It's About Time: Increasing Customer Engagement Through Sales 2.0

Anneke Seley

"2.0" has gone mainstream. A little more than a year ago, while I was in New York to present my proposal for a book on Sales 2.0 to my publisher, I realized the 2.0 naming convention was here to stay. When I picked up the morning newspaper, I saw The New York Times had published an article titled "Food 2.0," describing how innovative chefs are using chemistry to transform their dishes into new culinary creations. In bookstores were bestselling titles, including The Joy of Cooking 2.0 (the CD version of the popular cookbook) and StrengthsFinder 2.0 (the new edition of StrengthsFinder 1.0).

The 2.0 moniker appears to have staying power, as Holiday Party 2.0 just took place in San Francisco. Unlike traditional festivities, this gala had investing sponsors and an admission fee for guests—it even may have turned a profit.

Beyond Everyday Vocabulary: Selling in a 2.0 Environment

We first saw the emergence of 2.0 in the technology world with terms including Web 2.0, CRM 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0. The numbering comes from product development, which assigns a version number to keep track of and distinguish among different product releases. Version 2.0 includes fixes, improvements and enhancements to Version 1.0.

In the past several years, 2.0 has extended into our everyday vocabulary to describe a new way of thinking, or an improved, next-generation version of the old. A 2.0 approach is often defined and developed when current goals are not being met, traditional approaches are no longer working and new ways to achieve success are needed. This is why 2.0 operational practices have become increasingly important in business, as executives and investors become laser-focused on reliable, predictable results in our changing economy.

When the business climate is challenging, managers are also more willing to try new models rather than continue with business as usual; they can no longer get away with a philosophy of "we’ve always done it that way." Traditionally, one of the least likely business functions to be associated with innovation and cutting-edge approaches has been the selling function. Not anymore: Sales 2.0 is being applied to selling with impressive results.

What Is Sales 2.0?

Sales 2.0 is the use of innovative sales practices, enabled by technology. These innovative sales practices include:

  1. strategically aligning sales resources with customer opportunities, as well as internal sales and marketing initiatives
  2. establishing a consistent sales process that is measurable, predictable and scalable
  3. strengthening customer relationships by truly changing your mindset to see the world through their eyes

How Does Sales 2.0 Affect Sales Productivity and Results?

There are hundreds of examples of companies that have measurably improved sales productivity and results by implementing Sales 2.0. I know one division of a billion dollar software company that saw an increase of 10 to 15 percent in performance of their overall sales team. Year over year, their headcount is down 17 percent since 2007, yet their sales have increased 12 percent. Why? Companies practicing Sales 2.0 are dedicated to strategic alignment, sales process, and strong authentic customer relationships, all supported by technology.

  • Strategic alignment ensures their sales and marketing departments are in sync. They also match the most appropriate and most profitable sales people to types of customers and sales opportunities. For example, a field-based, traveling sales team handles large companies and opportunities, while a telephone and Internet-based sales group is assigned to smaller businesses and opportunities, as well as existing customers.
  • Sales process, which clearly defines the discrete steps in their sales cycle from initial qualification to close, gives them metrics to understand and manage their business, such as conversion rates from step to step. By tracking this information, they can determine if their sales performance is on track and make any necessary corrections early.
  • Strong and authentic customer relationships are forged by changing the seller’s perspective to that of their customer, including adapting their sales process to how the customer wants to buy, and recognizing and respecting the customer’s communications and buying-style preferences.
  • Technology makes these practices possible, with a wide range of products that support all aspects of Sales 2.0, from sophisticated tracking and measuring to online customer engagement.

How Do Companies Reap Benefits From Sales 2.0?

If you look at many market-leading companies in technology, such as Oracle, Cisco WebEx and, they are Sales 2.0 leaders. These companies have seen some obvious benefits in terms of recognized sales metrics, such as increased revenue and profit, sustained competitive advantage and higher percentage of quota attainment than industry standards.

Having strong sales and marketing collaboration, customer loyalty and measurable, predictable, scalable sales process allow these companies to invest in people and programs with confidence, because they can predict the results of these investments.

A measurable sales process becomes a kind of crystal ball, allowing managers to accurately predict the future and report results to their executive teams, board members, and investors. They get early warning signals when their metrics are off—either higher or lower than normal—and can make corrections months in advance or reset financial expectations.

Sales 2.0, which yields improved business results for both customers and sellers, is changing the way we think about the selling function. In business and in everyday life, the 2.0 phenomenon is here to stay.

First published in The 2.0 Era.