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Sales 3.0: Catch the next big wave

Jason Clarke

May 31, 2017

While technology is the key to realizing greater sales effectiveness and efficiency, organizations are also having to deal with its ability to impede productivity in the workplace.

Last week, the Agent3 team had an opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the industry’s most influential sales thoughts leaders at the Sales 3.0 Conference in San Francisco. The event fostered discussion around strategy and best practice, technology and trends, and talent and attitude to drive increased revenue and improved sales performance.

There were a wide range of sessions throughout the two-day conference, all filled with invaluable insight to take back, share and implement but the core theme was expertly captured in Gerhard Gschwandtner’s opening keynote, which set the tone for the entire event by taking us on a journey from Sales 1.0 over a century ago to the more recent emergence of Sales 3.0.

Sales 1.0: An era defined by hustle
The origin of the journey stretched as far back as 1896 to SellingPower’s anointed ‘Father of Modern Selling’, John Henry Patterson, a Midwestern industrialist who founded the National Cash Register (NCR) Company and IBM. In those days, and for the large part of the next century, the key performance driver of the Sales 1.0 era was hustle. By combining a genuine interest in other people with a positive mental attitude and an ability go beyond selling a product or service and instead sell a vision or experience – ‘don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle’ – successful salespeople were able to hustle their way to meet and exceed their quotas.

Sales 2.0: When art gives way to science
By the time the 21st century rolled around, Sales 1.0 gave way to Sales 2.0 as progressive salespeople traded in their rolodexes, word processors and slide projectors for a new form of sales efficiency driven by advances in technology. Social, mobile, big data, cloud computing and analytics were the key trends driving widespread change in B2B commerce. Sales professionals that had previously prided themselves on the art of selling were now being forced to combine science in equal measure to keep up and stay competitive. An ‘always be selling’ mentality and a three-martini lunch was no longer enough to close the deal. Successful sellers needed to focus more on the customer experience and be viewed as a trusted advisor armed with tangible metrics that could be used to engage a target buyer via a wide range of traditional and non-traditional channels.

Sales 3.0: The next big wave
While it took over a century for the Sales 1.0 era to give way to the Sales 2.0 era, it’s taken a mere decade for the next big wave – Sales 3.0 – to hit us square between the eyes. New technologies have led to the digital transformation of buying and selling and once again it’s a case of get onboard or get left behind in this new era of increased sales effectiveness and efficiency. Sales 3.0 still leverages the same three core fundamentals of Sales 2.0 – people, processes and technology – but according to Gerhard Gschwandtner, there are four main differences:

  • In the Sales 3.0 era, B2B buyers are online, digitally empowered, and looking for salespeople who can articulate value.
  • Sales 3.0 puts profitable account-based marketing (ABM) methodologies within reach for nearly all organizations (not just enterprise).
  • Sales 3.0 leverages data insight, artificial intelligence (AI), and predictive analytics to find new customers and uncover their business needs.
  • Sales 3.0 helps salespeople embrace the power of mindset to achieve peak sales performance.

While technology is the key to realizing greater sales effectiveness and efficiency, organizations are also having to deal with its ability to impede productivity in the workplace. According to one study, employees are wasting between 60-80% of their time online on non-work related activity and another study suggests that over 12 million Americans suffer from some form of online addiction.

Online addiction and distraction challenges aside, Gerhard predicted the success or failure of any organization over the next decade depends on its ability to embrace digital transformation across all departments, in particular sales and marketing, and become 100 percent digital by 2020. Gerhard also predicted that successful digital transformation would result in over 3 million sales jobs disappearing over the next five years and an increase in sales per representative by 200 percent.

Among Gerhard’s many bold predictions perhaps the hardest hitting was the notion that over half of all leading companies today will not exist ten years from now due to an inability to embrace the behavioral change required to successfully execute digital transformation at an individual, departmental and organizational level. As he said in his close, “the future depends on how well we integrate technology so that our world becomes more peaceful, our companies become more successful, and our lives become more meaningful.”

The gauntlet has been laid and, as sales leaders and sales experts, it’s one for us all to embrace and tackle if we’re going to be able to successfully increase sales efficiency, grow revenue and stay ahead of the competition in the early stages of the Sales 3.0 era.

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