It was still dark when we awoke Thursday to catch an early morning seminar titled, A Brave New World - Responding to Shifts in the Selling/Buying Model. With yet another Nor’easter about to bear down on Manhattan, it would have been easy to flip on “Boomer and Carlton in the Morning” on WFAN and drift back to sleep. But we’re glad we made the effort.
The event, which was held at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria, was sponsored by Eloqua, Oracle and The Pedowitz Group. It featured a panel discussion that addressed the ongoing and dramatic changes in sales and marketing wrought by the Web.
There was little consensus, for example, on the wisdom of using social media as a sales and marketing vehicle. ”I can’t get behind anything until it works and what I see in social media doesn’t even come close to the hype its received,” said Greg Alexander, cofounder and CEO of Sales Benchmark Index and coauthor of “Making the Number: How to use Sales Benchmarking to Drive Performance.”
He added that social media can get in the way of the fundamentals. “A sales person has about 2000 hours of selling capacity annually,” Alexander said. “If time is chewed up building social activities that don’t result in business, you’re destroying that value and changing up that [sales] capability for something frivolous…I hope I’m wrong. [Social media] is neat and exciting, but right now there’s no proof that it’s an effective sales tool.”
Steve Woods, CTO of Eloqua and author of “Digital Body Language,” had a different take, saying that social media can fuel awareness about a brand, product or service. “Social media, looked at by niche, is about getting discovered,” he said. “Are b-to-b buyers on Twitter and Facebook or blogging themselves? No. But they go to Google and Bing.
“If you look at the data on search and what are people searching for in most businesses it’s three or four keywords in a search. In the deep key words most of the results are blogs,” Woods added. “There’s a depth of content to address a specific issue.”
In light of search results for a particular niche, b-to-b buyers are often engaging with social media without knowing it. “They’re a lot of social factors that go into Google rankings,” Woods added. “So executives don’t think they’re engaging with social media, but the [search] results are coming from social media. So if you’re not providing the content, your chances of getting high up in the search results are plummeting.”
The panel discussion also tackled the perennial question of how sales and marketing executives can work together more effectively. Alexander had a fairly jaundiced view. ”Sales and marketing shouldn’t work together,” he said. “It’s like asking Yankees and Red Sox fan to play nice. It’s not going to happen.” He added that companies are a “little too focused on closing the sales and marketing loop. But the dynamic says it can’t be closed. They are different jobs.”
Debbie Qaqish, chief revenue officer of The Pedowitz Group, which specializes in lead generation, said she “completely” disagreed with Alexander’s assessment. “You need to align sales and marketing to help close the gaps in the life of a lead,” she said. Woods added: “Sales and marketing executives are in the information industry. Companies get information from marketing and out of that information, sales can guide [buyer] behavior.”