Educated consumers need better salespeople

Last night, Brian Halligan posted this comment in response to my post.




I am enjoying your blog. I’d be interested in your thoughts on the changing nature of b2b shopping /selling by the advent of the internet/Google. It seems to me that the shape of all companies’ funnels is dramatically different today than it was just five years ago. …It seems to me the role of the b2b salesperson has changed (i.e. the buyer is far better educated by the time he ends up having a conversation with a sales rep.




Then, today, he sent me this email.




Hi Rick, I give some thought to the issue in the first two bullet points of this posting.  I’m looking forward to your thoughts tonight…Brian.




The monkey wrench example is perfect. Plumbers know how much they should be. It’s small dollars. They click. Use a credit card. Sign when it’s delivered. Very transactional. But as luck would have it, I spent all afternoon at a “Customer Appreciation” golf tournament sponsored by the Bank of New England. Among others, I met the CEO of a corrugated box company, the Director of Marketing of a major environmental cleanup company, the managing partner of the largest law firm in the area, and the CFO of a 100 year old construction company that routinely builds multi-million dollar building for the likes of Harvard and MIT. I had multiple conversations, but one was with the construction CFO in front of the attorney. The CFO’s company was having a problem getting noticed by the colleges in the Worcester area. The attorney happened to know which local contractors typically worked at each of the schools. Why? Relationship? Reputation? A preference for local contractors? All of the above. The contractor has a website, but his Google rating won’t help him get happy schools to switch. The fact that I introduced the attorney who knows all of these schools and the contractor and made them exchange business cards might help. Whatever happens here, it’s gonna depend on sales skills, relationships and CRM, not CMR.




I didn’t play. I marshalled. So, I got to eavesdrop a lot. Every bank employee was about who they’re talking to. What the prospect’s needs are. What center of influence was involved. I know that Bank of America has a website, but I was listening to salespeople.




Finally, Brian, as you know Hubspot is working with Dave Kurlan. Think about how that happened. Did Dave find your website? Or did Mark call me and say, “Hey, Dad! Hubspot has something that your clients will be interested in. Then I allowed him to use his relationship with me to have a conversation with Jim who said to Dave, “You should look at this.”




The internet allows prospects to search, read, research, then call and from what I’ve seen, Hubspot does a great job at making sure that Hubspot clients get proper placement and attention. At some point the prospect either decides to buy (like in the monkey wrench example) or they decide that they need to have a conversation. It’s Hubspot’s job to get them to call Hubspot’s client first. If the prospect doesn’t talk to someone who can develop a relationship, determine or create a compelling need, and eventually close a deal, they are going to continue shopping.

You made a couple of other points that I would like to address later, but here’s a question.

What if, during the prospect’s search process, in the middle of Googling, after he checked out your website and two of your competitors, when he’s actually in the middle of checking out your third competitor’s website……..What if one of your salespeople calls them and asks, “Have you ever had any issues with…?

2 thoughts on “Educated consumers need better salespeople

  1. Many thanks for your thoughts. I think the title of your article speaks volumes. In the age of the internet, it seems to me that information is more “symmetric” in the b2b environment, so that by the time a customer “self selects” and engages in a conversation with a representative, they are prety well educated. This dynamic makes it all the more important to have b2b reps that can enlist customers to talk candidly about their problems, listen, listen some more, and then describe their products in terms of their prospect’s problem. I guess the problem HubSpot is trying to help small businesses solve is that there are potential “perfect” customers for their products out there that they are not meeting at golf tournaments. We want to use new technology to enable small businesses to: (1) be “found” through search tools when their market is queried, (2) be “differentiated” from the competition once found with easily editable sites and a blog,(3) “engage” with the prospect in new ways, (4) “collaborate” better with team-members to deliver a solution, and (5) “track” the find-to-close metrics at a granular level to see what works in enlarging the top of the funnel and improving closure rates. One interesting thing HubSpot will do is that once a prospect “self-selects” via a webform, email, or phone call, HubSpot will provide the representative calling on the prospect with great information (where linked in from, what blogs read, what pages visited multiple times, etc.), so he can have a meaningful solution-oriented dialog right from the start. …I didn’t mean for this to be a HubSpot pitch, but you seemed to be probing on our model a bit, so I thought I’d try to clarify what we’re up to!! Thanks again for taking time to write your blog and for commenting on my question.

  2. Brian, I don’t purport to be technical, but I believed Hubspot belongs in my market from the moment that Mark showed it to me. If I didn’t see the value, I would never have introduced it to Dave. My guess is that Hubspot will do very well in Central Mass if they want to.

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