In the first few years we conducted our B2B Buyer’s Survey, a lot of the focus was around how an increasing amount of the decision-making process took place before a buyer ever engaged with a sales representative.
The fact that digital touch points were increasingly responsible for the early stages of engagement naturally lead us and other analysts to highlight the growing influence of marketing departments. However, this has also fueled misconception that sales reps were reduced to either ineffective cold callers in the early stages of deals, or order takers once a buyer had done their own research and were ready to sign a deal.
The 2017 B2B Buyer’s Survey Report reinforces the key role sales teams are still playing in influencing deals, as well as several new realities that both marketing and sales executives should address as they engage today’s risk-averse buyer.
Here are five of the top trends we suggest sales representatives study and start to incorporate into their day-to-day approach in dealing with their top clients and prospects.
- Timing is everything: When they were asked to rank factors that differentiated the winning vendor from competitors, the top response, with 72% ranking as very important, was the timeliness of a vendor’s response. In addition, 80% of buyers ranked deployment time/ease of use as a very important factor once they were at the point of evaluating a set list of solution providers, which ranked even higher than pricing.
- To know me is to do business with me: 70% of buyers said the vendor they chose demonstrated a stronger knowledge of the solution area and business landscape. Listening and asking the right questions has always been a core skill for salespeople, but buyers are noticing and rewarding even more in today’s fast-moving world. One buyer summed that up with: “When companies take time to ask questions and understand the pain points…they can customize the sales experience and make it harder for other vendors to win the business.”
- Insights and information trump sales speak: 90% of buyers said the winning vendor’s sales team had more insights about their company and needs was an important competitive differentiator. 81% pointed out that the vendor they chose solved a specific pain point—also a key factor.
- Buyers want to hear from other buyers: 70% of buyers said they relied more on peer recommendations in selecting a vendor, 67% said reviews were very important once they were evaluating a set list of solution providers, and peers/colleagues was the third source buyers turned to when they started a search. For sales execs, this means going beyond the standard customer referral, it means being versed in your reviews and ratings on industry sites and using this as a competitive differentiator.
- The human connection still matters: In an age of automation, it's critical to keep in mind that buyers still value the role salespeople play in successfully rolling out a new solution. 92% of buyers said they felt the sales rep they worked with was educated about their company and communicated relevant information that was customized to their needs. Furthermore, 85% said the experience in working with their sales rep influenced their decision to select that vendor.
These points may be obvious to advanced sales teams who are practicing insights-led engagement strategies, but they need to be continuously refined and expanded, especially as buying cycles stretch and the number of team members involved in buying groups expands.
And other emerging practices are proving important as well, such as social selling, with 60% of buyers saying connections to executives within our companies was important when they were evaluating a list of vendors.
For more B2B Buyer’s Survey reveals, tune into #Bii17 to watch: Addressing the Call for Relevance Among B2B Buyers: Analysis and Insights Into the Newly-Released B2B Buyer Behavior Study.
What other tips would you suggest to sales reps looking to have better conversations with prospects? Leave a comment below!
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