Conferences are often filled with a room full of quiet, tired people hoping their travel and time away from the office will be worth it. The recent Sales 2.0 conference held in San Francisco was no exception. That is, until Alice Heiman, the Emcee and Chief Networking Officer walked on stage. Her beaming smile and warm, gracious energy sparked a fire. Alice shook everyone out of the sit-and-listen cloud that had already begun to settle on the audience. “If you don’t know the person sitting next you,” she said “Take a minute and introduce yourself,” and suddenly the invisible walls we enclose ourselves in at conferences came tumbling down.

Gerhard Gschwandtner kicked off the conference with equally clear intention. He wanted us to think about why we came to the conference – and he meant “why” in the personal sense. “Remember why you do what you do,” he said. He talked about the importance of mind-set and intention. Then, he handed me the mic. “What does it mean to connect with your dream?” he asked and I knew the answer—at least for me. I know if I’m not doing something I’m passionate about, then life is a grind. I’m grateful that I get to live my passion every day.

My dream is to help make a difference for sales and marketing leaders who are struggling to figure out how to make a difference themselves. I want to be a source of inspiration for how tools can empower people and free them to engage in higher-value, higher-meaning work.

The mic was passed to a dozen or so people, male and female, who each shared impromptu insight on why they came to the event and the difference they hope to make.

It was really refreshing to see a slate of speakers of both gender presenting powerful messages. Jenny Dearborn from SAP and Tiffani Bova from Gartner were just two of the professionals who helped us make the leap in understanding needed to be successful in a high tech, data-driven world, full of Millennials who see and do things differently than we baby-boomers do.

Tiffani Bova shook the room with the groundbreaking statement, “The most disruptive thing in the market today is not the technology, its actually the customer.” She explained that customers are frustrated by salespeople who won’t let them go through the buying process the way they want to go through it. One of the biggest reasons for that disconnect is the way that sales managers measure and coach to sales processes that don’t allow for digressions from a preset path. I so wanted to stand and hoot and holler when she finished.

She nailed it. Let’s face it, most of the management principals we use in the world of sales have been in place since the 1800s (as she pointed out). With that much history it would be easy to reject the changes she proposed, but she was undaunted. She said what needed to be said, and she turned the status quo on its proverbial head.

There had to be more than a handful of old boys whose initial instinct was to reject her message. And the notion of rejection is not unfamiliar in the world of sales. Frankly, it‘s one of the things that make sales people so incredibly unique. You could argue that anyone can learn to sell, but not everyone can handle the repeated rejection that is the daily diet of most sales people.

No one is better equipped to drive that point home than another speaker, Jia Jaing. Jia is an aspiring entrepreneur who found himself facing rejection and not handling it well. His response was to face rejection head on. He began a personal journey of 100 days of rejection. Every day for 100 days he asked a stranger for something he expected them to refuse. His hope was to teach himself that rejection wasn’t personal.

He will tell you that he not only learned that lesson, he also learned a different lesson that most sales people know well. If you don’t ask, you certainly won’t get it; and sometimes when you expect a “no” you get a “yes.” Check out Jai on You Tube. He is really an inspiration.

Of course, there were many other excellent presentations like the one by Dustin Grosse of Clearslide, who, like Tiffani, made it clear to us that we cannot ignore the rising tide of Millenials in business. They are here and will begin filling roles of influence over the next decade. Selling to or managing Millennials means understanding how they work. You have to start by understanding the environment in which they were raised. They digital natives who were educated in a cooperative learning environment, so it should be no surprise to us that they are extremely social and work cooperatively to make important decisions.

And, most importantly for those selling to them, they don’t buy like traditional buyers. They use social media and they self-educate. They complete a good deal of the buying process before they want to talk with a salesperson. They expect the people they buy from to provide information to them when and where they look for it. As a result, more than ever, the buyer determines the sales cycle, not the sales rep.

Dave DiStefano of PeopleLinx explained in the simplest of terms what “social” means in the world of sales and how to be successful. Success in social selling isn’t achieved with “random acts of social.” It requires a plan and a consistent process that’s integrated into the overall selling process.

We can’t forget about some of the more exciting solutions providers who exhibited and sponsored the event. Aviso, iSEEit, Clearslide, Fantasy Sales Team, DemoChimp, LiveHive are a few of my favorites.

With Alice’s continued encouragement to network, along with the exceptional content, Sales 2.0 ended up being a very easy place to connect. I met a many passionate people who shared one common motivation for attending the conference—to learn about new ideas and tools that can fuel their passions and dreams for their own organizations. It was energizing to meet so many like-minded people. Our industry is in for some pretty big changes in the next decade. I’m convinced, many of the people who will make that happen were at Sales 2.0

About the author

Nancy Nardin

Nancy Nardin is a recognized thought leader on sales technologies and building a sales stack. Smart Selling Tools reviews the latest sales and marketing software across multiple categories, including Inside Sales, Sales Intelligence, Sales Acceleration, Pipeline Management & Deal Flow, and Predictive Sales Analytics. It's been named a Top Sales Blog by HubSpot, and Nancy Nardin has been named alongside Forbes’ top 30 social sales influencers in the world. Follow Nancy on Twitter @sellingtools