One of the greatest impacts we’ve seen the pandemic have on sales professionals is the fundamental shift it’s caused on buyer behavior. Sales teams simply can’t survive—let alone thrive—without understanding how to adapt to today’s buyers.
Some of the changes, like the adoption of remote meetings, are well-known. Others are not. In our new book Agile and Resilient: Sales Leadership for the New Normal, we reveal some changes that salespeople might not be aware of, and how they can make the difference between sales success, and failure.
Let’s explore what the top 2% of salespeople intuitively understand that we believe all salespeople would benefit from knowing.
- 80% of salespeople are focused on the wrong thing
Salespeople typically fall along a normal distribution that looks something like this:
- 20% sell barely enough to get by
- 60% are average
- 20% are top performers (delivering 75%–80% of sales)
Those barely scraping by are survival-focused, concerned with meeting quota and not getting fired. Average salespeople are focused on themselves, or we call PIE; Products, Income, and Ego. These are the wrong things to focus on. High-performing salespeople however are focused on the right thing: their buyers.
They are all about satisfying buyers in the way the buyers want to be satisfied. They understand that every buyer has a unique combination of attributes driving their organization to select a product or service. These sellers want to be sure they understand those attributes, and they position their offering to satisfy—even delight—the customer.
- Buyers are more sophisticated and empowered than ever
One of the most significant changes sales organizations are dealing with is the systematic transformation of how corporate buyers approach purchasing decisions.
The B2B universe has been a few steps behind individual consumers, but we’ve all watched Amazon transform the direct-to-consumer marketplace. Sellers need to remember that buyers are also consumers—meaning their expectations are being reshaped. They demand the same levels of transparency, responsiveness, and self-service from business suppliers as they’ve come to expect from the online purchase of consumer goods.
Here are some revealing (and slightly concerning) stats to confirm this:
- 77% of B2B buyers don’t talk to a salesperson until they have done their own research.1
- 99% of B2B buyers are comfortable making a purchase of $50K or more through a digital self-service model.2
- B2B buyers only spend 17% of the buying process meeting with potential suppliers.3
Prospects avoid wasting time in meetings with unqualified suppliers through research to make shortlists of vendors worth contacting. A salesperson gets on those lists by being transparent and truthful.
- Buyers demand transparency and real-time, truthful insights
According to Merriam-Webster, transparent means, “able to see through; easy to notice or understand; honest and open: not secretive.”
Sellers must determine what transparency means to their customers. To some, it’s 24/7 phone support. To others, it’s private online portals where a customer can track deliveries. And still to others, it’s an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system that immediately pushes product delay notifications to the buyer—and sales so they can proactively reach out to discuss options.
Today’s B2B buyers demand instant answers to questions revolving around honesty, clarity, realistic risk assessment, and insight into how your organization works and communicates post-sale.
- Buyers want to avoid salespeople whenever possible
Buyers no longer see value in the traditional sales call.
This is due to the fact that there’s excellent information available and buyers can find most of it on their own. In fact, 54% of younger buyers prefer making purchase decisions entirely digitally, with no direct human contact.
To further complicate matters, the C-suite is getting involved in buying decisions, and they’re not interested in the product features and benefits of the “average 60%” of salespeople.
- Buyers are all on the same journey
You probably know salespeople who have tried—to no avail—rushing buyers through their sales process. This fails because buyers also have a process, which we call the buyer’s journey.
Successful sellers map their sales process to the buyer’s journey.
The Brooks Group teaches a selling system called IMPACT Selling. It’s a playbook/process designed to help salespeople stay in step with their prospects/customers as they navigate their way to a purchase decision. It focuses on the fundamentals of positioning, prospecting, pre-call planning, building rapport and trust, asking the right questions, applying targeted solutions, and closing deals so you have the best chance of happy—and repeat—customers.
When practiced correctly, the IMPACT Selling System neatly follows the buyer’s journey. This makes it simple for salespeople to assist buyers and provide value at every stage of the journey.
If you want to be seen as a trusted resource, and a real “partner” to your buyers—mapping to their journey is how you do it.
- Buyers have a difficult job!
Shocks to the economy can cause a shift in the number of stakeholders involved in approving purchases. In an effort to cut costs, streamline operations, and uncover new sources of revenue, the C-suite gets more invested in purchase decisions.
Add to that the overwhelming access to data about solutions, potential vendors, and constantly evolving technologies, and it’s no wonder we see estimates that nearly 50% of companies stop the research and exploration process without ever buying anything!
Your buyers are facing decision fatigue.
Sales must find a way to get involved earlier in the buying process. This requires they shift their approach to the sales process, and adjust it to complement the buyer’s process on the buyer’s timeline. A change in expectations of what meetings need to happen, when they happen, and how they happen, may even be required.
1 Nanji, Ayaz, “10 Interesting B2B Marketing Stats” Infographic. 22 June 2021. Accessed online https://www.marketingprofs.com/chirp/2021/45156/10-interesting-b2b-marketing-stats-infographic.
2 Campbell, Colin. “What Is the Buyer’s Journey? (And Why It Matters). Sales Hacker online. 7 July 2021. Accessed online at: https://www.saleshacker.com/buyer-journey/.
3 “New B2B Buying Journey & Its Implication for Sales.” Gartner. Accessed online at: https://www.gartner.com/en/sales/insights/b2b-buying-journey.