The B2B sales landscape has changed, forcing the role of a salesperson to adapt. Not only has the role of a salesperson evolved, the balance of power has shifted dramatically towards the modern buyer causing expectations to shift. However, in order to understand the impacts shifting buyer expectations are having on salespeople, first we need to briefly look over the evolution of selling techniques.
For years salespeople have been walking into sales meetings prepared to tell customers their story. They would emphasize just how great their organisations products and services are, i.e. salespeople would deliver the traditional sales pitch. For a long time this was the most effective way to sell. Buyers had no other way of finding out the price and specifications of a product or service but from a salesperson. Salespeople could effectively use a one size fits all selling approach, learning one pitch that could be repeated to every buyer.
However technology started to advance, and with the introduction of the internet buyers gained access to product and service information online. This resulted in the evolution of the educated buyer. Salespeople started to find the traditional sales pitch was no longer showing results as the breadth of knowledge they required to know had increased, sparking the move to solution selling techniques.
THE MOVE TO SOLUTION SELLING
Buyer’s started to complete independent research following the introduction of the internet, and pre-determine the problems their organization was facing. However, buyers were often unable to determine the solution they needed to amend these problems. Therefore instead of selling a product or service based on price and features, salespeople started selling solutions (Gray, 2012). Salespeople would ask buyers questions that uncovered their core pain points, and match a product or service to the solution.
But as time has gone on buyers have gained access to even more information, becoming hyper-educated and more sophisticated. And as a result solution selling is no longer the solution for salespeople to effectively sell to today’s buyers. 74% of executives are turning to the internet to research and gather information before reaching out to a salesperson, simply because of the “ease and speed by which information can be located” (Forbes Insights, 2009). As a result by the time a buyer reaches out to a salesperson 60% of the decision-making process is complete, and they know just as much about products and services as the salesperson does (Corporate Executive Board, 2014).
Although buyers have become hyper-educated following the completion of thorough research, they are faced with a number of options and an overwhelming amount of information. Thus the challenge for buyers is analysing all this information to make an informed decision, and the right decision. And it is this challenge that has shifted a buyers expectations when engaging with a salesperson. So what do buyers expect from salespeople today?
EXPECTATIONS OF THE HYPER-EDUCATED BUYER
Today’s buyers are engaging with salespeople much further down the sales cycle, and expect to engage quickly with salespeople that have an in-depth knowledge base. Thus salespeople are no longer just salespeople, they have evolved into what has come to be known as sales engineers. In our recent Sales Disruption Seminar, Arman Masoudi of Microsoft Australia discussed how “buyers are now looking for intelligent sales]engagement. They want less salespeople and more trusted advisors. They know about product features and functions. They want someone to add value to them”.
Value is what selling to today's buyers is all about. In order to achieve a successful outcomes buyers need a compelling reason to buy. As Mark Dick - LinkedIn pointed out “salespeople need to come up with something that is of true value. What more do you have? What can you additionally and actually give a buyer? Thus buyers expect salespeople to be experts in their industry to advise and help them make the right decision.
In order to meet the needs and expectations of today’s hyper-educated buyers to deliver an outstanding, and engaging customer experience, salespeople need to walk into a sales meeting and have the ability to unlock the right information, effective information at the moment of need. However in today’s B2B sales landscape it is also harder for salespeople to sell. Salespeople are no longer dealing with a single stakeholder, but now an entire stakeholder buying group with on average, 6.8 stakeholders (Gabriel Tsavaris, CEB - Qotient Sales Disruption Seminar).
Check out part two of this series where we take an in-depth look at the complexity of selling in today's B2B sales landscape, and why it's harder to sell to 6.8 stakeholders.
Corporate Executive Board. (2014). The Two Qualities Your Content Marketing Needs. Retrieved from https://www.cebglobal.com/blogs/the-two-qualities-your-content-marketing-needs/?business_line=marketing-communications
Forbes Insights. (2009). The Rise of the Digital C-Suite - How Executives Locate and Filter Business Information. [PDF] Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/forbesinsights/digital_csuite/
Gray, T. (2012). Insight Selling Replaces Solution Sales. Retrieved from http://www.tom-gray.com/2012/07/25/insight-selling-replaces-solution-sales/