In business, industry trends such as big data, social media for business, the influx of Millennials and the rise of the empowered buyer are all having a major impact on the sales industry and its leaders. As of 2016, in the United States, there are 4.5 million B2B sales professionals – How will you leverage the changes and stand out?
The empowered buyer is one of the key industry trends affecting B2B sales professionals. The dynamics between buyers and sellers have clearly changed. At one time, sellers were viewed as the source of information, however, the digital revolution has shifted the balance of power. Buyers are now equipped with much of the information they need to make purchase decisions and has essentially disrupted how and where sellers are able to add value to this process.
“Armed with their research and data, the empowered buyer expects sales professionals to match their expertise and knowledge and then raise it in ways that help them address or even anticipate business needs.”
With a wealth of information at their fingertips, buyers are more informed than ever. Consider these eye-opening statistics from an independent research report commissioned by SAP:
- Over two-thirds or 68% of buyers wait longer to initiate contact with vendors than they did two years ago because they are doing more research themselves.
- And when it comes to the actual purchase decision, 80% of buyers typically know exactly what they want before they make contact with a vendor. With so much control, it’s hard to know where today’s vendors fit into the equation.
- Indeed, 68% of buyers admit they don’t need salespeople to make purchasing decisions as much as they once did, and 91% of buyers say they have higher expectations of vendors and their salespeople than they did two years ago.
Getting the attention of customers, who are constantly bombarded with news, emails, and offers is a major issue for every business. When companies do get a customer’s attention, their offer must be relevant and add value. It’s clear that connected consumers are empowered consumers. And for companies and brands that embrace this change -there’s a huge now powerful force that can work as partners to engage and magnify your message.
“It’s not enough to know your products and services, to remain relevant in today’s market, sales organizations need to provide higher-value engagements that meet and anticipate customers’ current and future business needs.”
What are the new benchmarks for sales success?
- Personalization: Businesses must provide more relevant and appropriate content that demonstrates a full understanding of customer needs while predicting their future needs. Develop expertise in customers’ challenges. Sales teams need to communicate the details of an offering in context with the customer’s goals and issues. What counts is the impact of the product or service on the customer’s profits, revenue goals, cost reduction efforts, and other critical objectives
- Trust: As with all solid relationships, a successful partnership is built on the solid foundation of trust, transparency and integrity. Sales representatives need to be known as the trusted counselors and advisors who can offer decision makers advice on solving important business problems and preparing for trends—counsel that often extends beyond the products or services they’re selling. According to an independent research report commissioned by SAP: “Trust is rated as the single most important factor when purchasing products from vendors, ahead of experience and cost. Demonstrating high levels of knowledge about products and services (74%) and about a buyer’s organization (52%) are the most important factors in creating trust.”
- Experience: Vendors must look to enhance the customer experience, focusing on a process speed, service consistency and seamlessness across channels. This means aligning departments like sales and marketing. Leaders from sales and marketing need to collaborate on consistent ways to engage with customers across channels.
- Insight: Businesses are transitioning from the cookie-cutter sales process to tailored, actionable and insightful solutions to their business problems. Sales professionals must provide valuable insights to customers that are relevant at different phases of their buying process and—for large B2B purchases—tailoring content for specific accounts. Sharing your insight and best practices and bringing new ways to address business challenges. By knowing what customers care about, you’ll build the certainty they need to accelerate movement through each buying stage.
What can leaders do?
Build a culture of continuous improvement to help your sales reps and streamline the final steps of the close, delivering a buying experience that sets you apart from the competition. And make it easier for your reps to do their jobs. Give them the tools they need – such as a digital marketing toolkit – so they can demonstrate value to customers.
Increasingly informed buyers can no longer afford to indulge in the outdated approaches from under-prepared, overenthusiastic salespeople. With a wealth of online information at their disposal, buyers have the resources available to them to research vendors and solutions. It is vital that leaders and sales reps recognize the implications of the “empowered” buyer. If salespeople cannot add value to what buyers already know, deliver unparalleled customer experience, and be trusted advisors, they may soon find themselves left out in the cold.
In any business, staying ahead of the curve is critical if you want to beat your competitors. The nature of sales is always evolving, and we at AMMEX understand what it takes to keep our distributors up to date on the latest industry trends.