At Gryphon we have always asserted the importance of the telephone to the sales process. Even in the face of email marketing, social media, and AI, nothing of importance gets sold without the effective use of the telephone. Not yesterday, not today, nor tomorrow.
Our terrific Q & A with David Meerman Scott challenges the importance of the phone for today’s sales organizations. The author goes so far to assert that reliance on the phone and traditional sales metrics are the result of “legacy” sales leaders who learned the trade before the internet.
This type of information exchange is exactly what our Gryphon Knows series is all about: showcasing leading and controversial perspectives on the sales discipline in the 21st century. Whether you agree or disagree with Mr. Scott’s ideas, they are nonetheless fascinating to consider for any thoughtful sales leader committed to building effective teams. Enjoy!
-Gryphon Knows Editors
Q&A with David Meerman Scott
David Meerman Scott is an internationally acclaimed marketing strategist, keynote speaker and best-selling author of The New Rules of Sales and Service. He firmly believes that the rules of sales have changed – arguing that due to the rise and availability of real-time information on the internet, Buyers are now in charge of the buying/selling process, and in response, salespeople must adjust their behaviors and processes to meet this new consumer behavior.
Gryphon: In your book, The New Rules of Sales and Service, the strategies and insights that you offer are rooted in “real time” and “instant” communication tools. Can you elaborate a bit more on the benefits of these tools?
David Meerman Scott: The idea of “Real-Time” is that Buyers today are in charge of the buying process. The Buyer decides when they want to engage with a salesperson. The Buyer decides when they want to do the research for a product and/or service that they want to purchase. It is the Buyer because of the availability of information on the web and on social media. The Buyer is now in charge of the relationship.
What that means is that Sellers must understand that Buyers are in charge and that Buyers have near-perfect information because they can go to blogs, they can go to websites, they can watch YouTube videos, they can look at the content that a customer of your company is already producing. They can go on to LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter and all sorts of other social networks.
What that means is that a smart sales person needs to be aware that the buyer is in control of the situation now. And the approach of the past – which is that the salespeople controlled the situation because they had more information than the buyer – those days are past, so some of the ideas around real-time selling and instant engagement include things like understanding who is on your website and what are they doing, understanding what people are saying about you and your company and your products right now on social networks, and understanding right now what news stories are out there that are interesting to people in the marketplace. All of those things are really important for companies to understand and for individual salespeople to understand as they go about their selling process.
Gryphon: That makes perfect sense. Now, we are talking about the relationship between Buyers and sellers so that leads very well to my second question. We have been talking to other sales authors – and one of the things they have in common is they believe that the phone is still the best tool for connecting with prospects. What are your views on this? If you agree or disagree, can you give me reasons why?
David: I strongly disagree, because the problem with the telephone is that it means that two people have to come together at a particular point and time. I believe that in a real-time world, a buyer decides when they want to engage with their customer. A Buyer decides perhaps it is at 3 o’clock in the morning, that now they are going to go on the web and do research about a company or product that they want to do business with. If they want to engage with that company, they first want to do it perhaps with their smartphone, perhaps with their computer, on their time. Not on the company’s time.
What that means is that if the organization is one in which the salespeople are selling in a traditional way – selling over the phone in a nine-to-five typical business day – they are not going to be engaged in the way people want to engage. However, in some cases in a 24-hour telephone environment, the phone is used by Buyers when they want to engage. In other words, if I want to engage on the phone at 3 o’clock in the morning and somebody’s there, that can be very appropriate. But forcing Buyers into a particular time frame to use the telephone – I believe in a real-time world that is not appropriate.
Gryphon: Ok, that makes sense. What if, for example, the first level of engagement would be an email, and then some sort of social connection, and then they agree to speak on the phone – then, in that case, the phone would still be a pretty crucial tool to make sure those two people are connected. Right?
David: I believe in some cases a telephone can be an appropriate way for a discussion to happen, yes, that is true. But I also think that needs to be done on that Buyer’s time. It needs to be done when that Buyer is ready. It has to be within the sales cycle where a telephone conversation is appropriate. What I do not think works well today is when companies force potential customers into the telephone at an inappropriate time. I think that is happening too often. Too many sales managers and too many sales representatives assume that they have to get some prospect on to the telephone at an inappropriate time and that can be detrimental to the sale.
Gryphon: That makes perfect sense. Thank you. That leads very well to my third question. I believe, and you might agree too, the old way of selling – what people used to call dialing for dollars – and today’s complex sales might be a little more complex than that. So, what we believe here is that to be successful we need to rely on analytics to measure and coach around rep-level activities. Based on your experience meeting with coaches or sales leaders, do you believe that people in a position of leadership have a good understanding of how their sales reps are selling or connecting with prospects?
David: I think that’s the wrong question. I think the right question is, do you understand the Buyers? I think it is a major problem for companies to deal with customers by managing sales reps in an old-fashioned way. By managing how many calls they make and at what time they make those calls. Building their sales process on the needs of the company.
I think what’s more effective and where the analytics can help significantly is if a company first takes the time to understand the customer’s journey and the customer’s buying process. What the customer needs as they go through each step of the process of potentially being a customer of a company. What happens is that most analytics and most customer relationship management systems and most sales automation systems have been built with the old selling model – of the salespeople are in charge – and that makes the ways that those analytics are run not as effective as they would be if instead the analytics were built around how a customer makes a buying decision.
One of the biggest problems with that is that most Sales Managers and Sales Vice Presidents, the people at the top of Sales Organizations, learned their craft before the web, before the availability of social media, and before the period of real-time engagement when the buyer is in charge – and they tend to focus on building the analytics infrastructure around the ways that they learned to sell – and I think that is a big problem. So, to answer your question, yes analytics are important, but analytics from the perspective of sales can be misleading, whereas analytics from the perspective of Buyers can be very helpful for an organization.
Gryphon: Absolutely, but let’s say in an ideal scenario. We do have analytics from the perspective of the Buyers, and if you understand the Buyer’s journey but you don’t understand your reps’ behavior, wouldn’t that go to waste?
David: Yes, as long as you are measuring how the salespeople are effectively engaging with a Buyer’s journey. That can be important.
Gryphon: There is research that shows that the average tenure of a VP of sales has shrunk to only 19 months, from 26 months. There are several contributing factors to the decrease in tenure, one of them is that their reps not meeting quota and that is the most important one. In your opinion, why are sales leaders failing? What advice would you give them to turn this situation around and be more effective sales leaders?
David: We’re going through the biggest communications revolution in human history right now. Nearly every single person on the planet has a smartphone in their pocket. Every single person that we are selling to today is instantly engaged 24/7, with a device in their pocket, to the companies they want to do business with. The problem is that sales VPs, sales managers, typically learned how to sell before the revolution. They learned how to sell before the availability of smartphones in everybody’s pocket, and they learned in such a way that the salespeople were in charge of a buying relationship and the salesperson could dictate the terms by which products are bought and sold. That world has changed. That world is never coming back.
Any Sales VPs who are still managing their salespeople using the skills they learned as a salesperson and using the management techniques that they were taught when they were a salesperson is going to fail – which is exactly why the tenure is reducing. What it means is that Sales Managers and Sales Vice Presidents must understand that the Buyers are now in charge of the Buying relationships because they have instant 24/7, real-time access to the companies they want to do business with, with a device sitting in their pocket, and they need to change the way they sell if they are going to be appropriate.
Gryphon: Are you working on a new project or a book? What do you have coming on the horizon in 2018?
David: I’m excited that I’ve released a new offering, it is called New Marketing Mastery and I built it in partnership with Tony Robbins. It is on www.newmarketingmastery.com. It helps people to align their marketing with the ways that people buy. Marketing and Sales today are unbelievably integrated, so to be effective at selling you also have to be effective with Marketing.