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Sales Management 2.0 Conference Review

Another successful Sales 2.0 conference down. I’m returning from an enlightening day in Philadelphia where I attended the Sales Management 2.0 conference sponsored by, among others, Selling Power magazine. [Editorial Admission, The Brooks Group is an advertiser with Selling Power and has, in the past, been a sponsor of some of these events]. It’s always great to see old friends and meet new ones, of course. But the speakers were particularly enlightening this go-around.

It's ALL About The Customers

Sometimes, when you tack “2.0” on the end of something, it comes at the expense of customer relationships. I’ve written before (and once before that, too) about the technophiles who prefer technology to human interactions. Thankfully, they weren't at this conference. Instead, the discussion was all about customers. Many speakers, including Kirk Mosher, VP of CRM at Oracle, talked about the growing importance of the customer experience. As an aside, Mosher's ideas reminded me of one of my favorite authors and speakers, Scott McKain. In any event, on this point, I was surprise by one statistic shared by opening keynoter, Gerhard Gschwandtner. He told the audience of about 200 that, “Only 13% of customers believe a typical salesperson can demonstrate an understanding of their business issues and solve them.” I’m confident that participants of our customized sales training programs would shock the other 87% because they know how to do that!

It's Different Now

The theme that “Times: They are a’changin’” is like a broken record at these conferences. But I'm glad it swung in favor of themes we've been talking about for 35 years. Things like: Customer Focus, Pre-Call Planning, Qualifying Leads . . . You can’t ignore the changes, though. It's too short-sighted. Too dangerous. As Gschwandtner put it, “Sometimes you have to take the bull by the tail and face the situation!” And rightly so. After all, customers know far more than they did in the past when they approach salespeople. According to one study, about 57% of the buying process is completed by the time a salesperson comes into the picture. Founder & President of ISM, Barton Goldberg, talked about the three phases of competitive advantage. He described the predominance of Manufacturing Prowess when the company with the best manufacturing systems won. It lasted, he said, until the 60s. Then, he said the tide turned in favor of the companies with superior Distribution Power until the 90s. Then the winners were the companies with Information Mastery. Today, though, it’s all about delivering a powerful customer experience. A customer's experience begins (or ends) on a positive note with their sales interactions. The more time, energy, and effort that salespeople spend pre-call planning, the better the customer's experience. However, according to Michael Gerard, the VP of IDC’s Sales Advisory Practice, reps spend between 15 and 25% of their time doing pre-call planning work. Trouble with that is that their only scoring a 4.6 out of 10 in terms of effectiveness! How can reps deliver their component of a positive customer experience if they don’t know the people they’re talking to? And, when they are having face-to-face conversations with salespeople, it's expensive. According to Todd McCormick, VP of SMB Sales for PGI (iMeet.com), the average cost of an outside B2B Sales Call is $215-$400 per call. An inside call, on the other hand, averages $25-$75. In short, as I've said before and will say again: Technology should enable customer interactions, not distract from them. I was pleased with my investment of a day at the conference and very much encourage you to consider attending another one in the future! - @JebBrooks