questionandanswerA few days ago I asked a question about whether or not this quote is applicable to today’s B2B sales and marketing environment:

…is about selling to buyers who now enjoy plurality of choice, who have expertise, who compare, who are trained negotiators, who demand satisfaction, and who litigate their disappointments.

At that time, I didn’t reveal the source and context of the quote – I’ll do both later in this post.

The reason I shared the quote is because it struck me as something often heard today, attributed to social media — marketing and sales have fundamentally changed because today’s buyer is more savvy and less tolerant of lead generation tactics of old, such as direct mail, cold calling, etc.

Conventional wisdom says today’s prospective customer is:

  • educated on options
  • aware of alternatives
  • vendor aware
  • controlling of the conversation
  • overall fed-up with “old school” account penetration and sales tactics

Are the above traits new? No.

To be sure — and honest — there are some changes today as compared to yesterday.  Social media has shortened many sales cycles and increased awareness in the marketplace — both are great things for business.  But fundamentally changed sales and marketing, making yesterday’s tactics irrelevant?  No.

The quote above is in reference to the changing and increasingly savvy buyer of the mid-1990s.  The quote comes from the introduction of  Solution Selling, authored by Michael Bosworth. If you’re not familiar with Solution Selling, it is a process and technique of selling products or services that are hard to describe, intangible, have long sales cycles, or are expensive. Complex sales.

Solution Selling was published in September 1994.

BTW…Solution Selling is one of two books that greatly influence my thinking and approach to marketing, sales, and customer communication — the other is Jump Start Your Business Brain by Doug Hall. I highly recommend both books for every personal sales and marketing library — read and reference both books routinely.

The thought I want to share with this quote is this:  there is a never ending supply of claims how things have changed and proven approaches to sales, marketing, and business no longer apply. But things haven’t changed as much as some would have you believe.

The tools of sales and marketing have certainly changed, but not the need to establish value, differentiation, trust, and desire.

If you sell in a complex sales environment, your customer hasn’t meaningfully changed today as compared to 1994 or earlier. The process of decisions made by teams with multiple influences, competing priorities, and political risk haven’t fundamentally changed.

Tools of old and tools of new are just that — tools. If you’re looking to build awareness, nurture markets, and establish thought leadership, social media is a wonderful thing. And if you’re working against a quota and targeting accounts in a complex sales environment, sales letters, phone calls, and human networking are wonderful things.

If confronted by it, weigh the opinion carefully that today is so fundamentally different from yesterday that what’s proven to work in sales and marketing in the past now suddenly no longer applies. That would be foolish and revenue limiting. Instead, use all tools of sales and marketing wisely to create and seize opportunity.

The story of social media isn’t that it’s here now and all before it no longer applies. The story of social media is it’s here and a viable tool all marketers should investigate and fully use to its greatest benefit.

New doesn’t mean only. And old doesn’t mean no longer.

What say you?

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