Two recently-published books are helping to establish the norms of how sales works today. I’ll review each of them in turn.
John Jantsch – Duct Tape Selling
John Jantsch is a well-known sales and marketing figure from the midwestern US. This befits his Duct Tape approach to business, which opts for concrete, on-the-job tactics over highfalutin, meticulous processes.
Jantsch’s big idea is that all salespeople need to become authorities in their field. It’s apparent that thanks to the web, buyers no longer need sales for basic information, prospects can create their own brochure, so sales needs to elevate itself in buyer’s minds, showing it can solve their problem. To do this, he explains a method for creating an online platform for curated and original content.
The book doesn’t come down in favour of one sales methodology, but it gives guideposts around whatever methodology is used. To Jantsch’s a methodology should equip the rep to help the buyer buy, but without pressure to buy from the rep’s firm. “Be the organization or individual who defines the problem to begin with. Rather than winning the fight for “why choose us?” how about controlling the fight for “why choose anything?”
In a prior book, Jantsch had originated his own version of the Marketing Funnel which he called the Marketing Hourglass. He chose a shape that flared at the bottom in preference to one that narrowed because he felt client engagement should continue beyond a purchase, extending to where clients re-purchase and refer other clients. He borrows this concept for Duct Tape Selling’s Sales Hourglass. In this case, he stretches the salesperson’s involvement beyond a sale, to the point where the client gets the value out of their purchase, to where they’re prepared to refer others and work backwards from there. In B2B, we acknowledge that it takes time for most products to show results, but how many of us tie our sales compensation to a client receiving results? Implementing Jantsch’s model will cause firms to review many aspects of how they do sales.
He dedicates the last few chapters of the book to sales managers. The new role of every manager is to convince sales staff that the company’s vision is worth following; as those same reps go out to persuade prospects in the merits of buying into the vision. He warns managers against crouching behind sales force automation, but favours using tools that foster collaboration and solving client problems.
I see Duct Tape Selling as a buffet of suggestions: The book prescribes actions for connecting to your audience. His book contains so many tactics, that you could get overwhelmed trying to do them all. I believe you can get the benefit of Jantsch’s system by following only some of his recommendations.
Tom Martin – The Invisible Sale
Tom Martin heads up his own marketing agency, prior to which he sold on behalf of other marketing agencies. While not as widely known as Jantsch, he has a sizable social footprint which he credits for his agency’s impressive year-over-year sales growth.
He starts by lambasting traditional outbound sales, which compiles & calls companies that they want to do business with, though they have no idea whether the companies want to do business with them. The pure outbound sales method by itself does work, but it’s “highly inefficient and truly painful.”
Martin’s big idea? For salespeople to succeed with buyer 2.0, they must be present in the places where the buyer researches purchases and if they take their time guiding the buyer toward the purchase, the sale will happen effortlessly it’s an ‘Invisible Sale’. The mindset he wants sales to adopt is summed up when he says, If you’re going to win over the self-educated buyer, you have to be committed to helping them.
Martin thoroughly describes a content distribution platform in the way that countries manage international relations. He has Outposts (social networks & publisher sites used lightly) Embassies (publisher sites you put original content on), and your Home base (your blog/site). Once set up, the whole of these interconnected properties is greater than the sum of the parts. Much detail is given around producing content (he spends several chapters on creating audio & video content, explaining how he uses gear & software to produce his own content.) Martin explains how to structure and repurpose content using his own book as an example. He built it using standalone segments that individually become conference presentations, guest blog posts, podcasts and whitepapers.
What good does this content do you, you may ask? Each time you give buyers an answer to a question in the form of a blog post, email, whitepaper, or webinar, you’re giving them an opportunity to send you a buying signal. In Martin’s experience, a single piece of content is best ended by calling the prospect to the next step in the sale. Content doesn’t close a sale all by itself, but it can bring prospects right to sales’ doorstep.
His advice to sales once the conversation stage is finally reached is to help a self-educated buyer by probing for gaps in their knowledge. Raise items they haven’t thought about, so they realize the value you bring to the process…and see you as a helper instead of an adversary.
Compared to Duct Tape Selling, this book is a fixed menu 3-course meal: Martin explains a plan that you’re expected to follow step-by-step. He spends more time on buyer psychology (e.g. there’s a whole chapter on propinquity), and spends less time suggesting ways to use social media. All the same, I feel Martin truly gives away the secrets he used to establish authority and sell his own firm’s services.
Emphasis is Slightly Different; Theme’s the Same
In conclusion, both books are marvelous for listing many web-based tools, so have your device nearby as you read. Neither book goes into much detail about how to measure program effectiveness. Presumably rising sales numbers will be the proof in the pudding. Finally, on a personal level, both of these authors have four kids. If they can not only be practitioners of the new way to sell, but can manage to write books about it, what excuse do the rest of us have for not doing sales this way?