Selling is usually more focused on the concerns of the buyer, rather than the seller. A successful sales model should accommodate the varying buying behaviors of the consumers rather than ignoring or resisting them. This is a shift for firms that relied on traditional assumptions regarding the buying behavior of the consumer.
For over 100 years, buying process has been framed around the AIDA model, which is a prospect’s journey passing through the stages of ‘Awareness’ to ‘Interest’ to ‘Desire to Action’. This is a sequential process where marketing generated lead is converted in to a prospect and then becomes a customer. The pipeline metrics decide whether the prospect is progressing through the sales funnel or not.
Gartner research suggests a unique buying reality which is contrary to the common beliefs. He suggests that rather than moving sequentially through the funnel, the buyers follow four parallel streams in order to make the purchase decision. The following are the 4 factors:
- Explore Through interactions with vendors, and personal research on the internet, the buyer identifies the needs and the products and services that can satisfy the needs.
- Evaluate The buyer carefully examines the products and services through personal research and interactions with friends or people that have relevant knowledge.
- Engage The buyers increase the contact with vendors or service providers and take their help to move towards the purchase decision.
- Experience The buyer uses the product or service and develops the perception regarding the value provided based on the experience.
Effective selling now revolves around these changes in the customer mind set, understanding the customer’s position in the aforementioned streams and interacting with the customer accordingly.
Below are the few concepts to facilitate these shifts in an effective manner.
In Latest Sales Trends , Buyers are more important than ever
The customers want to interact with people that can help them in making the purchase decision. B2B buyers report that these interactions are the most influential in the decision making process as compared to any other.
Surprisingly, the least influential source is social media. Digital media has not yet replaced sales people when it comes to B2B buying scenarios. Providing solutions remains the foremost essential of such scenarios.
The products and the services sold to business firms are components in a wider usage system for the buyer, and the value resides in that usage, not just the product. Hence why the sales force is of such importance to the B2B customer.
Due to economic crisis of 2008, business buyers now have to justify their decisions to the organization. The popular belief is that buyer’s journey is handled predominantly online in most buying scenarios without knowledge and relevant information provided by the sales team. However, this is not true. The buyer needs all the relevant information so that he could justify the buying decision to the organization.
[Tweet “70% of consumers like getting to know a company by articles instead of ads. #Content #Sales #InsideSales”]
The research also found out that buyers emphasize that interactions with seller, technical demos and sales presentations should focus on buyer’s needs. Sales calls in response to registering for webinars or other events are considered as least valued interactions. Therefore, core solution-selling and account management skills still count.
Although buyers use the internet to search online, it still is used as a complement to and not a substitute for interactions with sales reps, partners and others. Access to information has increased awareness that relevant alternatives for solutions to a particular problem do exist. Online search increases the buyer’s propensity to seek information about what works with different companies and who can use that knowledge to help develop better solutions.
Infographic on Sales Trends 2015
Buying is a continuous and dynamic process
People have started believing that sales people are vanishing. However, the truth is that buying processes and consequently sales tasks have changed. If we look at the figure which depicts the most influential B2B marketing activities, references make it to the second spot. In the earlier times, when the prospect asked for references, the seller would have showed them the testimonials of a few satisfied customers. However, thanks to the web, the customers now interact with each other online, and get honest opinions from the ones that have used the product or availed the service.
The important role is also played by whitepapers, events and the seller’s website. These activities are a part of the marketing plan, rather than sales. This demands better coordination between the marketing and selling functions, which are increasingly interdependent on each other but vary in their perspectives and procedures. In a recent survey of B2B executives, the marketing-sales relationship is their main concern.
Websites, blogs and other digital media have increased the transparency of the vendors for the buyer. The prospect touches the brand at different points, be it online, offline, marketing content, etc. They can touch these points whenever they want to and each point has a fair impact on selling tasks. The sales teams want the prospect to interact with different people at different touch points and the effective coordination of these touch points should be a part of their go-to market strategy as this leaves a positive image on the prospect’s mind and helps him in making the buying decision.
Most of the B2B sales model firms are unable to deal with the fact that buying is now continuous and dynamic because a large chunk of the sales models and performance practices are the ad-hoc accumulation of years of reactive decisions by different managers pursuing different goals.
Choices are often false
No single tactic is the solution to these new-age problems. Aligning buying and selling is a process, not a one-shot deal. Moving forward, the B2B sellers need to reorganize their selling processes more effectively and efficiently for each buying stream. They need to get out of the debate of online or in-person, interacting via web or sales reps, digital or human. They need to do both and create the right combination according to their strategies.
The organization as a whole, not just the sales team, should be ready to deal with the novel purchasing reality. The goals and the vision throughout the organization should be shared. It’s the leadership’s duty to ensure cross functional communication and coordination that is required in order to facilitate these changes.
This marks the end of the generalization about sales and selling, which remain complex, changing and people-dependent activities in most B2B markets. As a sales leader, understanding how buying really works is the place to start in order to progress to effective selling, profitable growth and better resource allocations in your organization.