I started selling Yellow Page advertising in 2006. Ahh, I’ll never forget the days of being in the sales bullpen and having 3 tiers of sales management yelling at me Glen Gary Glen Ross style to “pick up the phone and start dialing for dollars!” Looking back at the sheer number of calls I would make was mind blowing and a complete waste of time. I was making anywhere from 80 to 150 attempts per day at catching someone at the right time, not sounding too desperate and trying to weasel a face to face meeting out of them. Those days we were just throwing a bunch of crap against the wall in hopes that something would stick. I shortly realized that this way of selling wasn't going to cut it and that there HAD to be another way.
2007: Enter the early concepts of Social Selling and Inbound Marketing.
I started a blog to help educate my prospects and potential people searching online for effective, local advertising solutions for their business. I also connected with some of my prospects via the early days of Facebook and Myspace. There were three main things that I learned at this point.
1: People don’t want to be sold to.
2: You have to create and/or share valuable content in order to win someone’s trust online.
3: You can use technology to build personal relationships exponentially.
There was one week I had 15 QUALITY leads actually contact me from my blog after making ZERO outbound phone calls. I knew I was onto something.
Around this time is when I started imagining what sales rep would be like in 2015. Would there even be sales people then? What would they be responsible for?
I now call this person the “Sales Rep of the Future”.
In my opinion, two major things are happening right now that will create this Sales Rep of 2015.
Everything we do online and somewhat offline is being tracked and entered into companies CRMs for sales reps and marketing teams to manipulate. 2012 seemed to be the year that everyone was rushing to play around with the “Big Data” buzzword. Well, I’m confident that we’ll continue to see huge shift in how sales teams function due to the sheer amount of data they are starting to collect on their prospects.
As a sales person, it’s a must to do your due diligence before picking up the phone or connecting to someone online. A lot of it’s still manual but companies like Insideview and Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud are making it easier to know what the prospect CEO likes to eat for lunch, what kinds of Tweets he engages with more and how many times he’s visited your website. Using tools like LinkedIn and Facebook also make finding common interests, connections and business relationships easy before reaching out.
In the years to come, we’ll see more live, real-time humanistic data taking the place of stagnant CRM data. What we know is that companies are starting to build rather large repositories or large online profiles of you, your habits, and your social network etc (Something Google has been doing for years). They’re asking, “What can we do with all this data?”. Between now and 2015, we’ll see a whole industry of companies pop up that will help you turn that data into assumptions, trends and alerts for both sales and marketing to play with. It will be easier and cheaper to do so as well. You won't see out-of-date data in 2015 because everything will be real time and continuously updated. Instead of email addresses being the key identifier of a person in your database, you’ll see actions and connections being the differentiation.
What’s next? Contextual marketing will be common place.
2: Automation and Context:
It’s no surprise that most of the emails we receive from brands are automated. More and more I’m seeing emails sent from individuals/ sales reps that are automated as well. Social media messaging, a lot of the time, is also automated.
The focus on automation has triggered marketers to work on the “context” of the messages themselves. Heck, we have all this data….why not use it? Meaning, if I visit a website and I have previously filled out a form, they know my IP address, track what I'm doing and a whole new series of messages related to my previous actions might come my way. On social channels, marketers should be creating messages that have the most relevance to who I am, what I like and who my social graph is. Amazon does an awesome job at this. The marketing software Hubspot also does a great job at contextually marketing their software as well as providing it as a service to their clients.
Where does this fit in with the Sales Rep of the Future?
In 2015, when you connect with a sales rep on LinkedIn (or whatever futuristic connection network in play at the time) he/ she will automatically analyze your connections, actions on social media, track your IP address and potentially any other offline activities you’re involved in. The messaging from this sales rep will be contextual enough to your daily routine, tying in the company’s product or service somehow into your daily life. For example, let’s say you’re driving to work and are using Waze, Foursquare or the future of Facebook Nearby. The non-pushy Human Resource software rep that you connected to the night before at the local networking event will now start “selling” to you. His face pops up on the screen and lets you know that 4 of the friends in your social network just changed jobs and that the sales rep’s HR software was used in the process. Do you think something like that would influence your decision?
So where is the actual human sales rep? At some point, if the automation and data do their jobs, the prospect will reach out to speak with a human being. This is where I see the Sales Rep of the Future flourishing even more-so. He/she will have a flood of leads coming in as the exponential nature of the "new age prospecting" accumulates over time. He/she will have troves of data on this prospect to go by. On the other hand the prospect will feel like he or she knows the sales rep because of the automated relationship building that has taken place. The main point is that the Sales Rep of the Future has conformed to the way the consumer interacts in their daily life, shops and uses technology to make decisions. He doesn't make 100 phone calls anymore. Heck, he doesn't even have a traditional office phone.
How do you see technology affecting sales between now and 2015? Please comment below.