Is Sales 2.0 New? Improved? Social?


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Tacking “2.0” at the end of a term is shorthand for “new and improved,” usually with a social media slant. However, after attending a recent Sales 2.0 conference in San Francisco—an excellent and well-attended event hosted by Selling Power and—I left with more questions than answers.

I asked several attendees, “What is Sales 2.0?” and got some quizzical looks and muddled replies. But they essentially told me it was about selling better with new tools. Nigel Edelshain, CEO of a consulting/services firm called Sales 2.0, told me he coined the term a couple of years ago to mean taking sales to the “next level” and turning selling into more of a science.

In “Sales 2.0 for Dummies,” a minibook by David Thompson of given out at the event, Gerhard Gschwandtner (founder of Selling Power) is quoted as saying: “Sales 2.0 brings together customer-focused methodologies and productivity-enhancing technologies that will transform selling from an art to a science.”

Speakers tended to give Sales 2.0 advice like:
* be customer-focused
* get executive sponsorship
* define the sales process first
* use the right metrics
* choose/implement the right tools

Sorry, but I’m pretty sure I heard these tips in the first CRM conference I attended more than 10 years ago. Where is the “next-generation” part?

So, is Sales 2.0 new? Based on what I learned at this conference, not so much, except for the technology/tools. More on that in a moment.

Is Sales 2.0 social?

I think this is a fair and important question, because “Web 2.0” is a term that most associate with social media. Tacking “2.0” on the end of a term implies social, in my view.

However, I don’t think this is where most of the Sales 2.0 insiders are coming from. Many speakers acknowledged that the empowered social customer was changing the game for marketing and selling, but the main response seems to be to upgrade the same marketing/sales processes using new SaaS-based tools. Not much new thinking.

In other words, Sales 2.0 seems to be a reaction to social customers, but not actually selling socially. Does that makes sense?

With all due respect to the sales experts and vendors at the conference, if they want Sales 2.0 to mean actually being more social, they should read this intro from Sales in the New Enterprise from Social Media Academy.

Social media is a mind set with an underlying technology. It is NOT a new technique to push harder, get a “message out” or further automate internal business processes. Social media allows building a trustful environment that can dramatically improve the customer experience, create advocacy and develop a mutually beneficial business relationship.

Tools matter, and some can help you be social

All that being said, updated tools are indeed valuable. and Marketo (exhibitors at the conference) are good examples of B2B marketing systems designed to engage customers online. Engage = social in my book. (See my recent article B2B Marketing 2.0: How to Engage Social Buyers and Break Marketing/Sales Gridlock.)

Also, there are a number of cloud-based services to provide information to reps, to help them find and close prospects. Some tap traditional/editorial sources (Hoovers) and others social media (InsideView) for customer information or help generate contacts/leads (Jigsaw, Salesgenie, ZoomInfo) using Web 2.0 technologies.

Nice services, but using information scraped from online databases or social media doesn’t necessarily mean the sales process is collaborative. Mining customer data isn’t being social any more than stalking is dating.

Improving sales science through analytics

Being more analytical is critical to bringing more “science” to the sales profession. And I don’t mean simple reporting like you see in most CRM/SFA applications. Real analytics means developing new insights, not just reporting what happened.

I had a long chat with Ken Rudin, VP of Market Development and co-founder of LucidEra, which provides SaaS-based business intelligence solutions. Ken has an impressive background in the BI world, running his own consulting firm, working at in the early days, and then at Siebel and Oracle. LucidEra basically takes a approach to delivering BI with a multi-tenant system.

He points out, and rightfully so, that marketing and sales automation tools are good at collecting and tracking sales data, but not so good at the analysis. Rather than just provide the raw technology, LucidEra creates applications targeted to optimizing sales efforts, to help answer questions like:
* What percentage of my revenue are my Top 10 sales reps responsible for?
* What is the trend of some of my key pipeline statistics over several quarters, by pipeline stage?
* What are the Top 25 late stage opportunities for the quarter?
* What is the trend of product sales by my lowest-performing sales reps?

OK, so not much social going on here, but good for those who position Sales 2.0 as being more scientific. Another more general purpose SaaS vendor that could help with sales analytics is Birst.

One more time: What is Sales 2.0?

Is Sales 2.0 new, improved or social? Based on what I observed at the conference…

1. Sales 2.0 isn’t all that new, except for the minority that really practice it in a social/collaborative way with customers and prospects. Too much old wine in new bottle.

2. Sales 2.0 is somewhat improved, but mainly by the use of the latest SaaS solutions. Updated tools are Good Things, but only as good as the skill of the user.

3. Sales 2.0 isn’t very social, at least not yet. But the concept is there, and I hope to see more progress in the coming year.

I asked Barry Trailer, a Sales 2.0 guru and managing partner at CSO Insights, for his thoughts on Sales 2.0. He said that leveraging new technology was one part of it, but that the other key was having a “conversation with the buyer.”

For those who want to learn more about what Sales 2.0 should mean, here’s a comparison from an excellent CSO Insights white paper Sales 2.0 Whitepaper: Part II — Think. Think Different. Think Again.

Sales 1.0 “is built upon the classic military model: Command, Control, Conquer.”

Sales 2.0 “has a different foundation: Collaborate, Choreograph, Capture. Capture wallet share. Capture customer loyalty. Capture the imagination of your buyers, your sales reps, your peers. Capture an idea.”

The journey to Sales 2.0 is underway. Sure, use the new tools. But don’t forget to really engage with buyers on the journey—because they’re very busy implementing Buying 2.0.


  1. Bob,

    First there was the magazine Business 2.0 which was to explain how to thrive in the new economy. They apparently did not follow their own advice and are out of business.

    Then Web 2.0 came on the scene. Now I get the distinction between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. Web 1.0 was a continuation of product-centric, PUSH and transactionally oriented business strategies taking place on the Internet. Web 2.0 is all about PULL. Companies need to attract customers to their value proposition. It is not an option, customers have taken control of the buying process by searching online and using social media to vet companies, products and to find the experiences and outcomes that appeal to them.

    Now to every other use of 2.0 including sales. If they don’t recognize the fundamental shift that has taken place in the buyer-seller relationship, they should. Or, decide to used 1.1 after what ever they think is new.


    John I. Todor, Ph.D.

  2. Bob, these are good questions and I hope to see more dialogue here (and elsewhere) on the actual impact of Sales 2.0 technologies. To me sales has always been “social” in nature, it’s just that with the adoption of Web 2.0 technologies there are many new mediums available to sales people for initiating social interaction & crafting relationships (beyond lunch, golf, trade-shows, etc.)

    So sales 2.0 might not necessarily be more social than Sales 1.0, it just provides new and different (and arguably more efficient) channels for interacting with customers. In other words, Sales 2.0 is about making sales people more productive.

    With a growing number of ways to converse and collaborate online (social bookmarking, social networks, Twitter, blogs, Wikipedia, etc), sales people are no longer limited by their physical reach (# of prospects they can visit in a week or # of calls or emails they can make.) Sales 2.0 technologies can help sales people actively listen to and engage with the RIGHT prospects at the RIGHT time, long before (or without ever) meeting them face to face. Some of these technologies also allow sales management to more easily tap into the collective intelligence and reach (e.g. existing social & professional relationships) of their entire sales organization.

    I think this is consistent with Barry’s answer to your question – Sales 2.0 technologies can facilitate more high quality customer conversations (and I mean ‘quality’ from the customer’s perspective as well, not just the sales person’s).

  3. To me, the most exciting part of Sales 2.0 is the opportunity to engage with customers and prospects in new ways, on the Social Web.

    Too much of what is being called Sales 2.0 now is just automating current processes. There’s some benefit there, but the real leverage lies in improving sales effectiveness, not just efficiency. Effectiveness means getting more of the right prospects into the funnel and helping the rep win deals more often. It means helping the rep truly engage with the prospect to create more trust, rather than just treating as a target.

    The key question: will sales organizations use Sales 2.0 technologies just to make the same old sales process a little bit better, or will they re-think their approach and uses Sales 2.0 technologies to participate in conversations on the social media frontier? Buyers are already there, but I fear reps will remain stuck in their old ways. I would like to hear of more cases of engagement, not just prospect data mining and process automation.

    Bob Thompson, CustomerThink Corp.
    Blog: Unconventional Wisdom

  4. Bob,

    Thanks for the mention. I believe we’re still defining Sales 2.0. In my opinion it’s a “banner” to get under to develop and apply “new ways of selling”.

    As a “type A” person (ex microchip designer and MBA) I really believe we CAN improve how sales works in the vast majority of the companies out there.

    The catalyst that has made change a real possibility is the Internet. Buyers have already changed their behavior. They search first on Google. The Sales 2.0 movement is about “leveling the playing field” and giving sales people the tools and techniques to make them more effective and relevant again.

    I don’t think Sales 2.0 is all figured out yet by any means. It’s a journey that may be several years long and we are at the start. But already some great tools and techniques are available.

    I’ve never seen a business function quite as dysfunctional as sales so if the Sales 2.0 movement can change that (even just a little) it’s a movement that is worthwhile.


  5. Bob,

    A great article and related comments on Sales 2.0. Over the past few years, I’ve been researching “the best of” Sales 2.0. Clearly, we need to add more science to the art of selling and this involves content, people, process, and technology. An area not discussed often but which helps to accelerate the Sales 2.0 movement is to look at the selling process from the outside-in and not just the inside-out, in effect how people want to buy – not just how we want to sell. A quick win in this area is for companies to add RIA content (online demonstrations, white boards, testimonials) which parallels the early stage of the B2B selling process. It provides consistent messaging, high quality presentations, and is how buyers want to engage. Companies are beginning to post this content but few are adjusting their sales process to leverage the web and dynamic content. Investors and senior management are looking for an alternative to Sales 1.0 because it’s expensive and does not consistently deliver results. A down economy will help accelerate the transition – it’s the lack of “how” which is holding back the market.

    Good Selling.
    Bill Butler.


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