On May 2, 2018 100 revenue-responsible executives assembled for a fascinating discussion about Scaling Sales, hosted by iInnovate and featuring Steve Goldman and David C. Jones. This was not just another discussion of sales strategies and tactics. Steve and Dave went deep into how the art and science of sales has changed so dramatically over the past 10-15 years.Both Steve and Dave have distinguished records in sales over the past many years and brought real credibility to the discussion. Steve was VP Sales at F5 during their dramatic growth period, and was also CEO at Isilon through their IPO, one of the very largest in the NW. Dave headed the Enterprise Division at Oracle during their high growth period in the late 80’s and 90’s and as Co-Managing Partner, has lead Altus through engagements with over 200 companies.

Dave offered a statistic that got a lot of attention: sales/marketing expenses have increased 28% over the past 8 years just to generate flat revenues (Forrester). If you were wondering why sales seems so hard, that’s the stat that gets to the heart of it. One of the main reasons is that technology access has made it so easy for key decision makers to do their own market research prior to your salesperson even making their first call. As a result, the prospect knows what the competitive offerings are, has been exposed to targeted advertising, knows who does what best, what crowd sourced reviews say, and sometimes even have a good feel for pricing.

In the good old days buyers rarely had any of that. Accordingly, a salesperson’s persuasive skills and raw charisma could win the day and hook a potential buyer. No more. Today, sales professionals need to be part counselor, part psychologist, a great listener and a deft communicator.  Plus they have to be very knowledgeable in product and market so they can truly understand the buyer’s needs, where the buyer is in the decision process, and how (or if) their product offering can align with what the customer wants.

The bad news is if a sales exec is ill-equipped for the job, their efforts will be wasted, the process terribly protracted, or the opportunity flat out missed. The good news is if the sales professional is really listening and if the product alignment can be effectively communicated, the sales cycle may actually be shortened.

But don’t get too excited. Another one of the reasons sales/marketing costs have gone up so much is that a significant part of the battle takes place before the salesperson even walks in the door. The customer is being bombarded with social media, targeted advertising, email and phone spam assaults, and a myriad of other marketing weapons that also contribute to the increasing costs of sales and marketing. But that’s another story for next time.