If Your Sales Team Isn’t Doing This, You’re at Risk: Lessons from AA-ISP Leadership Summit

The energy was magnetic in Chicago at the AA-ISP Leadership Summit last week. There were so many inspiring presentations validating the importance of inside sales today, a field that was once the little brother to outside sales. It was an eye-opening conference, and we wanted to share the key takeaways.

Inside sales has certainly changed: what was once a simple, transactional sale over the telephone has transformed in the wake of online buying behaviors. As CEB so famously notes, 57% of the buying process including research is complete before a buyer interacts with sales. This is precisely why it is so important for salespeople today to be digitally enabled. Specifically, salespeople today need to profile their expertise in their field, through a digital blend of search, social media, and content.

Our favorite presentations allowed us to sum up 3 key takeaways:

1. Digital sales is the future
2. Sales people should be considered “mini-marketers”
3. If you’re not social selling, you’re endangered

1. Digital is the Future

Judy Bucholz from IBM kicked off the summit with a spectacular presentation on Digital Sales. She demonstrated that in order to keep up with today’s digital buyer, IBM sales teams are using analytics, personalization, and consultative specialization.

Judy gave a few key examples of how her sales force is engaging buyers digitally. First and foremost, IBM is heavily investing in predictive analytics. Arming sales reps with data to prioritize targets, predict the most relevant offer or message to serve prospects, and suggesting the next logical offer to up-sell and cross-sell customers is high on the list for growing sales productivity. We believe strongly in the power of predictive analytics. You can read more the subject here!

IBM also feels strongly about the need for sellers today to be experts in the field of the products they’re selling. Doing so produces a shortened sales cycle, and most importantly, a more pleasant customer experience. IBM representatives are driving value for their customers and showcasing their specialization with digital tools such as social selling, content contribution, analytics, Skype, and chat windows.

Most innovative, and soon to be necessary for all sales representatives, are individual online profiles. These digital business cards mark the shift to the personalization of sales: they offer the chance to chat with an expert while customers browse online, the ability to read content written by the salesperson, and they put a specialized face to name. Sales is no longer a transaction, but an integral part of the considered purchase. My favorite quote of the presentation was, “This isn’t inside sales, it’s just sales. This is how the consumer wants to buy today.”

2. Sales is the New Marketing

ToutApp gave a stellar presentation on how sales is converging with marketing. We agree with their view that sales shouldn’t rely on marketing alone to nurture their prospects. Instead, sales can use content, analytics, and social media to engage with prospects before they are ready to buy. Four steps were suggested to get started with mini-marketing:

1. Teach sales to nurture the top of the funnel and post-funnel at scale
2. Build a smart Business Development Resource team – look out for candidates that are data driven
3. Have your sales people blog and become thought leaders – most B2B buying cycles begin with a Google search – if you’re not visible, you’re missing out!
4. Collaborate with marketing to build campaigns that remove points of friction across each of the sales stages

3. Social Sell or Die

Finally, social selling was the talk of the conference. PeopleLinx gave a great presentation that walked viewers through the evolution of a social sale. The genesis is “liking” a prospect’s post on LinkedIn. Then, the seller sends a thoughtful In-Mail on the subject offering content or advice. Next, the seller connects with the prospect on LinkedIn. From there, the seller follows the prospect on Twitter, proceeding to engage further on the platform. Finally, the seller receives permission to engage through email and is granted the request to meet over the phone.

Moreover, social selling can be measured! Here’s how:
1. Capture social interactions
2. Correlate these social interactions to pipeline
3. Identify which deals closed and what social actions influenced
4. Analyze the difference between deals with social touch and those without

We are excited about the state of sales as well as the opportunity for sales acceleration. Together, sales and marketing can reach buyers and add value to the customer journey.