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Slow Selling v. Shiny Object Syndrome

by Matt Bertuzzi on Thu, Aug 13, 2009

(I have been sitting on this post for a few weeks trying to figure out if it is just a rant. Well I just read the umpteenth "XYZ notion is dead" post and it set me off. So here you go...)

A couple weeks ago I was in the car and caught part of an NPR interview with Irish writer Nick Laird.

The following is a snippet that caught my attention because it was so illustrative of our society:

"... in the age of Twitter and Facebook, and all the rest of it, language is just witty and snappy, and quick, and meant to amuse rather than be profound in any way, and certainly the brevity of it sort of precludes that..."

He went on to give examples (I've added a few) that illustrate the modern clash between fast & slow:

FAST SLOW
Fast Food The Slow Food Movement
Tweets/Status Updates Sharing stories and anecdotes
Email Voicemail
Movie Adaptations Novels

He really got me thinking. While not a perfect analogy, I feel we are witnessing a battle between the fast & slow camps in the world of B2B selling.

On the fast side, we are focused on those portions of the sales process than can be quantified by hard metrics. Today we are increasingly concerned with:

  • more intelligence about Buyers
  • more scoring of prospect interest
  • more metrics on campaigns, conversion, Rep activity, ROI, etc.

There are countless points of measurement in every step in the marketing/sales process.

On the slow side, many soft benefits have fallen by the wayside. We are devoting far less time to:

  • formalized (as opposed to tribal) knowledge
  • sales interactions based on information & engagement as opposed to data & activity
  • having conversations as opposed to emailing/texting
  • face to face meetings that still make sense in many situations
  • customer service that is actually a service and delivers value

Can we calculate a hard ROI in:

  • demonstrating why our solutions are the low risk option
  • voicemail that probes into the issues surrounding a white paper download v. just noting the download itself
  • ferociously pursuing customer service to support our reputations
  • conversations that move the sales process forward v. emails that "touch base/check in/see what's new"

If we cannot, does that mean they are unimportant?

On a related note, I ran into Scott Santucci's article A Story of Empathy - The Lost Art of Selling? . In it Scott discusses a Forrester study that presented 150+ Executives with the following question:

"When you meet with a vendor sales person, in general how often are they prepared for the meeting in the following ways:" (% are for respondents who answered 'usually')

Knowledgeable about their company and products - 88%

Knowledgeable about my industry - 55%

Can relate to my role and responsibility in the organization - 34%

Knowledgeable about my specific business - 29%

Scott highlights what separates the knowledgeable 29% from the other 71%:

"This ability - to connect the dots - between an organizational issue, the points of view of all the impacted stakeholders, and the capabilities you bring to the table is what your top sales people are doing."

Call it what you will, but my point is this: connecting the dots is slow selling.

Slow selling cannot be automated, scored, ROI modeled or put neatly into a vertical stack chart.

Please note, I am not arguing against metrics and ROI. They are crucial. But I am arguing against any religiosity that argues "everything you know about sales is wrong" or that "Sales and Marketing is 100% science (or alternatively 100% art)".

Much energy and effort is being spent today proclaiming

  • The elevator pitch is dead! Long live the mini-pitch/buyer-pitch/twitter-pitch.
  • Cold calling is dead! Long live inbound marketing/warm-calling.
  • Social Networking is where business happens. Sales and marketing guys are obsolete.

Here's my take: just because you're a bad driver, doesn't mean your car is broken.

Elevator pitches don't need a character limit, sales people need to improve their game, communicate more effectively and think in terms of their buyers and not themselves. Times are tough, but chasing shiny objects is a distraction.

People, tools & process: improve and overcome! Probably as true in 2009 as it was in 1909.

Thanks for listening. I am really eager to hear what you think. Please share!

(Photo credit: selva & miss bliss 55)

Topics: sales process, elevator pitch

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