An article I wrote recently about how the B2B sales process is changing focused on some research from the Harvard Business Review. The academics estimated that about 90% of the time a B2B sales professional books a meeting with a prospect, that prospect will check out the sales person online – usually by Googling their name or searching LinkedIn.
As I mentioned, this shows that the online profile of a sales professional is now extremely important. If your idea of sales is still about long lunches and evenings in the pub then the future is about to catch up with you. Being socially invisible now means that you are not doing your job.
In my job I’m quite lucky, as my team is supportive of these ideas. I write my thoughts on the industry and on the trends that I think are important for my company and clients and I don’t have a specific script or ‘company line’ I need to follow. Obviously I avoid talking too often about clients of my own company, but that’s only natural and doesn’t affect what I want to say about customer experience in general.
However, I was talking to a friend in a different organisation recently and although they support the need for B2B sales professionals to be seen with a good online profile, what the professionals can say is severely restricted. In fact, there are rules about not mentioning almost any brands, not mentioning industry analysts, and always ensuring that the company products get mentioned in an article. I was struggling to figure out what he is allowed to say, except ‘buy our stuff’.
Think for a moment about what I mentioned at the start of this article, and the Harvard research I wrote about before. People buy from people. When someone Googles your name before a meeting to see what you have published online there is an enormous difference in someone who can be seen as a true industry commentator and someone who has a bunch of PR material published in their name. The difference is obvious.
Which person would you trust more? To my mind the real difference between publishing sales material that is just product information and publishing my thoughts is whether anyone would share it on their LinkedIn network. When I see that a hundred people read an article I wrote and almost a third felt it was interesting enough to share with their network then I know I’m doing something right.
How many people would share marketing materials from the profile of a sales guy who is merely trying to close another deal, rather than build a relationship?
The Harvard research into how B2B sales is changing really hit the nail on the head, but it’s not good enough to just publish anything, or to let your marketing team publish sales materials in your name. The changing nature of B2B sales today emphasises the result of the search – what does a potential customer find when they search for you online?
What do you think about how the B2B relationship is changing? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.
Photo by Gordon Joly licensed under Creative Commons.