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Transcript: Goodbye sales funnel, hello social media

Karl Moore: This is Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, Talking Management for The Globe and Mail. Today I am delighted to speak to Brian Fetherstonhaugh who is the chairman CEO of OgilvyOne Worldwide which is the online medium, new media part, of Ogilvy & Mathers, one of the great advertising firm in the world.

Brian, good afternoon.

Brian Fetherstonhaugh: Good afternoon.

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KM: When we look at it, you've written and talked about how selling has changed. How has selling changed and how is it different in this new world?

BF: I think a lot of aspects of selling have changed, but there is a fundamental thing that has happened which is that buying has changed and, if you think about it, consumers are just fundamentally better informed and more empowered. So if you think about buying a car, or buying a vacation trip or a camera or laptop, today you don't walk into that buying situation uninformed and at the mercy of a sales person. You walk in and you've done your search, you've checked out the corporate websites and very likely you've looked at third parties and tried to get some ratings and assessments from other people like you - that role of social media coming in. So, selling has changed because buying has fundamentally changed.

KM: So what's the role of social media? Is that really central now in how we sell to people?

BF: You know, I think in the last two years in particular, Karl, the social media impact on purchasing is really on the ascendency. When you look at Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn to some extent in the business-to-business field, they are having powerful, powerful, influences on who gets on the buying menus and what, ultimately, purchases are made.

KM: So what's the role of a sales person in all of this? If social media is so important, what does a sales person do?

BF: You know, there is still tremendous importance of the selling person, but their mind frame needs to be different. In the old world so many people grew up with driving consumers through the sales funnel. Now the sales funnel was actually invented in 1898, so it's had a very good run, but this notion of the marketer or seller driving people through the selling funnel is just not relevant anymore. The empowered and informed consumer has got their own journey and your job as a sales person is to meet them on their journey and propel them and work with them towards a final sale. It's a very different beast.

KM: Can you give us an example of a journey?

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BF: So, a customer journey if you were to buy a new laptop, for example. In the old world, you'd walk into an electronics retailer semi-informed, you might have read a trade publication or you might have talked to some expert at work, and after that point you are asking the sales person, you are putting yourself at their mercy and in their hands, to inform you about the different models, price points and specifications. Today, a typical journey for a laptop or electronics purchase would definitely involve search and early discovery, talking to friends and trusted people you know, but also looking for peers, people like you or strangers with expertise, and consulting a wide variety of sources. Once you are equipped with that - quite close to the end of your journey - you might go into a retail store. So you see how this buyer-seller relationship is extremely different then what it was three to five years ago.

KM: So the sales person has to be more knowledgeable, perhaps, then they were in the past. Can they still up-sell? Can they still convince people that they want some additional features?

BF: Yup. There is still an important role for the sales person, but you aren't holding all the cards, you don't have all the data, so your role is quite a bit different. It's more consultative, it's more understanding how this fits with the consumer, and to the extent that you can connect, what you have to sell with the consumer's existing journey, then you will have success. But if you are trying to force someone, when they know the facts are wrong, you are not going to be successful as a sales person. So the skill is quite different, sales people really need to step up and to be much more consultative and collaborative and advisory. Some people are adapting really well, and some people are really struggling with it.

KM: This has been Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, Talking Management for The Globe and Mail.

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