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Reincarnation of a Salesman
Posted on May 1st 2014
With the advent of content marketing, many a thought leader has predicted the demise of the traditional salesman. Life has yet to imitate art, and as of now, we’re not close to nearing Death of a Salesman. If anything, salesmen are much closer to being reincarnated – in the form of a half marketer, half salesman – than dying out completely. As buyers become increasingly empowered, and avoid contacting a salesperson until about 57% of their purchasing process is complete, salespeople must learn to evolve – and fast.
The rise of the self-educating consumer doesn’t signal the end of sales as we know it. Rather, the buyer’s revolution has brought with it the need for a new breed of salespeople who are much more marketing and research oriented than ever before.
In the past, salespeople represented the sole channel through which a prospect could learn about a product or service. They controlled the type and quantity of information that was transferred, based on which people would make their final purchasing decision. Salespeople were the main source of customer engagement, relationship nurturing, and of course closing the deal. Basically, the way it worked back then was if there was no salesperson, there was no sale. The digital world has created a whole new landscape in which buyers research products, entirely on their own, via social networks, websites, online forums, blogs, and other channels. Salespeople no longer hold all of the power, and most of it is now lies in the hands of the buyer.
Beyond the growing presence of the self-educated buyers, salespeople also face another problem – the declining use of promotional language and collateral to drive sales. Given the multiple channels through which we can access “neutral” information, people are no longer willing to put up with traditional sales content, and increasingly connect with brands that offer helpful recommendations and valuable best practices, rather than directly sell to them.
This is where lead nurturing steps in; marketers are now charged with generating a flow of engaging content, in the form of e-mail campaigns, blog posts, case studies, and webinars. This tactic now dominates most funnel stages, many of which were once attributed to sales.
The balance between sales and marketing is shifting, as marketing gradually gains more influence in the buyer’s purchasing decision. In fact, marketing seems to be taking over many responsibilities originally assigned to sales, such as customer engagement and relationship building. The notion of “hard selling” is dying, and as a result, salespeople must adapt to a world where content marketing and social media are taking its place. Does this mean that salespeople will soon be extinct?
Despite the growing overlap between the two, marketing and sales still maintain two distinct goals. Marketing is generally focused on generating content, launching social media campaigns, crafting advertising messages, and engaging with prospects across each channel. The main aim of marketers is still generating leads – rather than directly converting them into sales.
Content marketing can nurture and educate, but more often than not, it can’t “close” a deal in the same way that a salesperson can. Leads can discover a product on their own, and even move through the funnel by means of content marketing, but in many cases, they still need that extra push to actually make the purchase. A personal phone call, email follow-up, live demo, or specialized promotion can make all the difference between a prospect and a sale.
Modern technology enables salespeople to learn about clients in advance, understand their needs before ever speaking to them, and contact them at the most relevant times. For example, a prospect may initially sign up for a product trial as a result of a great blog post written by a marketer, but a salesperson should be the one getting on the phone with them at the end of the trial. The marketer may get the buyer into the top of the funnel, but it’s the salesperson’s responsibility to start the conversation that motivates them to take the next steps, and become an actual paying customer.