We as human beings are famous for being slow to embrace change or see the future. Unfortunately it has affected the world of sales and marketing dramatically. Let's look at a past example.
The invention of the internal combustion engine is one such example that most people took some time to embrace:
- Henry Ford, inventor of the first mass-produced car - the Model T - famously said "If I asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said "a faster horse."" The invention of the internal combustion engine is something no one had experienced before, so everyone's thoughts turned to horses - the transportation they knew.
Selling door to door preceded the invention of the telephone. When Alexander Graham Bell invented the phone, it gradually grew into the contact tool of choice.
Almost since phone became digital, allowing clear one to one communications, companies have relied on salespeople to engage prospective buyers. Salespeople called prospects that had little to no information on possible solutions to business issues, so they were happy to set meetings with your salespeople - because that's where they got information. Meetings were easy to get when we had slow internet connections. Prospects lacked information.
Then came a period of dial up phone lines and screeching modems. Only a few site commanded many users, such as AOL, Prodigy and Compuserve. In fact, sites such as AOL grew so big that they were acquired by Time Warner in 2000. Since connections where slow, specific information was so hard to get, and the balance of power still lay with sellers and salespeople.
High speed connections and industry maturity change everything.
Recent years have seen dramatic change - with fast cable modems and fiber connections in people's homes and businesses which are connected 100% of the time. In addition, web sites have matured and become more robust. As a result, prospects can get high quality information online and we've watched a balance of power shift from sellers to buyers.
With buyers in control, they take their time to do their own research, removing that role from sales. The marketing research firm SiriusDecisions agrees and shares an interesting fact:
"SiriusDecisions estimates that the buyer's journey is 70% complete by the time a sales person is contacted."
This is causing companies who sell to businesses to adapt. They are focusing on educating prospective buyers through blogging, content marketing, lead nurturing and other approaches. These all fall into Marketing, and not Sales. As a result, smart companies are investing heavily in marketing.
Instead of cold calls, firms need to find ways to meet prospective buyers in person. So organizing events and attending industry conferences become much more important, also fitting in Marketing. An important aspect often ignored in the opportunity to deliver keynote speeches - because the person at the front of the room gets the most respect. If a company's marketing leader is an established keynote speaker, a company may have a big advantage.
A good example of a company who has embraced the new importance of marketing is the fast-growing and now public marketing automation company Marketo. Marketo believed marketing is much more important than sales. In fact, at Marketo, to hire a salesperson requires the approval of marketing. Unless marketing says "yes" sales is not hired.
It's clear that CEO's who complain about their salespeople's inability to get meetings are saying the same thing that people said over 100 years ago. "I need better salespeople." is like "I need a faster horse." Smarter CEO's will invest in marketing like Marketo did and demonstrate a long term commitment and patience to adapt to this new world will prosper.