What do salespeople do in the era of ubiquitous information?
In the past, adept B2B salespeople mastered the art of discovering customers’ needs and selling them “solutions”—generally, complex combinations of products and services. But these days, organizations have sophisticated procurement teams that, armed with Google, are well positioned to define solutions for themselves. So it certainly follows that a lot of research is done long before the vendor’s rep is engaged, and the role of sales is to co-ordinate a response to a well-structured RFP.
Recognizing this fundamental disruption in the B2B world, the summer issue of the Harvard Business Review touts the virtues of the new breed of sales professional:
The HBR article generated a flurry of comments from sales professionals.
Looking at the issues from the innovator’s perspective, it seems that “insight selling” is especially appropriate in environments where knowledge transfer is high and the problem is not clear (let alone the solution). For example, innovation procurement in healthcare.
After all, small and large companies develop innovations to enhance the efficiency, safety, quality and productivity of health and healthcare services. If procurement’s job is to achieve the optimal balance between quality and price, it is difficult to get there without an accurate appraisal of the value of innovation. The recently launched EXCITE program starts to address the issue in the area of medical devices.
But practically speaking, where can these intelligent, dynamic conversations between vendors and customers take place?—How can a true collaboration between the customer , the designer and the marketier—take place? What people need is qualified information, and Business need to have the customer involved in the design of products and services as technology refresh cycles can now be count in months rather than years. This is where social business media can play a pivotal role.
If I have a problem, I can do only limited Googling, and then I get tired and reach out to folks who may have seen the same problem, and seek their opinion.
In June 2012, MaRS launched the Healthcare Innovation Network, a convenient collaboration space for exactly this kind of dialogue. The Healthcare Innovation Network is an online tool connecting experts working in different healthcare organizations in Ontario (and eventually Canada) allowing all members to contribute ideas, discuss best practices and source solutions.
Specifically, it will accelerate progress in three ways: