Edition©. Sales 2.0 is:

"… a necessary step to keep pace with the knowledge and experience of today's savvy customers and prospects. Customers have become more informed as they've become more adept at using the Web to mine information, gathering data from corporate Websites and seeking out comparisons using search engines. The speed with which you connect to potential customers is critical to closing a sale; and, of course, spending less time per sale increases the likelihood of increasing the number of sales you'll make."

(From Sales 2.0 For Dummies, Executive Edition, ©2009 Wiley Publishing, Inc., All Rights Reserved.)

In many organizations, sales teams have been the early Sales 2.0 adopters, using Web conferencing, for example, to shorten the sales cycle. Marketers have sometimes been challenged to keep up, but this is changing as well. Their role has been redefined by Web 2.0 technologies, media and a new economic landscape. Today's Web-smart marketers are now adopting the best practices learned from their e-commerce counterparts. In an e-commerce world, everyone is in sales and every customer action is tracked, from the instant the customer enters the site, to the time they add items to the shopping cart, through the point that they "check out." Marketers are learning to better nurture and qualify customers and achieve a more effective and timely handoff to the sales rep, the B2B equivalent of the e-commerce "shopping cart."

Today, if you conduct business online, you are in sales. And sales is about building relationships. Sales 2.0 helps by building and nurturing relationships through the effective and timely exchange of information. Sales 2.0, as part of an orchestrated marketing automation program, enables marketers to target vast numbers of potentially interested customers in a personalized and relevant way and then instantly bring sales into the loop when a prospect shows interest.

Through marketing automation, marketers can also cast out a wider net at the top of the funnel and automate campaigns, with contagious content that attracts, educates and nurtures prospects. Lead scoring tracks and updates the prospect's sales readiness throughout the buying cycle. When the threshold is met, the lead is converted to an "opportunity," and sales receives an instant alert that highlights this change of status or score and indicates that a qualifying action has taken place. Sales then can respond with appropriate and timely information to better serve the customer and, hopefully, close the deal. In this manner, marketing automation fulfills the promise of Sales 2.0 by leveraging Web 2.0 technology to better serve the buyer throughout the entire buying process.

In today's economic environment it's not surprising to see Sales 2.0 move up the "sales funnel" to ensure that both sales and marketing can work together for this kind of real-time customer engagement. In short, it's providing measurable success. Genius customers, like land developer Redstone Properties, are able to quickly send out personalized email marketing campaigns from their head office and have local reps reach out to buyers who are interested in their local properties. Recently, this Sales 2.0-enabled teamwork resulted in a same-day close of a property in Colorado. The customer got a great deal. Redstone got a six-hour sales cycle. Everybody won.

In the new Sales 2.0 funnel, marketing addresses the unqualified leads at the top of the funnel with increasingly automated efforts and sales engages the qualified leads toward the bottom, providing personal attention that addresses questions or objections that helps move the buyer through their buying cycle. As information is exchanged, sales and marketing dynamically engage with each other to determine the status of the lead and whether it requires immediate follow up or further lead nurturing. In today's Sales 2.0 world, the sales process looks less like a linear progression and more like a basketball game where the ball is moved down the court by marketing and passed off to sales for the score. Sometimes multiple handoffs are required as the team adapts to blocked shots or sets up new plays.

Both sales and marketing are also starting to use social-networking services like LinkedIn to research prospects, and Twitter to quickly and easily broadcast their latest success or upcoming events. These "anytime, anywhere" online interactions speed up the sales cycle. The interactions move beyond the "pitch" and toward "advice" and it's taking the sales process beyond the board room or even a 9-to-5 cubicle shift. Your customers and prospects are visiting your Web site and interacting with their peers online outside of business hours. You need to know about it. You need to know what they were looking at and what they are chatting and tweeting about. Sales 2.0 helps you create closer connections with your prospects and keep them highly engaged with you.

All this means that the traditional sales and marketing methodologies, where customers are informed of certain value propositions over a regimented series of steps, have been thrown out the window. Customers are dynamically engaging with companies, ad-hoc and on the fly. Sales 2.0 is about adapting to customer's buying behaviors and helping them when they need it. Selling today isn't about selling as much as it's about helping customers buy.

Ultimately, Sales 2.0 is about aligning your entire enterprise to target and serve your buyers more effectively, which brings in more business at a lower cost.

To learn more about Sales 2.0 and what it can do for you, request a free copy of the new edition of Sales 2.0 For Dummies at Genius.com.


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