92% of business-to-business transactions begin online.*
“Buyers are 57% through the buying process before engaging a sales rep.”
As a 21 year “veteran” (can you say that after you pass the 20-year mark?) of the copier/MFP/document solutions/managed print/managed services industry, these stats concern me greatly.
Salespeople used to have total control over the sales process. Armed with a box of brochures, the BLI copier book, a sight seller, and a box of business cards, we roamed the halls of office buildings searching for signs of a broken copier.
- Cold calls=demos=sales.
- Yellow pages made the phone ring
- Telemarketing blitzes
Over the past two decades, technology got more complicated: digital, color, scanning, software, print fleet assessments…
I think in the process we got so focused on the changes inside our industry that we may have missed a HUGE change happening all around us: the new buying process.
(Disclaimer: I’ll admit this is a bit of a late-in-the-afternoon rant–but hang with me here. This is important for salespeople, sales managers, and dealer owners…)
Technology Buyer 2.0
What defines the new buyer?
- Busy. Schedules are crammed full with new initiatives, smaller staff, and big goals.
- Protected. Voicemails and SPAM filters protect this person from the outside world.
- Skeptical. Nobody believes anything anymore. Buyers know the rep has a self-interest. They’ve been burned before. Our world is VERY low on trust.
- Empowered. Sitting on their desk is a web browser that puts them seconds away from the answer to any question they could ask.
This person doesn’t have time to waste meeting with a bunch of salespeople. They have a lot of problems to solve and not much time. That’s why they use the internet. It is the perfect answer to someone who is busy, skeptical, and protective of their time.
Like it or not, sales reps have lost control of the first 57% (on average!) of the sales process.
What Are You Going To Do?
Option One: Sell HARDER!
The first option is to double down on what you are doing. More cold calls! More phone calls! More frustration. Forget Technology Buyer 2.0’s preferences! I will get through to them come hell or high water!
(Look, I’m not saying to abandon the phone or to never walk again into an office where you don’t have an appointment. But if Technology Buyer 2.0 starts looking online when they have a problem and completes over 50% of the sales process online, should you at least put the same amount of effort into reaching them online that you put towards fielding teams of cold callers?)
Option Two: Sell SMARTER
Of course, work smarter and harder… But what is the “smarter” in this equation?
Smart=being the one to provide helpful information to Technology Buyer 2.0 as they look online.
What does that mean? It means a lot more than I can fit in this late afternoon rant. But here are a few things to consider:
1. You Need to Share Helpful Information
The knowledge is trapped in your sales reps’ heads. They no longer get to interface with the client during the early stages of the buying process. So… share this information online–on your website, on your blog, on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter…
2. You Need to Guide Technology Buyer 2.0 (Gently) Through the Buying Process
It’s been a long time since we were able to do the old demo and one-call-close. Sales require tact. You close for the next meeting, assessment, appointment, install date… Online selling/marketing (smarketing?) is the same way. You get someone on your website by providing an answer to a question. Then you offer them something else useful. Then you hold their hand (virtually) with follow-up emails that offer them something else useful. You think strategically. You start looking at your web properties (website, social, search) as critical members of your sales team and not just an unnecessary incidental hassle for your I.T. manager to oversee.
Here’s the bottom line:
- Buyers have changed.
- We need to change with them.
- It takes a lot of work to create an inbound marketing presence that connects with Technology Buyer 2.0. (But so does everything else in this life that has lasting value.)
OK, rant over. Do you agree? Comment on this post and let’s discuss…
Here are the sources to the facts at the beginning of this rant. They are very interesting reading.
^ “A recent Corporate Executive Board study of more than 1,400 B2B customers found that those customers completed, on average, nearly 60% of a typical purchasing decision—researching solutions, ranking options, setting requirements, benchmarking pricing, and so on—before even having a conversation with a supplier.” Harvard Business Review, June 2011, The End of Solution Sales.
Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.