Selling is getting harder and this is causing a vicious cycle. The harder it gets the more desperate salespeople get. Desperate salespeople do unseemly things (lying to my gatekeeper is a minor offense compared to full on deception through the sales process). Bad behavior by salespeople brings down any prospect's willingness to engage in any sales process -- making selling even harder. And so on... The deflationary trend in the economy only amplifies these problems.
Some companies get around this by eliminating salespeople all together. Amazon and Google really don't have salespeople. They have developed self service sales processes and have lowered their prices to a point where customers sell themselves. I have a few posts on the topic of selling, here is a list.
Companies that sell complex products or services to big business clients (aka the enterprise), do not have the luxury automating and lowering the cost until the thing sells itself. The most dramatic proof of this can be found in the sales and marketing budget of Salesforce.com. I have a few posts about that as well, here is another list.
What then do we do in an age where white papers and webinars and spam are well, just spam, and salespeople don't add value because any person with both the technical capability customers value and the social skills to be a salesperson increasingly chooses a technical career? Here are two trends I have observed in the marketplace that may be the manifestation of this new reality:
Companies that know how to sell have a big advantage. Oracle is a company that knows how to sell. Their sales practices are both legendary and ruthlessly efficient. Sales and marketing at 20% of revenue may seem high, but only a fraction when compared to Salesforce.com's 50%+. Think of it this way, when Salesforce.com spends a dollar on sales and marketing -- it gets $2 back. When Oracle spends a dollar it gets $5 back. Big difference.
It is this ability to sell to the enterprise that Oracle is counting on when it buys all of those companies. Here is a blog post on SoftwareAdvice that has a great chart of the last 100 or so Oracle acquisitions. There is no reason to think that Oracle is going to shy away from exploiting its unique ability to sell to the enterprise. Gotta wonder of Oracle could fix Salesforce.com's cost of selling. Hmmm.
More Dependence on Partners
Microsoft is a company that knows how to build partnerships. In fact, running its channel partner program may be its core competency. Microsoft partners know that Microsoft is committed to making them successful and both Microsoft and its partners invest side by side in the pursuit of new business. Dell has recognized this and is working hard to build out a channel partner program as fast as possible. If you sell to the enterprise, partners are critical.
Consolidation + Partners = Opportunity
If companies that know how to sell to the enterprise acquire other companies, and companies that know how to sell to the enterprise rely heavily on channel partners, then the real work is going to happen when combining channel partner programs of merged or acquired companies. We already see a great deal of this, and I suspect there will be more in the near future.
The bottom line: Highly valued high performance partners will benefit through this evolution. Low performance partners will be redundant.