I am pleased to have as my guest today Bob Kelly, the Chairman of The Sales Management Association. SMA promotes professional development, peer networking, best-practice research and thought leadership among professionals who manage, coach and support sales organizations. Bob previously was Vice President of Sales Operations at Genuine Parts and a Senior Consultant at the Alexander Group. Bob earned his MBA from Emory University and his BA from Washington and Lee University.
Below, you can read highlights from our discussion or use the links to start the video from different parts of the conversation.
2013 Changes: Social Media, Mobile, Analytics & Productivity
Click to start video at this point—I ask Bob about the changes in marketing and sales he expects to see in 2013. He sets a context by noting The Sales Management Association is made up of sales and sales operations leaders in predominantly B2B selling organizations at medium-sized to large companies—with about 70% based in the U.S. and another 10% in Canada.
Among the trends he sees in sales organizations in 2013:
- Greater adoption of social media
- More use of mobile technology
- More pervasive role for analytics, data and information
- Hiring and growth won’t be fueled by increased headcount
- More emphasis on productivity
- Changes in managing roles and allocating resources
He notes that social media and mobile technology are related and are of particular interest in terms of management practice, adding, “Those are really changing the way managers are interacting with salespeople.”
Shifting Sales Resources to Align with Prospect Buying Dynamics
Click to start video at this point—In response to my question about a disconnect between marketing and sales on lead definition, Bob reflects on why this is problematic and notes that the question is more relevant for marketing: “I don’t see this as being a question that a lot of sales leaders are asking, and I think maybe the reason for that is leads are a currency that are relevant to marketing organizations. They’re not really the most relevant thing that’s measured for sales leaders. Sales organizations are focused on generating profitable revenue and some of those financial outcomes.”
He adds that that the problem may be less of a definition problem and more of an accountability and alignment problem. Bob notes, “I think what makes this tricky and a difficult problem is that the roles of marketing and sales are very fluid—they’re changing very quickly in recent years. Just within sales organizations, we see a real increase in the number of inside salespeople and a real investment and increase in the resources devoted to the very senior most salespeople—what you might call strategic account managers.”
Expanding on this trending, Bob references a presentation by Neil Rackham at a recent SMA conference: “Neil makes the point that there’s a bifurcation that’s happening in B2B sales. Customers are demanding transactional, sort of low value relationships through the Internet. They want to in many ways self-provision their requirements and be self-served through automated websites. On the other hand, they’re looking for high value-added strategic relationships—very solution-focused relationships—often with the very same vendors.”
As a result, Bob says the issue the issue is allocating resources to make sure that when salespeople do get involved, it’s in a very high value-added way that can’t be duplicated in a low-cost way over the web. He adds, “These are very fluid decisions. As a result, I think the role, especially in the B2B environment, the role of marketing and sales is often one of give and take. It’s being redefined minute-by-minute in many industries and companies.”
Tablets: Fundamentally Redesigning Basic Aspects of the Sales Process
Click to start video at this point—Regarding areas to focus on as we wrap up 2012 and head into 2013, Bob discusses the way tablets are exploding in the mobile arena right now. He adds, “It’s very early for sales organizations. Probably 90% of B2B sales organizations have some aspirations to integrate tablets into the sales organization in some way. However there are only about 15% of those companies that have actually gotten a mature implementation, and many others are experimenting right now.”
He references recent SMA that points to the fact that tablets aren’t simply a device that helps you do the same things a little bit more efficiently or in a different place or more often: “They’re actually fundamentally redesigning basic aspects of the sales process. They are really enhancing conversations that salespeople have with customers or prospects during the sales interaction. They’re not just used to distribute information—they’re often used to capture information and create a really interesting experience and much more compelling experience for a customer.”
Regarding the cost/benefit ratio of tablets, Bob adds, “The expense of using tablets is really manageable for a lot of companies. There’s a perceived very, very high ROI on the use of tablets, and their adoption is really exploding in B2B sales organizations. I think we can see a lot of innovation in applications that are designed for salespeople to be effective in sales calls and are focused on the tablet platform.”
Social Media: Balancing Benefits with Loss of Management Control
Click to start video at this point—Bob likens social media to tablets and mobile technology: “It’s very early for B2B sales organizations in terms of the lifecycle of defining a strategy for using social media. Very few organizations have a defined strategy. Most believe that it is productive and there’s an ROI there, but there’s just an awful lot of experimentation.”
He notes that there is some apprehension around social media on the part of sales managers, adding, “Social media reflects a decline of management control over individual salespeople, and it argues for a different style. A command-and-control, top-down sales organizations will have the hardest time adapting to use of social media. In fact, when you look at those industries that are lagging in adoption, they’re regulated industries—like private investment and banking. They’re far behind the leading adopters of social media like technology firms, so there’s a lot of ground to be made up there.”
“You Have to Have Your Finger on the Pulse of New Technologies”
Click to start video at this point—Bob notes ways sales organizations are delving deeper into technology and talks specifically about analytics: “Many of our members are actually in the sales operations field, and their job is to support productivity initiatives. As a result they’re very much influenced by new technology coming out. We see a lot of innovation around what you might call the democratization of information. There are a lot of companies launching dashboard application that are easy to use, build and implement—even in large organizations with IT bureaucracy. They’re sort of IT-less applications. I think we’ll see an awful lot of this.”
He elaborates on how important it is for sales leaders to understand and apply technology: “I think what is interesting to us about that is what it means for sales management and what it means to be a good sales manager. I think it now means you really have to have your finger on the pulse of these new technologies. You have to be fluent and able to implement them. You have to be able to diagnosis problems and situations in your own environment where you can use the applications. It’s an exciting time because of these new developments—a lot of innovation!”
You can connect with Bob and learn more about The Sales Management Association via the following resources:
The Sales Management Association: www.salesmanagement.org
LinkedIn Group: Sales Management Association
The next PowerViews will be with Anthony Iannarino of SOLUTIONS Staffing. Stay Tuned.
By Dan McDade