While people may debate the exact quote or misquote from Darwin, the core concept stands, survival is more likely a question of a species’ ability to adapt than anything else. For the sake of this piece we’ll look at B2B sales people as a species consisting of various subspecies. Different periods, circumstances, and trends may favour one subset over the other, but time will always bring the pendulum (and prize) back to those willing to adapt by building on their experience and skills. In sales that subspecies has always been the Hunter.
Some people don’t like that phrase, let’s be clear, we are talking about hunting revenue, not clients; competing with other sellers, not against the client. I believe many feel uncomfortable with the phrase has more do with how they view their approach and roll in commerce. As many have pointed out before, if three sales people are proposing on an opportunity, one will win, the other two will have hungry babies, I love my babies, I like to feed them, I guess some don’t.
I think it also speaks to their comfort, and, if and how far they are willing to step outside that zone to grow, thrive, evolve their success and that of their clients’.
Based on a recent presentation by a principal analyst from Forrester, the B2B subspecies of sales population count is currently about 4.5 million. But the tribe is about to be culled, in a serious way, the prediction is that about a quarter of those B2B sellers will vanish over the next five years. This is primarily due to the fact that many of the efficiencies achieved in B2C, the Amazonization of buying, will be making their way to B2B. No surprise, no shock, order takers have always been part of the scene, and as machines become more efficient at not only taking orders, but increasing individual orders by leveraging the same technologies and thought processes as we now take for granted on Amazon or eBay.
Add to that technology’s role in helping attract “self declared” buyers, the need for this skill-less chore to be performed by humans will disappear, freeing up margins for other revenue and margin generating assets, specifically hunters. I recently saw an interview with an executive from a “lead gen” firm, and he described their success in “generating inbound hand raisers”. Well if they are raising their hands on their own, or in response to advertising, then capturing that demand will default to technology, not only because of the cost saving, but the consistency of performance, and efficiencies gain.
That environment favours hunters over all other type of sellers. The premium worth paying for is the ability to identify “none hand raisers”, engage them, and bring them into to the market, something which on their own they would not have done. Approaching an individual who is firmly entrenched in the Status Quo, and bringing them in to a conversation that ends in them being in a buy/sales process is the skill of the future.
This is not about social selling vs. traditional selling. This is about the ability to understand objectives business people have, engage them based on your ability to articulate how that objective can be achieved in a way the buyer had not considered; how the objective needs to be adjusted, and how your experience has helped others arrive at the desired end by different means. The premium is for expertise that exceeds and defies the buyer’s perceptions rather than playing in into them by solely fulfilling in a more economical way. If you’re not doing that you’ll soon be replaced by a scanner and an app, Darwin would be pleased.