A major growth challenge for many companies today is the profound transformation in customer behavior. Today’s buyers are enabled by the Internet, empowered by the enormous choice in every market, and possess the ability to compare real-time competitive prices. They have, in essence, taken control of the purchase process.
Research from Google and the Corporate Executive Board/Gartner (The Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing) gives us additional insight into B2B buyer behavior today. Their research found that customers reported being nearly 60 percent through the sales process before engaging a sales representative, irrespective of price point. To be exact, 57 percent of the sales process just disappeared!
The sales process differs by industry and preference. And your sales process will be customized to your experience with your customers. However, a generic sales process would look something like this:
And here is what the Google and the Corporate Executive Board/Gartner research discovered:
What are buyers doing if they’re not talking to your salespeople?
- Surfing websites to identify and qualify vendors, instead of your sales group qualifying them.
- Connecting with peers and colleagues to learn more about their needs, potential solutions and providers.
- Reading, listening to and watching free digital content from your website and others.
- Comparing competitive prices.
What does this mean for your sales and marketing?
I can’t think of a statistic that has a greater implication for B2B companies and how they generate revenues. In short, 57% of buying is happening outside the sales department.
The key study findings recommend re-evaluating your efforts in several areas. Here are my top two to focus on:
- Your marketing communication integration and content strategy.
- Guiding the sales process versus leading it.
First, company decision-makers will continue to take their buying process further into the sales process. Your relevant content (digital, social, hard copy, etc.,) will continue to intensify in value – content related to consideration and buying drivers, and the use of your product or service.
Second, knowledgeable buyers waiting longer to contact you, drives a transition in your sales group – from being a “sales pusher” following a process, to an insight “provider” adding value to the buyers business. This study states, your sales group must deliver “pointed insights and evidence that seek to challenge an entrenched point of view among potential customers.”
I know this perspective can be controversial. I am presenting it here to give you a different lens and to challenge you to evaluate your sales process. Is it time to recognize that we’re not in control? Does closing a sale today involve guiding the buying decision instead of leading it, or facilitating instead of selling?
Or, to put it another way, the traditional sales process may be obsolete; it is time to follow the buyers’ journey. Let us know what you think.
Contact me to discuss your sales process and how it can better drive your business.
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