What Does Sales 2.0 Actually Mean?

Updated: April 30, 2009

Salespeople eye Sales 2.0 with a good amount of suspicion. After all, they've heard the spiel about improving sales, upping commissions and making their jobs easier through technology numerous times before. To many of them, Sales 2.0 appears to be just another link in the leash for management to yank them around . Old sales and marketing hands in particular expect little from Sales 2.0 technologies. "It's the one just after Sales 1.0 and just before Sales 2.1," quipped Peter Palmer, an independent marketing and advertising professional and winner of New York Film Festival World Award Gold and Bronze Awards, the coveted Clio, the Australian AWARD and other industry harbingers of excellence.

Although the cynicism is certainly understandable, it's a bit myopic this time. Sales 2.0, when done right, is a true sales — rather than an upper management — tool. But it's difficult to see its differences through the cloud of buzz. "I am not sure that it is clearly defined yet. People are still figuring it out," said Paul Patterson, owner of ManufacturingCenter.org , a social network for manufacturing professionals, and former vice president of global sales for Arena Solutions Inc ., a SaaS (software as a service) PLM (Product Life-Cycle Management) company.

Be that as it may, the essential difference is that Sales 2.0 is focused on customer engagement rather than customer-data harvesting. While a good contact manager can keep customer info handy, as well as track sales and conversations, he or she is still basically creating a digital version of a scribbled napkin note or a hastily prepared sales report. Nothing engages the customer; it's all just notes on who the customer is and where to find him or her. Similarly, basic SFA (Sales Force Automation ) and CRM mostly track transactional data on past customer activity and enable order-taking and complaint resolution. Even though the customer is engaged to some extent, there is oftentimes no real emotional attachment to the company or its products. The engagement then is merely surface-level or packed with anger surrounding a complaint — neither of which is conducive to building brand loyalty , referrals and repeat buys. In comparison, Sales 2.0 engages the customer, fosters brand loyalty and cues sales reps in real time to pivotal buying signals and drivers.

"It's more important to know the attitudinal information, the ‘why' behind the sale, than it is to know the transactional history — the what, when, where, how part," said Chris Cottle, vice president of corporate marketing at Allegiance Inc . Transactional history can actually give a flawed impression of a customer who may have been buying gifts rather than making purchases for him or herself. That can lead you to pitching the customer things he or she really doesn't have an interest in. Hence, knowing the "why" behind a purchase better tunes the sales effort.

Sales 2.0 is an effort to see this deeper dimension of the customer more clearly and then tip off salespeople so they can react more quickly with better-refined offers. Take the MarketingGenius/SalesGenius combo , for example. The software works on Web sites like TiVo works on television: sales and marketing people can replay a customer's every movement on the company Web site at their leisure. Sales reps are also IMed (instant messaged) at crucial moments in real time to clue them into certain buying signals a customer is making during his or her Web-site visit so that the rep can jump right in and close the deal on the spot.

"We have a fanatical devotion to sales reps and we have designed our products to appeal to salespeople by actually helping them close the deal, as opposed to just reporting their movements to management," said Genius.com Inc . CEO and co-founder David Thompson. "By making sure the sales rep gets the message while the prospect is hot, he can close the deal easier and faster and move on to the next sale," he said.

Bottom line, it's the customer-engagement element and the timing factor that makes Sales 2.0 a unique and useful tool for salespeople. "Sales 2.0 is about speed — about taking advantage of new technologies and new ideas about selling to increase your sales velocity and volume," said Sachin Wadekar, senior business development executive, international market at Decos Software Development .

But like its technological counterparts, Sales 2.0 is still just a tool and completely incapable of replacing the human element in sales . "It is sales technology but at the end of the day, it is still about relationships. You can't take the human aspect out of that," concluded Kimberley Hill, account executive at WayPoint Technologies.

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