Back in the late 90s, I was the founder of a software company called Pangaea. It was a product configurator application being marketed to the sales industry, and so obviously I got to know the head of Selling Power magazine, Gerhard Gschwandtner, for the first time. I have always found him an engaging, insightful, and a personal inspiration to many. The word that springs to mind when I think of Gerhard is "Passion". Gerhard is passionate about many things, but when it comes to selling, Gerhard is the leader of sales passion. So how very appropriate is it that he is the passionate host of the upcoming Sales 2.0 event in Boston on May 21.
Below are a few questions for Gerhard on the topic:
Mike: Given the economy, some people instinctively think "cut budgets", but I think it was Forrester at the last Sales 2.0 conference that said "companies that don't invest in the top of the funnel this year, won't be here next year". What are your thoughts about that?
Gerhard: It wasn't Forrester who said that, it was IDC. The exact quote was: "Companies that significantly reduce their sales and marketing investment in 2009 will be gone by 2010." My view is that they are correct. CEO's who have a limited vision of their future trim their budgets according to their vision. In other words, if these CEO's don't see the opportunity to make hay in the recession, they will cut muscle and lose their ability to compete. Many CEO's don't have the guts to challenge themselves or their organizations to go on the offensive, to grab market share and lead their companies out of the recession. They tell themselves "it's impossible." If you recall the word of Muhammad Ali who said, "impossible is not a fact, it is an opinion." To the confident CEO, impossible is a dare, to the less confident, it is an overwhelming fact. In essence, the economy is a game of chicken, those who get scared get wiped out.
Mike: Sales 2.0 is called Sales 2.0 for a reason, it's all about selling, but much of the discussion amongst us 2.0 advocates keeps focusing on the merging of sales and marketing, demand gen, etc. I push the topic with every marketing colleague I know, what would you say to a CMO who asked you why he should be at the Sales 2.0 conference?
Gerhard: Sales 2.0 is all about moving the company into the land of greater possibility where best practice methodology merges with better technology to create more customer value, to drive up productivity and to accelerate the sales cycle. Sales can't do this without marketing. Both departments need to work in lockstep to create a better lead pipeline that's target rich. CMO's need to send their marketing managers out on sales calls to better understand their external customer and to better understand their internal customer: the salesperson.
Mike: The 2.0 in our 2.0 world really started as a result of the internet and how technology and new ways of thinking have changed the way we do business. At the last conference social media dominated one of the discussion panels. What are the industry leaders you talk to saying about social media and it's impact on sales and marketing?
Gerhard: Every sales executive wants to find out how to use social media to connect with more prospects. I know a salesperson who exclusively relies on Linkedin for finding prospects. Facbook can give you a huge advantage when it comes to breaking the ice. In the past, salespeople broke the ice by making a comment about the fish behind the customer's desk. Today, salespeople break the ice by reciting what they've read on the customer's wall on Facebook. Just last month I received an IM message on Facebook about a business opportunity. A week later this translated into a $6,000 deal. I started Twitter a month ago. Today I have over 100 people following me. It allows me to make more connections and spread the word about our conferences. I think social networking is a misnomer, it's Networking 2.0.
Mike: This one is extra credit, it may be a tough one, but I've debated it with many people and am curious of your opinion. Sales 2.0, Web 2.0, the 2.0 world...many have asked what will be here next year? 2.1 or 3.0?
Gerhard: We can't predict what comes next. Nobody knows what future innovation may bring. What we do know is that 1. We're moving towards a world of co-creation. Wikipedia is the poster-child of a new movement where we all want to contribute to a world where all information is available to all people. We want to create a world where ignorance recedes and where we all share our knowledge for the benefit of mankind. 2. We no longer want to learn from institutions, we want to learn from our peers. Universities will lose students if they fail to create their own community that reaches beyond their four walls 3. We're living in a conversation economy. It's the conversation that bubbles up needs, it's the conversation that leads people to new ideas, and new ideas lead us to change, and change often leads to new economic investments. 4. We live in a world where innovation is no longer an isolated event. Today sales 2.0 innovation is cascading into the market at an accelerated pace. Just three years ago we had only 300 sales technology tools, today we have over 2,000. Sales leaders need to rethink the word innovation. Innovation is NOT an event, it needs to be a permanent process that's firmly embedded in the company's DNA. We should not worry so much about what comes after Sales 2.0. we should worry about those companies that "don't get it". I call these companies Zero dot Zero.
Mike: This last question I ask it with every interview. Sort of an informal survey. It started one night with Craig Rosenberg of the Funnelholic as we ate Thai food in San Francisco. As a matter of fact, it was the night before the first Sales 2.0 conference. So last question...what is your preference, green or red curry?
Mike: I should have known, always a trend setter.