CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council released a research report back in 2013 showing that professional buyers already complete 57% of their purchasing process before contacting a supplier/sales representative.
This research shows that potential B2B consumers are increasingly using digital channels to form opinions about their key purchases. Digital evolution is dramatically changing the B2B industry and transforming business practices.
The results that this research has produced and now, after 7 years, are being published by many as something new. However, by simply searching the internet, you can find a wealth of information and researches that say it is no longer 57%, but even as much as 80%.
What does all this tell us?
The first impression is that all of us who are involved in B2B sales have been "stripped" of our main resource - TIME. Judging by the results, “only” 20 - 43% of available time remains for the dialogue with potential customers or clients.
When we add to this the data I wrote about in my previous article (Sales Super Glue), that between 6 and 10 decision makers are involved in the process of procuring complex solutions, it is difficult to assess what is more complex in today’s market, buying or selling ?!
Has the sales paradigm really changed and what do we do?
In the first place, I find there is no room for panic. For me personally, the data from these studies indicate that the information is far more accessible, that it is very detailed and that customers spend more time analyzing the technical specifications of solutions available in the market. This has led to the above statistics, but there is one equally important fact - professional buyers are only halfway (50%) to actual purchase.
In my previous post I promised to give some guidelines for aligning the sales and buying process, and here are some suggestions...
The simplest, and perhaps the most important – make sure you ask your potential customers where they are now in their purchase process. This is important so you know exactly if you have 20% or 43% of their remaining time. Not a confirmed statistic, just my conclusion from years of collaboration with B2B sales reps - more than 80% of reps never ask this question.
Include as many people as possible in the dialogue. Remember, you can speak with 6 - 10 purchase decision makers.
Sales Leaders - This is the biggest change in the sales paradigm. Specifically, sales leaders should be involved much earlier in the sales process, through various forms of engagement that are more a part of (digital) marketing and thus affect the perception of potential customers. Early engagement of sales leaders has the biggest impact on the part of the buying process that precedes direct contact, and when contact occurs, their involvement can further enhance customer perception and move things toward buying.