I’ve rarely been a B2B buyer, and I’ve never been a B2B salesperson, but I have spent most of my life being witness to those trying — and usually failing — to make a B2B sale.
As an editor, it has often been part of my role to tag along with salespeople at the various media properties I’ve worked for and serve as a sort of window dressing to the slide presentation of salespeople trying to secure ads, lead gen programs and the like. While the salesperson would make the pitch and talk up the product — our editorial content — I would look on and at times discussed how I was creating said product.
This is often far more painful than you can imagine. There were often highly uncomfortable moments when I saw clients treat my coworkers in sales as though they were mentally deficient, liars, or both. There were many other occasions where they would essentially ask to buy their way into being written about, rather than investing in ads or other marketing opportunities aligned with the stories.
Now that I’ve since spent untold hours learning about and writing about the sales process, I also see that many of the salespeople I worked in the past didn’t follow the best practices that are commonly cited. They pooh-poohed the idea of using sales enablement materials. They scoffed at updating customer relationship management (CRM). There was often a belief — implied if not always said aloud — that they still believed they’d have a greater chance of closing a deal by using alcohol and free hockey tickets versus, say, information or research (I’ve thought about writing a book about this problem, entitled Drinkies Over Data: Behind The Most Common B2B Sales Fail).
Of course, this is nothing compared to what I imagine is the challenge of those selling other kinds of B2B products and services. At least when you’re selling media, you have an opportunity to actually use the product your pitching (ie, to read it or watch it, not that many did). If you’re selling CRM, marketing automation, customer service software, analytics and the like, your only first-hand experience might be more limited. Instead, you need to do what a lot of marketers talk about today — connect the selling experience to your company’s purpose, and use data so that your pitch as informed and relevant as possible .
This calls for a higher-order level of thinking, and so it’s probably no surprise we’ve started to see more managers and VPs elevated into a role that allows them to approach revenue-generating activities more strategically. Chief revenue officers (CROs) are those people, but much like the CIOs and CMOs that preceded them, their job function plays out differently depending on the firm. That’s why I wanted to devote February as The CRO Issue on B2B News Network.
Over the next few weeks I hope to talk to some CROs about their key priorities, identify the technologies and tactics they’re using to achieve success, and how their role will evolve and interact with the rest of the C-Suite. I hope reading this convinces you to follow along, because it’s as close to a sales pitch as I’m ever likely to make.