Sales 2.0 Conference - Interview with Lee Levitt of IDC

Posted by Mike Damphousse
b2b sales leadsIDC has been putting out great materials recently with their Sales Advisory Service. Lee Levitt is the Program Director for the service and is speaking with sales leaders, clients, and prospects constantly. I'm looking forward to hearing a more detailed presentation this week at the Sales 2.0 Conference.

Mike: You recently released some research on Sales Enablement. Tell us about how Sales 2.0 is empowering sales professionals today?

Lee: From my perspective, Sales 2.0 is not about technology. It's about improving the capabilities of the seller and the organization behind the seller. Technology is just one of the components of improved sales productivity. The primary component is improved processes. With a healthy focus on what works and what needs improving in the sales organization, executives can identify the processes that must be improved. Then and only then should technology be brought in to ensure that those processes scale.

We have identified a number of "choke points" in the selling process, mostly in the area of access to information and time spent on activities that (should) support the selling effort. Sales people spend way too much time searching for information, giving up and creating sales assets on their own (assets that typically exist elsewhere in the organization). Do we really want people who earn $150 an hour creating PowerPoint presentations from scratch or searching Hoovers for basic company information about their prospects?

Sales 2.0 empowers sales people with simple, efficient access to information about customers and prospects already in context, usable from the start. Pulling this information together, analyzing it, cleaning it, ensuring that it is relevant -- these activities should be done by a centralized group and then provided to the sales person or team at the right time -- just before a call planning session.

Mike: Another critical activity right now is demand gen. We all know that b2b demand gen has shifted dramatically in this 2.0 world. Where do you see outbound marketing and inbound marketing impacting the top line in the next 12 months?

Lee: Marketing activities must seek to answer the questions posed by the prospect or customer: "Why are you sitting in my office now? What do you know about my business that has earned you the privilege of 30 minutes of my calendar? What experiences do you bring with you that are particularly relevant to the critical business issues faced by my company today?" All marketing activity must either directly or indirectly support the conversations that ensue from these questions.

Mike: We recently completed a study that showed that with b2b appointments, a third of C/VP execs delegated down. Do you see the sales process becoming more of a buying process where the prospects are dictating how we sell?

Lee: I'd look at the issue the other way. Sales people have always been trained to sell up (Selling to VITO), and they've overshot their goal. A senior level executive will take a meeting with a rep who brings value to the table. If they aren't prepared to have that value discussion, they'll be pushed back down the organization, or as our research shows, thrown out. Reps must work their way up the organization, conducting research, building an understanding of the challenges of the organization, and matching their company's capabilities with the needs of the organization. In this manner, they earn the right to talk with the senior executive.

Mike: What will you be talking about at the conference? Can we have a sneak peek?

Lee: Sure. It's all about pipeline hygiene -- efficiency and effectiveness of "co-creating" value with the prospect or customer. Selling is dead. The best salespeople today don't sell, they consult. They're on the same side of the table as their prospect and they're working together to create value. This takes deep understanding of the customer's environment and challenges, and skills that many salespeople don't have today. It also takes a different set of metrics to gauge the success of the engagement - metrics that most organizations don't track.

Mike: Last question, the B2B Marketing Thought Leaders Curry Poll. Time for the real "research", green, or yellow curry?

Lee: Yellow, of course!