As I lay in bed on a Saturday morning having just read Stephen Sumner's LinkedIn post about the horse shit crisis in the late 1800’s and how the The Times wrote about London being buried in 9ft of horse manure within 50 years as a result of 50,000 horses transporting people around the city, if nothing was done, and the same for New York who had 100,000 horses trotting their streets. Soon after Henry Ford announced he can build affordable cars at scale which would solve this problem. Crisis forces innovation!
The World Has Changed
The world is changing at an unprecedented rate, COVID, conflict without an end, social unrest and financial instability across multiple systems. The impact on business and the growth of our economy is uncertain.
But, for many of us we’ve successfully done business through different crisis for more than 20 or 30 years. The Y2K hype, the dot-com bubble that burst, the financial crash or for me a military coup in Turkey at the time Turkey was my best performing region or the oil crisis in the Middle East affecting the economy presenting uncertainty, where I had some of my most successful years in business. As business leaders we always found a way through. A a sales leader through those times I’d double down on enablement and community.
We are missing one significant under-current, the sleeping giant of the B2B sales and marketing crisis, act now before it wakes.
We're In A Crisis!
The B2B sales and marketing crisis is where buyers stop talking with sellers. They put up this unbreakable barrier that is impenetrable to anyone that looks or smells like a seller. And no matter how many marketing or sales dollars you throw at the problem, the results are diminishing, to the point you have no more ideas to try and you go out of business. Smart business leaders understand this and are taking action today. Others continue doing the same kind of things with new hires hoping for different results.
Our horse shit problem is buyers don’t want to speak with sellers. If we want to solve the actual problem we must change the system, so that buyers walk towards our people, our employees, those interesting and authentic folks that are the face of the company. After all, people buy from people.
We've Known The Problem For Years
For more than 12 years we (sales and marketing) have known that buyers have been resisting sellers. Sourcing information online, speaking with colleagues and friends to learn about how they solved business problems and how they solved them. There is an inordinate amount of evidence proving this from the most credible sources in the world. The data doesn’t lie. Yet business leaders continue to hold sales and marketing accountable for results using outdated techniques in an outdated system. A.k.a the sales funnel and cold sales outreach.
Today, buyers proactively avoid sellers or being sold to. B2B advertising doesn’t work (if you can afford it, it’s air cover to act as credibility for employees targeted outreach. Cold calling and cold emailing no longer work like they once did - the approach is transactional and predicated on waste - it does nothing for building long term and meaningful relationships with your audience. The first sign of a sales word we hit delete or sign of someone selling, we switch off. So why waste your money doing it?
…because we don’t know what we don’t know. We do what we know and when things don’t work out we try something new until we feel it doesn’t work and fall back to what we know once worked. What was once a fun time, a virtuous loop, has left teams gaming the system, and working on anything in the hope we can make it to the next positive outcome. We accept unrealistic pipeline quality and diminishing close rates and deal values. Or we try to fix them within a broken system - like Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the hill. There’s no point doing it with more focus and more intent, the result will be the same.
Unless trust exists between two people the likelihood of agreeing a positive commercial outcome for both parties is small.
Obtaining a feeling of trust takes time and to do so at scale starts with personal brand and requires a digital selling methodology that obtains no form of selling.
Digital selling isn’t new. It now has a name. Putting names to things are important, it provides understanding. But putting a name on something doesn’t always make it easy for others to understand, especially when there is such a wide spectrum of meaning and quality of execution.
Analogue sales cannot simply be transferred to digital.
Have you ever been through a globally recognised digital selling training program with on the job coaching to ensure your new knowledge is applied effectively?
…did the program come with quality assurance and a pass level based on your performance from the program? …and sponsored by a globally recognised sales authority.
The art and science of selling digitally has nothing and everything to do with selling. The same can be said for digital marketing. When the objective is to schedule conversations with your audience, meet new people the goal shouldn’t be to qualify, the goal should be to build trust. That’s why Community is considered the future of sales and marketing. Mark Schaefer's new book, Belonging to the Brand, Why Community is the Last Great Marketing Strategy, is a very interesting read.
Building a community is hard and takes time. What if your people were empowered to support community, in an authentic and personable way, that attracts your audience and supports the creation of community. Start with your people.
So What Should You Do About It?
Start by leaning into the fear...
Empowering your people to develop their personal brands and align this to your business growth strategy is the way forward for businesses today.
Enabling network activation and growth for all employees is the way to improve brand visibility, engagement and build consensus with hard to reach contacts within your target audience.
Teaching your teams to create their own content demonstrating they’re an expert at what they do, authentic content and personable content that stands out, and activates the competitive advantage you have, your people. People are the one truly unique thing any business has - the opportunity when activated is endless.
If this were easy, everyone would be doing it, hence the title of this piece.
It takes a different type of individual, one who is brave enough to put themselves out there every week, every single day. For some it will come easy but for most it will require effort to find themselves and be comfortable with what they want to stand for in the digital world, being themselves.
Done properly, it will influence your hiring strategy, your employee enablement program and be at the core of everything you do as an organisation.
Often, the starting point is to do just that, get started with a small pilot of people, usually around 10 and explore the change that takes place, understand it and when it starts working, enable others that see the success and want a part of it.
Are you ready to solve the real problem within your business or curious to learn more?
With great appreciation,
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