What the Rise of Inbound Marketing Means for B2B Sales

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Jay Dillon

Director of Strategy and Creative at Inbound Experts
Jay is a digital marketer and producer whose creative and technical skills have developed digital brand strategies and sales campaigns using a range of complex internet applications from stand-alone websites through to Facebook API integrations.
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Savvy marketers have known for quite some time that the traditional rules of marketing are changing. Because of the inbound revolution, companies and employees who cannot keep up with this shift in momentum will soon find themselves extinct.

At a recent U.S. Forrester conference earlier this month in Arizona, Andy Hoar, the principal analyst at Forrester, provided the hard data on just how quickly that extinction might happen.

Hoar said that according to Forrester’s research, one million B2B sales jobs will disappear by the year 2020. This translates into a decrease of over 20% of the 4.5 million B2B sales jobs that exist today.

Why is this happening? What could cause a field of employment to nosedive so quickly? The answer is similar to what has happened to so many other kinds of technology and business techniques: a better, more effective method has come along and wiped out the old one. For our B2B sales friends, this disruptor is inbound marketing.

However, the news isn’t all bad. Just because you are a B2B sales rep doesn’t mean you should immediately start looking for a different job, or feel like you will be made redundant any day now. Let’s take a look at why this is the case and how traditional sales reps and business owners should react in the face of this news.

Inbound Marketing and Disappearing Sales Jobs

While the news about the changing market may come as a shock for B2B sales reps who feel that their work is invaluable, inbound practitioners saw this writing on the wall a long time ago.

The fact is, the traditional days of selling where a sales rep was required when a customer wanted to find product information or learn about pricing are long gone. There simply isn’t a need for it anymore: the advent of the Internet means that pricing information and product features and benefits are all widely available. In fact, research by the Harvard Business Review shows that on average, customers are nearly two-thirds of the way through the sales cycle before they even start talking to a vendor.

The way that they do this is by learning on their own. Most consumers today don’t want to have a sales rep or a company’s marketing department acting as a gatekeeper of the information that they need to access. According to U.K.-based content firm ContentPlus, 70% of consumers prefer to learn about a company through articles instead of ads.

It’s easy to see how the rise of inbound is coinciding with the decline of traditional B2B sales techniques. However, B2B sales reps need to understand that this news doesn’t mean that they are guaranteed to be out of a job. It just means that some reinvention is required.

How Companies and Sales Reps Should Deal with the Decline in Traditional B2B Sales

Conclusions like this one from Forrester about the death of B2B sales don’t mean certain doom for sales reps or traditional B2B sales organisations, but what they do mean is that companies will need to rethink their approach to selling.

Here are a few tips on how B2B sales reps and organisations can deal with the shifting modern business climate:

  • Provide specific solutions for customers. While it’s true that customers can use the web to find information about the products and services that they want to buy, what they can’t find from a company website is a specific solution that is tailored for their needs. As a sales rep or consultant, this is where you can provide value in the modern commercial environment: using your personal relationship with the customer to provide them with a tailored solution.
  • Offer more information for prospects. In the new age of sales, companies that can provide valuable content to their prospects are the ones who will get noticed. Make sure that you are providing consistent, relevant content to your prospects and customers so that you can draw in as many people as possible.
  • Be willing to change. Whether you are a sales rep or a business owner, you have to make sure that you can keep up to date with the latest techniques and tactics for connecting with prospects and customers. The sales reps and B2B companies who will survive through the transition into the new age of commerce are the ones that can adapt to this new style of informational, value-based marketing.

Forrester’s statistic is just one of the many research facts that foretells the end of the traditional sales model. By adopting the inbound approach, you can minimise the negative impact that this shift will have on your business, whether you are a small business owner or B2B sales rep.



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