Intel recently announced another advance in chip technology that is expected to result in a doubling of computer processing power. Now you may be wondering what computer chip technology has got to do with selling. Well, quite a lot as it turns out.
Moore’s Law – coined by Intel founder Gordon Moore – predicts that computing power (or, more precisely, the number of transistors on any given chip) will double every two years. It is a handy metaphor for a dramatic and relentless pace of change – and one that is ideally suited to describing the world of complex business to business buying and selling at this time.
In Moore’s Law fashion, complex selling and more precisely buying, has been transformed in recent years:
- The complexity of buying (and therefore of selling) has doubled; in many cases the number of steps involved, information required etc. in the buying process has doubled.
- The number of people involved in the decision-making process (i.e. the buying team) has doubled, with decisions being taken at much higher and wider levels. As a result, today’s sellers often have to influence twice as many people.
- The cost of selling (and of buying) has increased dramatically, together with the length of time required to arrive at a decision or to close a sale.
- The autonomy of mangers who make buying decisions – measured in terms of how much they can spend before getting sign-off – has been halved in many cases.
Some sellers would argue that many other aspects of buying have also changed, e.g.
- The power of purchasing/procurement
- The requirement for a business case
- The level of competition between different projects/departments for spend
- The use of competitive tendering
- The level of buyer sensitivity to risk
- The difficulty of predicting what deals will close, and when
All this has taken place in the space of five years with the implication being that there is twice as much work for salespeople to do. For example:
- Twice as much marketing, or lead generation, is required to get the same result.
- Twice as much relationship nurturing is required to take leads to the point of being ready to meet.
- Twice as many sales meetings/appointments are required to find those prospects that are ready to buy.
With the addition of each successive layer of complexity in buying, selling has become a more trying profession. Working harder is not enough. Sellers must work a lot smarter in all aspects of the complex sales – from lead generation to opportunity management and account management.
Just as the latest advance in computing threatens to make last year’s computers and phones obsolete, the pace of change in buying threatens traditional sales techniques with the same fate. The result is that sellers must re-invent many aspects of their sales and marketing strategies, processes and techniques.
These changes are inconvenient for us all, but they are inconvenient for buyers too, so there lies the seed of an opportunity for sales teams around the world. Life has become a lot more difficult for the manager looking to buy our solutions. What was once a straight-forward decision is now a complex and time-consuming affair. The manager has been straight-jacketed by more rigorous procedures, new processes, spend justifications, paperwork and highly skilled procurement personnel.
Like computing power, the pace of change in buying is relentless, sellers who embrace this change can undoubtedly access key decision makers and help the buyer to navigate the processes they must follow but, is that really enough?