Sales 2.0 Conference: Meaningful Connections Will Drive the Future of Sales

PHILADELPHIA—In the opening keynote of the Sales 2.0 conference here Monday, Gerhard Gschwandtner, founder and CEO of the Selling Power media company, emphasized the importance of overcoming external cultural factors to craft a better sales mindset. One goal, he said, is to start thinking of sales not as B2C or B2B, but as H2H, or human to human. A key to achieving this is the use of social media.

"Salespeople need to do a much better job at telling stories," he said. "Become part of the story in social media. Publish things."

Other speakers gave credence to Gschwandtner's proposition that there is tremendous payoff to be had in offering value to customers on an individual level, whether done digitally or through another channel.

Jennifer Stanley, associate principal at McKinsey & Company, outlined the four "megatrends" shaping and influencing sales today. Among  her observations was the fact that reps need to do a better job at selling on social platforms." Stanley pointed out that only 30 percent of baby boomer salespeople make use of social media, and a mere 50 percent of Gen Xers are using it. Not surprisingly, Millennials have taken to social media at a much higher rate, with 75 percent of that age group making use of social media. Since Millennials will soon comprise the largest portion of customers, Stanley says it is vital to reach them online.

Jeff Perkins, vice president of global online marketing at PGi, a provider of conferencing and collaboration tools, also touched on the idea that the majority of customers are becoming digitally savvy, asserting that it only makes sense that sales should follow their leads. "Salespeople who don't evolve are going to lose their jobs," he said. "The old way of doing things just doesn't work anymore. Cold calls just don't work anymore." Instead, Perkins urged salespeople to understand that many prospects are nearing the end of their decision process before they even engage with a rep, opting instead to turn to Google, the company's Web site, and competitors' Web sites first. If the customer is doing such extensive research, it follows that salespeople should do the same. The ideal salesperson, Perkins said, will know the competitors and maintain a developed point of view regarding the buyer's predicaments in preparation for the advanced conversations he'll likely have to have with customers.

David DiStefano, chief revenue officer at PeopleLinx, a vendor that specializes in the mining of social networks for quality leads, outlined several key elements salespeople should focus on when building their social presence, particularly their LinkedIn accounts. His first tip was to create a strong personal brand. Second was that salespeople should create a solid network of contacts, but also remember to strive for quality over quantity. "It's not a popularity contest," he reminded the audience. He pointed out that a person's network "refers [your] business and [can] speak on your behalf," as in the case of a customer who writes a recommendation on your profile page. DiStefano also stressed the importance of sharing the right information and making sure it reaches the right people, and tracking the activity of prospects every day.

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