What is Sales 2.0?


Share on LinkedIn

CSO Insights participated in the Sales 2.0 Conference hosted by Selling Power in San Francisco earlier this year and again last month at the East Coast event in Boston (Sales 2.0 Boston). When you attend these events you’ll see a mix of vendors that may be familiar (Genius.com, GoToMeeting, RIM) and others that you may not have encountered (Kadient, ConnectandSell, Xactly). CRM vendors are also represented.

You may be wondering is Sales 2.0 really CRM 2.0? Hopefully this article will provide you some answers to these questions.

In a white paper we produced two years ago, we offered the following definition:

Sales 2.0 focuses on aligning steps in the sales cycle with those in the buying cycle by leveraging technology, process improvement, and sales knowledge to effectively collaborate with the most appropriate individuals (internally and externally) and doing so in the preferred format of each.

Sales 2.0 does not necessarily change what salespeople do; it changes how they work to become more efficient and effective. The essence of Sales 2.0 is:

1. Increased communication and collaboration between sellers and buyers and within selling teams. The Sales 2.0 environment is heavily dependent upon technology (including Web 2.0 offerings) to do everything from routine contact and account management to increasingly sophisticated opportunity management and prospect collaboration.

2. Proactive and visible integration of knowledge and measurement of the buying cycle into the sales cycle. These two dimensions of technology-enabled communication/collaboration and buyer behavior integration change the way salespeople sell and buyers buy.

Since vendors pay to have their companies and solutions promoted and do so, at least in part, to educate prospective buyers, the conversation about Sales 2.0 has been largely dominated by talk of technology. (Full disclosure: CSO Insights has many vendor clients that have underwritten various papers we’ve produced.) This is unfortunate to the extent that the perception then becomes that the topic at hand—S2.0 in this case, CRM earlier—is about technology.

Let’s be clear, technology is a necessary component enabling S2.0 but an insufficient description of it. That is, several aspects of S2.0 are enabled by—may even require—technology, but S2.0 isn’t the technology. By way of analogy, it would be hard to imagine (though easier today than previously) modern transportation without the internal combustion engine. But the motor that powers most personal automobiles is not transportation—simply an important component.

What is Sales 2.0?

In my view, the short answer is that while Sales 1.0 focused principally on the actions of the seller (i.e., execution of the sales process), Sales 2.0 focuses upon tying appropriate sales activities to the buying process as it occurs. Is this a game of semantics or a case of gilding the lily? Perhaps. After all, sales reps have ignored buyer actions/wishes at their peril and successful sales reps have sought to accommodate, if not incorporate, buyer actions in their quest to close a sale long before the invention of the term Sales 2.0.

Sales 2.0 focuses upon tying appropriate sales activities to the buying process as it occurs.

One difference today is that essentially universal Internet access provides unprecedented (some might argue unlimited) insights to product features, benefits, applications, pricing, successes and failures—even before a sales rep is involved in the conversation. This shifts the dynamics (i.e., power) in the buy-sell equation. Sellers unwilling, or unable, to leverage the various communication channels available to facilitate buyers’ investigations will increasingly find themselves less successful in their sales efforts.

In our research we have tracked for several years increases in product complexity, competitive activity and entry into new markets. During this same time, buyers armed with ever higher levels of information and ever higher expectations have further complicated the task of navigating a successful course from initial buyer interest to eventual customer satisfaction. What’s a seller to do?

Rather than resist or try to limit buyer access to and/or exploration of various (i.e., competitive) alternatives, 2.0 sales reps are able to collaborate with participants on both sides of the buy-sell equation. For many, this is not a radical departure from but rather an extension of the relationships and conversations they have always sought to facilitate. The mindset being that a knowledgeable buyer is in the end not only a better buyer but a more satisfied customer.

Many will say this is not new—and they are right. What is new is the unprecedented extent to which these collaborations and conversations can range and the variety of technologies (e.g., web sites, customer blogs, industry/product reviews, wikis, tweets, and personal (social) networks) that inform the buying process.

Does Sales 2.0 Work?

Are any firms putting Sales 2.0 to work to good effect? I can share my own experience with a firm that is. For starters, I received three separate unsolicited referrals (two from the East Coast, one from the UK) for this firm because I mentioned we were redesigning our web site and considering starting a blog. With no more encouragement or information than this, each of the three individuals I was speaking to said, “You’ve got to talk to Hubspot.”

Never heard of Hubspot? Me either until a couple months ago. But if you visit their web site you’ll learn plenty, because they feel one of their differentiators is providing a lot of content through blog posts. At the highest level here’s how Hubspot describes itself: HubSpot is an inbound marketing system to help small or medium sized business get found on the Internet by the right prospects and convert more of them into leads and customers for maximum marketing ROI.

Their SaaS tools help you evaluate your web site’s SEO (search engine optimization) score and then offer tips on how to improve this over time. Since they use their own tools in their sales and marketing efforts they can serve as a current example of changing the dialogue and using technology to enable more effective collaboration with individuals. Because of all the content on their site, visitors (i.e., prospects and customers) often find Hubspot through searches on Google, as well as blogs, Facebook, webinars and even Twitter.

Once a prospect comes to the site and begins checking out various topics, the software keeps track of their visits, page views, etc. This in turn is integrated with Salesforce.com such that leads that are highly relevant are routed directly and immediately to the appropriate sales person.

Buyers are leveraging the Internet and if they can’t find you, you will not even be invited to the party.

In a traditional sales conversation a lot of time is spent trying to demonstrate credibility by asking questions to surface business pains often to guide the conversation toward solutions the seller has to offer. In this situation there are still questions being asked when the buyer and seller finally engage but these tend to be more focused: “I see you’ve run web grader and your site’s score was 75 (out of 100). Are you interested in tips that might help you raise this higher?” Or, “You seem to be having some difficulty with key word searches; are you hearing of some missed opportunities only after your competitor has won the deal or a competitive RFP has been issued?”

This isn’t a product review so let’s cut to the chase: are there more/better leads as a result of this energetic creation of content and open sharing of it through the Internet? The company was officially founded and funded (after a couple years of early work by the two founders) in June 2006. It has grown to 75 employees and 1200 customers (reached in Feb 2009). They continue to grow and, as mentioned above, develop happy customers.

And they report, “At HubSpot, at least 95% of our leads are generated by marketing while the rest is referred by customers.”

Does Anyone Really Care?

These numbers are much higher than the lead gen figures reported in our 2009 Sales Performance Optimization report and would likely be welcome by the those companies that made “Enhancing our lead generation programs” the top sales effectiveness initiative for the fourth year in a row. Everyone knows these are challenging times and there is no shortage of folks offering solutions to help you face these challenges.

Is Sales 2.0 the answer? Every indication is that you have nothing to lose in pursuing this approach and a great deal to gain. Buyers are leveraging the Internet and if they can’t find you, you will not even be invited to the party. If you are invited to the party and only proceed to do a product pitch you’ll be uninvited faster than you can imagine.

The ongoing question the market is asking more forcefully (and more urgently) everyday is: What value do you add? Leveraging content and resources by collaborating on both sides of the buy-sell equation dramatically increases your ability to answer this question, and leveraging technology to do so can dramatically reduce the costs.
Can you think of a better time to do both?

Barry Trailer
Barry has been involved in complex B2B sales for over 30 years and is intrigued with how it's changed/changing and what this means to Sales as a Profession (SaaP). Salesware, the analytics company he co-founded, was acquired by Goldmine Software in 2000 and his next company, CSO Insights with Jim Dickie, was acquired by Miller Heiman Group in 2015. He has twice been published by, and been a keynote for, Harvard Business Review, and is author of Sales Mastery, a novel.


  1. Hi Barry,

    You mention “In my view, the short answer is that while Sales 1.0 focused principally on the actions of the seller (i.e., execution of the sales process), Sales 2.0 focuses upon tying appropriate sales activities to the buying process as it occurs.” and while I partially agree I think this undervalues Sales in general.

    Selling is about asking questions to determine explicit need and then becoming a trusted advisor and providing a solution that addresses that need. Its part of the Marketing funnel, the funnel of Awareness, Consideration, Preference, Purchase, Loyalty. In fact it touches the last 4 of the 5 parts to the funnel.

    Sales 2.0 is, as you say, a new engine that provides technology to address the Marketing funnel and the Sales process of determining explicit need. Note that I use “explicit”, that is the customer has to say “I need a …”

    F2F can be replaced by Webinars for consideration, however the explicit need still has to be found. Logistics (ie Amazon next day delivery) has to be part of Preference, credit checks, secure payment has to be part fof Purchase and human voice customer care with a CRM tool to assist part of Loyalty. However, in the end selling is selling and marketing is marketing, and Sales 2.0 is most likely a means of vendors of technology to suggest companies need to embrace the new.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here