“The internet hasn’t been kind to the sales rep,” says sales and marketing author Brian Gray.

If you are thinking your sales reps will be the gateway of your go-to-market strategy, experts say you have another think coming.

Increasingly, sales reps must provide an experience, not just info.

“Before the internet, when the rep was in control of distributing all the information a prospect could get, they knew early on that they were being considered,” says Gray, leader of Revenue Path Group. “It allowed for multitouch sales methodologies to form. Each call, at each stage, took on different importance and training.”

Before the internet, business-to-business (B2B) prospects needed a sales rep to obtain information. That meant that as soon as a prospect entered the marketplace, they were in touch with viable options.

“Today that’s not the case,” says Gray. “Prospects delegate a lot of research to a lower-level employee, who brings options to the table. By the time they make contact, they have decided their own solution, pigeonholed you in with some competitors and want you to compete on price.”

The importance of the internet and social media is not news. But like many other aspects of marketing, Covid-19 has dramatically accelerated this shift. This has a huge impact on go-to-market strategy.

A go-to-market strategy is your plan to utilize inside and outside resources, such as distributors and your sales team, to appeal to prospects when you are offering a new product or service. The goal of a go-to-market strategy is to make the short list for those prospects who want what you have to offer.

“Looking back at the pandemic of 2020, this is the fastest the business world has ever changed, “says Gray, who I met when I helped him edit his first sales and marketing strategy book. “But looking forward, this time will seem slow in comparison to future acceleration.”

To apply an old movie line to the shift, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

“The go-to-market-model has changed dramatically over the past decade,” echoes business author Jerry Phillips. “Customers who relied on salespeople to share information now have it at their fingertips through the internet and social media. What was once a differentiator for companies has now become a commodity.”

Phillips, who leads a consultancy called Nine Runs, has extensive experience in both conceptualizing and implementing processes for sales and marketing with Black & Decker/DeWalt, Grainger, and Cold Spring. We met when I helped him edit his most recent book. He says the only true differentiators are the value proposition, and the resulting customer experience. Customers are only willing to pay for differentiation.   

“As consumers, we recognize and reward great customer experiences,” says Phillips. “The challenge we see with traditional B2B sales teams is they have not evolved to give their customers great ‘Amazon-like’ experiences.”

“We worked with a sporting goods manufacturer that sells directly to retailers, through agencies,” says Phillips. “Its products are outstanding, and the company has been extremely successful. However, they have limited information about their end user, their retailers, and limited understanding of what their third-party sales team is doing.”

So, Phillips worked with the executives to understand their people, their processes, and their technology, and how it supports their strategy. 

“We worked with them to plan their results,” says Phillips, who reported the company was able to change the relationship with its sales team. “Through analysis of the total market and their coverage model, they identified new opportunities with new retailers for a new go-to-market strategy.”

This also applies to consultants and professionals who work in the B2B world who want to attract high-paying clients. Whip your lazy website into shape with the information prospects need to put you on the short list. That means it is more important to specialize than ever.

You prove you are an expert in the niche in two ways: by the how-to problem-solving information you provide online and then by the quality of the questions you ask during the initial consultation (which is happening online through services like Zoom). You gain the greatest amount of credibility by the questions you ask that prove you understand their challenges and priorities. That is the only strategy for going to market.