Ever since I first started my career, and I started out in sales, I was led to believe that the best sales executives were extroverts, loved to network extensively, and had a firm handshake.
While you can still be an extrovert and definitely need to network extensively, the firm handshake that made a sales representative so successful in the field is now out of the equation.
Many of our typical engagement points – office meetings, exhibition venues, and casual breakfast talks now stand closed. When your sales leader says, “We need to get a foot in the door,” they don’t mean it literally anymore.
I anticipate that the more cautious and conscious the world will be from here on, perhaps until ever after, the nature of selling will undergo significant transformation. Before, sales executives preferred and enjoyed in-person meetings and relied on live interactions happening in physical spaces. They will now have to bring the same enthusiasm into the digital space.
In effect, they will become the new content marketers.
Live still wins, but delivery techniques change
Instead of choosing a meeting room at the office for the next client-vendor meet, online meeting links will become the stuff of official invites. Old-school, tried, and tested tricks of selling will have to give way to digital interactions in real-time. Offline sales move to online sales, from outside sales focus shifts to inside sales, and the alignment between sales and marketing becomes even more critical because while the KPIs of sales don’t change, how they will end up achieving them, will.
Social media channels will become primary places for prospecting, and the first hellos
Partly driven by content marketing strategies and partly by maintaining their own social media calendars, sales will actively make their own interactions on LinkedIn, or Twitter, or Instagram (or any number of other channels) more meaningful. While social media has always played a key role in helping sales understand the market’s pulse, keep an eye out for competitor activities and find prospects to engage with, now these platforms will become more than places of study – they will become places of conversation.
Standard sales collateral will not be enough; digital assets will have to wow
Previously, the content that sales relied on to conduct their operations were mostly printed or material that could be carried around in pockets. So printed product brochures or presentation decks or battle cards were picked up and used repeatedly. These will now give way to more digital assets like explainer videos, webinars, and website landing pages. Creative organizations will go even further – they will create online repositories and micro-sites with educational resources to share with their most premium customers and prime prospects. Such a one-link destination will solve multiple purposes – it will strengthen ABM initiatives, make engagements with prospects more meaningful and traceable, and give marketers the much-needed visibility into ROI since analytics will now be able to prove which content assets really perform.
Sales and content marketing will not be mutually exclusive anymore
In a world where all businesses face the kind of unknowns that nobody knows, the nature of sales will have to undergo a metamorphosis. The once travel-intensive, back-to-back meetings all over the city will give way to same-desk, same-screen, changing online meeting rooms scenario. With more physical passivity will come heightened digital activity. Sales now don’t won’t just be the face of an organization; they will become its digital representatives as well. What was once the ambit of marketing – managing what happens where on which channel, will now actively have to be taken up by sales as well.
All this will call for increasing sales accountability in matters of content creation and distribution, which means more active collaboration with marketing and more training for sales in content strategy. The outperforming sales executives will clearly be those who take the best of content marketing lessons and their own on-field experience to recreate what they have always done brilliantly face-to-face and do it from behind their screens.