Missed sales quotas are becoming the new norm
Misses sales quotas are becoming the norm rather than the exception. An extensive digital transformation of the commercial world has left many B2B sellers floundering in the dust. Accustomed to the personalization, immediate fulfillment, and transparency of consumer experiences fueled by artificial intelligence, buyers have changed their expectations of sellers. Unfortunately, B2B sellers are too often unable to meet these new demands. According to CSO Insights’ 2018 Buyer Preferences Study, about half of sales representatives were meeting or exceeding their quotas in 2017— the 5th straight year of decline in quota attainment.
The main challenge for today’s sellers is that “buyers are changing substantially faster and to a greater degree than sales organizations.” Sellers are slow to change alongside the rapidly developing array of consumer options available to business buyers, who transfer their consumer experiences into buying expectations. Buyers no longer view salespeople as a valuable resource, since so much information is available online and through Artificial Intelligence technologies. A CSO Insights survey of business buyers revealed that only 23 percent of buyers view vendor salespeople as a top three resource to solve business problems. In general, vendor salespeople placed ninth out of ten buyer preferred resources.
Sales Reps are no longer the preferred source of Information for Buyers
Because sellers are no longer as valuable to buyers, buyers are not inclined to engage sellers early in the buying process. CSO Insights found that about 70 percent of buyers preferred to engage a seller only after they had already developed a clear understanding of their needs, while almost half of buyers preferred to wait until they had also identified a solution to their needs.
Unfortunately, the longer a buyer waits to engage a seller, the less value a seller can offer to the buyer. If key buying decisions have already been made, sellers have less time and creative space to demonstrate their value. Instead of helping the buyer identify and prioritize needs, sellers are relegated to explaining their products while asking questions to understand what the buyer has already learned.
As a result, sellers start to look alike to the buyer. In fact, almost 60 percent of buyers in CSO Insights’ study saw little difference among sellers. Buyers see sellers as representatives of products rather than solvers of business problems, which drives their tendency to engage sellers later in the buying process once they have already identified a solution, which in turn constrains the seller’s ability to demonstrate value and ultimately feeds back into the perception that sellers are merely representing products. If sellers continue to be perceived as lacking value, they can be excluded from the buying process altogether.
However, 90 percent of buyers are open to engaging with salespeople earlier in the process— which would allow sellers to break out of this dangerous cycle. According to the CSO Insights study, there was more interest in early engagement when the business challenge was new for the buyer, perceived as risky for the business, perceived as risky for the buyer, or complex— in that specific order. Those who feel that salespeople exceed their expectations are more likely to involve sellers in the initial stage of buying. So, how do sellers demonstrate that they are valuable, expectation-exceeding resources?
What Sales People should do to become Relevant to Buyers Again
Today’s buyers want four things from sellers:
1. Understanding of the Buyer’s Business
Because retail websites collect data about customer digital activity in order to provide tailored recommendations and customized search results, consumers are used to the idea that sellers already know their needs and preferences. Buyers want sellers who have already conducted extensive research on their businesses and industries. What they don’t want is having to waste time explaining their challenges and circumstances to the seller.
2. Excellent Communication Skills
For today’s buyers, every interaction needs to be compelling, concise, and worth their time. Each interaction can either build or degrade the seller’s relationship with the buyer.
3. Focus on Post-sale
Buyers feel that sellers focus too much on the buying phase and fail to demonstrate enough commitment to the post-sale phase. Sellers need to show continued interest in the company’s success after the sale, as long-term relationships require long-term investment.
4. Insights and Expertise
Providing perspective is the seller’s biggest opportunity to exceed buyer expectations and differentiate themselves from other sellers. However, this capability can only be mastered if the seller has already acquired the first three— deep understanding, communication skills, and long-term focus. Buyers want to learn new methods for progressing toward their future goals, along with insights that shape their vision and expand their expertise.
Integrating these four components into the selling process will require commitment to holistic change. In order to close the gap between buyers and sellers, sellers need to employ a systemic solution in transforming the way they sell. SOMAmetrics is here to facilitate this process so that sellers can consistently win new business in a changing commercial environment.
SOMAmetrics is a marketing strategy and execution practice with a proven 4-step process for differentiating clients from their competitors. They also provide clients with compelling, well-researched, high-quality digital content that increases their chance of being included in their Buyers’ short lists. Schedule a 20 minute call so we can determine how we may be of help to you and your business.