The Changing Sales Landscape – The Buyer

Prognostication is risky. Especially when it comes to business.

This article goes out on a bit of a limb, connecting seismic shifts in B2B purchasing to a new set of competencies professional sales people will need to be more efficient producers.

In this first of four articles, we’ll look at the buyer.

By now, we are all familiar with this insight from The Challenger Sale (2012):

Corporate Executive Board (CEB) reported that “In our most recent survey of thousands of participants in a typical B2B purchase, we found that on average customers are nearly 60% of the way through a purchase prior to proactively reaching out to a supplier for their input.” (2012, Adamson, CEB Blog).

The purchase dance of old will never be the same. The days of the salesperson showing up on a white horse with a previously unknown product or solution are long gone.

Front and center today are:

  • Information
  • Product
  • Service and Adoption

Information about products, services, and brands – once hard to get – is now as close as your search bar. And companies who at first were shy about dipping their toes into the waters of Sales/Marketing 2.0 are now, in 2013-2014, all wet.

White papers, presentations, articles, and videos – the backbone of search, email, and lead generation efforts and the domain of marketing – are trumpeting the value propositions of B2B businesses products and services all over the internet before the salesperson even opens their mouth.

The product is on a higher pedestal than ever before. The “digital enabled sales model” allows for trials of nearly fully functioning cloud-based software and solutions. Trials are now an expected part of the sales process – and at no cost.  So too is the “competitive shoot-out” where customers conduct exhaustive due diligence before making any major purchase decision.

While healthy relationship skills may get salespeople in the door, to actually win the deal, the product must prevail empirically.

Finally, shifts in revenue recognition practices mandated by Sarbanes-Oxley (recognizing sales monthly and not in one big up front lump sum) has put the spotlight on service and adoption.  With annual subscriptions and “seats” in play every year, vendors must make sure that products not only do as promised, but they must also actually get used. Detailed web analytics make adoption stats impossible to avoid. On-boarding, training, service – not the usual domain of sales – can make the difference between an increase or a drop (or sharp cut in the number of seats) at renewal time.

What does this all this mean for the sales professional?

Next time we’ll look at The Changing Sales Landscape – The Hunter.

References

McKinsey Digital Sales Model retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/mckinsey/2013/10/15/sales-disruption-eruption-b2b-sales-go-consumer/

Challenger Sale quote retrieved from http://www.executiveboard.com/blogs/the-single-most-important-question-for-the-challenger-sale/?business_line=sales-service