“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” Albert Einstein
Transformation has earned buzzword status in modern B2B marketing and sales vernacular. B2B organizations are undergoing digital transformation, sales transformation, business transformation, and perhaps a few others too. But what’s behind the buzz?
“Buyers have always driven the need for B2B marketing and sales transformation, and they continue to do so”, according to Kathleen Glass, CEO of Oinkodomeo, a virtual B2B sales and marketing consultancy. As we all know, buyers are completing more of their journey before they have direct contact with sellers, and they are far better informed when they do. To compete, B2B marketing and sales organizations must transform with their buyers and so do the skills needed by salespeople.
Describing Glass as someone comfortable with change would be an understatement and she has sought to evolve throughout her life. With roots in the San Francisco Bay area, she has been a lifelong early adopter of technology and shares stories of working with prototypes of Salesforce and Eloqua. But she is quick to say that transformation is motivated by changes in human behavior and begins with processes, technology should be added later to support the process.
Having guided countless B2B marketing and sales organizations through transformations to keep pace with changing buyer behavior, Glass has become an expert in the art of change. And she adds, “there is far more to transformation than simply adding something new to your technology stack. “
I recently spoke with Glass about the changing nature of B2B sales and asked what she thought were the most important traits for today’s successful B2B salespeople. Without hesitation she listed them: “empathy, listening, effective writing skills, and spatial reasoning.”
Glass recalls building a sales team by hiring for the four traits in the early days of LinkedIn. She hired, trained, and developed several inside sales representatives (ISRs) working with a single person to finalize sales, the closer. None of the ISRs had a significant amount of sales experience. She also created a process, enabled by digital tools and social media, to engage and nurture relationships with a well-defined group of prospects. The first tradeshow they attended was phenomenally successful and their booth was continuously crowded with prospects all wanting to meet the ISRs they had come to know and trust virtually. That’s when Glass knew she was onto to something meaningful.
Let’s explore the four traits: empathy, listening, effective writing, and spatial reasoning.
For sellers, it is important that communication with buyers is done with a great sense of empathy: the ability to understand and share their feelings, motivations, concerns, and values. Whether we want to accept it or not, our society is under a lot of stress due to the COVID pandemic coupled with an already hyperactive information environment. Glass points out that buyers may be undergoing their own transformation, perhaps working remotely for the first time while their children attend school from home, more closely monitoring the health of elderly relatives, and their own health too. That’s a lot of change! Communicating with empathy is the gateway to building meaningful trust with prospects.
Closely linked to empathy is listening. It is difficult to understand others without listening to them. Listening is a skill, meaning it combines knowledge and practical application. Practicing active listening is a way to become better at it and asking questions creates opportunities to listen. Glass urges sellers to stop reading directly from scripts. Scripts tend to be filled with leading questions, but they should only be used as guides. Rather, salespeople ought to ask probing questions to better understand. I recall seeing an interview with Larry King, known for his comfortable questioning style. When asked if he could recall the best question he ever asked, he said “why” because it is the one question that most leads to real understanding.
According to Gartner research, “by 2025, 80% of B2B sales interaction between buyers and sellers will occur in digital channels.” Sellers must be able to nurture leads without speaking to them, sometimes without even knowing who they are besides a target audience persona. Being an effective writer is essential for today’s B2B sales professional and there is more to it than stringing some grammatically correct sentences together. Effective writing must be clear, concise, informative, persuasive, and compelling for your prospect. Good salespeople must know when to apply each writing form and skill to achieve an intended effect in the prospect’s mind.
Glass strongly believes that salespeople must be able to apply spatial reasoning, and not thoughtlessly follow a sequence of messaging from a marketing and sales playbook. She invites us to consider that today’s B2B buyer is a team of buyers that could number in the teens and they’re all at different stages of the buyer’s journey. Marketing technology can help us keep track of our prospects, where they are in their buyer’s journey, and remind us when to contact them. But according to Glass, “it is spatial reasoning that enables us to keep this complex, multi-dimensional environment straight in our minds and moving forward, so we can ultimately compress the sales cycles.”
How does this impact sales? Sales teams that possess these traits and employ the associated skills will discover that closing the sale often becomes a natural final step initiated by the buyer. According to Glass, “prospects end up closing themselves!”
Kathleen Glass is founder and CEO of Oinkodomeo, a B2B sales and marketing consultancy. Kathleen has over two decades of B2B sales and marketing experience in SaaS and managed services industries for emerging technologies including IoT, CyberSecurity, Privacy, and Analytics. As a passionate advocate of sales and marketing alignment through process and technology, Kathleen is an early adopter of Salesforce.com CRM, Marketing Automation (Eloqua / HubSpot / Marketo), Sales Enablement and LinkedIn Social Selling.
Kathleen is an active mentor and volunteer for a number of industry organizations including serving on the CompTIA IoT Advisory Council. In addition, Kathleen is a supporter of the San Diego technology startup scene, volunteering as a CONNECT w/ San Diego Venture Group Springboard Marketing Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) and sales and marketing mentor for the CyberTECH NEST accelerator program. She is a past San Diego Chapter Officer for the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) KnowledgeNet, and she is actively involved in the Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) as a San Diego Chapter leader as well as sitting on the AA-ISP National Advisory Board.