Sales 2.0: Inside Sales Legend Anneke Seley on Why It’s the Way of the Future — and How Your Business Should Embrace It

When Anneke Seley joined Oracle as the growing company’s 12th employee in the early 1980s, the modern concept of Sales 2.0 wasn’t even a glimmer in the B2B technology world’s eye.

In fact, for an industry that was largely field-sales focused at the time, executing an inside sales strategy was evolutionary enough. Some leading sales organizations even viewed a phone-based sales approach as a gimmick that wouldn’t last.

But Oracle and Seley saw things differently. Unlike some of its competitors, Oracle chose to embrace what it considered a sales paradigm shift, encouraging Seley to design and implement its first inside sales operation, OracleDirect. That decision proved to be a wise one, as OracleDirect’s early teams drove more than $10 million in revenue in their first two years. Today, OracleDirect, which is widely considered one of the world’s highest performing sales teams, boasts alumni that include Marc Benioff, the founder and CEO of Salesforce.com, and Vinny Smith, the CEO of Quest Software.

Considering her resume, it should be no surprise that Seley is now one of the leaders of the Sales 2.0 revolution. Seley, the founder and CEO of Reality Works Group and a highly regarded sales influencer and author, recently sat down with OpenView to discuss her definition of Sales 2.0, the key roles that companies need to hire for to successfully adapt, and the qualities that make up the Sales 2.0 prototype.

It seems like a lot of experts have their own way of defining “Sales 2.0.” How do you define it and why do you think it’s important?

Some people think that Sales 2.0 is a synonym for social selling, but I don’t see it that way. That’s primarily why I wrote my first book, Sales 2.0: Improve Business Results Using Innovative Sales Practices and Technology. At its core, Sales 2.0 is a combination of strategies, processes, people, and technologies that accelerate results for sellers and creates a better buying experience for customers. Yes, social media is a key component of Sales 2.0 that gives sales professionals an edge on making personal, relevant, and timely connections with buyers.  But there are other key components to Sales 2.0 that address the quantitative benefits of an analytics, process and technology-enabled selling approach.

At a high level, Sales 2.0 is all about viewing sales as a more circular, customer-centric process rather than a linear funnel. It requires companies to align their customer-facing functions and determine how they all fit together. It also involves rethinking where and how your company should communicate with its prospects. Today, customers of all industries are active online and, regardless of your market or customer segment, there’s no excuse not to use that information to create stronger prospect engagement.

The bottom line is that businesses are now looking at a measurably different way of selling that’s enabled by technology. Today, it’s critical that companies leverage productivity tools that accelerate their sales cycles, customer engagement tools that allow them to better communicate with their customers, measurement tools to more accurately gauge performance and forecast future results, and training and enablement tools to more efficiently onboard sales talent. Some companies are obviously resistant to that paradigm shift, but I think it’s glaringly obvious that Sales 2.0 is the present and the future.

Are there any lasting principles from “Sales 1.0” or older sales paradigms that apply to Sales 2.0?

At the end of the day, one thing that will never change is the need to truly understand your customers. That is a fundamental concept that can be applied to any sales era.

If your customers are on Twitter and LinkedIn today, then it’s a crime for you not to be there, too. But if your buyers prefer a handwritten note or an in-person meeting, Sales 2.0 doesn’t suggest that you ignore those needs. In summary, Sales 2.0 is not an either/or proposition. Just because you’re leveraging social media doesn’t mean you can’t still attend networking events or send salespeople to meet with customers directly if your travel budget allows and the customer opportunity and preference justify it.

Companies simply have a larger toolkit to provide value to their customers and engage them in more meaningful ways. Whether that’s best accomplished over a lunch meeting or a Facebook conversation largely depends on your business and its customers’ needs and preferences.

What are the key roles that make up Sales 2.0?

For sales alone, there are numerous emerging roles, and they all play a very important part of overall sales success. Larger companies might have individual teams dedicated to specific roles like outbound pipeline generation, inbound lead qualification, new business development, and — in companies such as those with a SaaS model — recurring or renewing customer sales. Smaller startups and expansion-stage companies probably lack the resources to hire for all of those roles, but they can incorporate the responsibilities of those roles into the one or two key sales positions they have created.

Whether you have a dedicated lead qualification team or a small team of revenue-generating inside sales reps who are also tasked with lead qualification duties, it’s critical for Sales 2.0 teams to be flexible, adaptable, multi-skilled, and collaborative. The old siloed approach to sales — where the inside sales, outside sales, and marketing teams worked independently and rarely communicated — is a recipe for disaster today.

What are some of the qualities that the best Sales 2.0 people possess?

There are, of course, several sales qualities that apply regardless of the sales paradigm we’re talking about — an ability to engage prospects quickly, a willingness to learn, and a desire to sell. Those qualities make up the foundation of any great salesperson.

But on top of those things, people in a Sales 2.0 organization need to be open-minded to the new world of integrated strategies, measureable processes, and technology-enabled customer engagement. They must understand that it’s no longer about the number of phone calls or social connections you make; it’s all about the quality, timeliness, and relevance of your messaging.

From that standpoint, great Sales 2.0 salespeople need to be able to identify — and be willing to embrace — the technologies that their customers use. It’s really all about being maniacally customer focused. There’s no room for arrogance or stubbornness anymore. If a salesperson isn’t willing to adhere to the technologies or processes that work in the Sales 2.0 world they won’t succeed.

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