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Over the last decade, technology has caused a tidal wave of change in the marketing function. And that wave is now moving through sales. Inside sales is gaining traction and the demand for field sales people is on the decline.

It’s now easier than ever before for companies to connect with potential buyers anywhere in the world…without spending the time and money necessary for a face-to-face meeting. As businesses put together new, nimble digitally-aided sales and marketing models, Forrester predicts that 1 million B2B salespeople will lose their jobs by 2020.

What’s happening?

While large sales deals used to be the domain of the field salesperson who could look the customer in the eye, a physical presence is no longer required. And with globalization, being there often does not make sense. A sales person could, for example, fly to a corporation’s Atlanta headquarters to meet with stakeholders and to discover that most of the attendees are videoconferencing in from all corners of the globe. Does it really make sense for her to make the trip?

It’s time for companies to ask the hard questions, reassess their sales and marketing models and decide what’s going to be most efficient and effective in 2016 and beyond.

Building Blocks of the Digitally-Aided Sales Model

The three building blocks of a sales and marketing process today are educational content, social selling, and the human touch, whether via inside or field sales.

1. Content that Educates

B2B buyers are happy to educate themselves on ways to solve their business problems as long as they have access to engaging, easy-to-digest, informative content. You’ve likely seen the stats and know that most buyers are more than halfway through the buying cycle before they talk with a company rep.

What does this mean for you?

Since buyers are doing most of their homework digitally, you need to know the questions they ask as they go through their buying journey and the obstacles they encounter. With this knowledge under your belt, you can craft relevant content that answers all their questions in the formats they prefer — blog posts, e-books, webinars, videos, infographics or something else.

Use your content to show thought leadership and build trust, to attract your potential buyers to your website, to convert visitors to leads, to nurture leads, and to build strong customer relationships.

2. Social Selling

One reason inside sales people are gaining the edge over reps on the road is that they have the technology to get their jobs done at their fingertips. While only 7% of companies have jumped on board with a social selling initiative, early adopters have had success. According to HubSpot, 78% of salespeople using social media perform better than their peers.

How are these smart business developers using these platforms?

They are doing research to discover opportunities. That means listening in on conversations on platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and industry forums. They are seeking out prospects that meet their demographic and firmographic criteria and reaching out to them directly to develop relationships. Also, before calling a lead generated through a content offer, they do their research to gain a greater understanding of the individual’s situation and needs, checking out social sites and company websites for information. And, finally, sales people are talking — offering content and comments on these platforms.

3. The Human Touch

In complex B2B sales, digital can get you a long way, but people are still needed to help buyers cross the finish line. The human touch is necessary to build relationships and trust. Only humans can understand and relate to complex problems and can craft solutions tailored to a company’s needs.

That’s where inside sales comes in. Fully equipped with video conferencing, online screen share capabilities, email and phone, it’s almost like being there.

It turns out that inside sales is more convenient and efficient for both the seller and buyer. Seventy percent of customers prefer not to have a physical meeting. Sellers can respond immediately when the buyer is ready rather than waiting to schedule an in-person meeting. Clients can attend a meeting on the Internet from all over the world. With today’s need to do more with less, it works for all involved.

In some cases, companies still need field sales people to do physical product demonstrations. But more and more, those road warriors are backed up by their cubicle cousins.

You may fear that your organization is not ready for this sea change in the way you should be selling. Many are not. But with the right tools you can start to make the transition.

About the Author

Jeff Kalter is CEO of 3D2B, a global business-to-business telemarketing company that bridges the divide between marketing and sales. He leads customer acquisition programs for Fortune 500 companies, and is passionate about building strong business relationships through professional phone conversations. Follow him on Twitter: @jeffkalt

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