We are all aware of just how dramatically the selling landscape and buyer behavior has changed in our information-rich, always-accessible, digital world. To quantify it in numbers, 67 percent of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally, according to SiriusDecisions. Forrester Research goes even further, citing that 60 to 90 percent of the buyer’s journey occurs before ever engaging a potential provider.
These numbers are relatively well-known—but the implications are less understood. What does this shift in the buying process actually mean to individual sellers? For a company with a 120-day sales cycle, a 60 percent reduction would leave just 48 days in which a seller is involved. A 90 percent reduction would leave only 12 days.
This puts tremendous pressure on the seller to collapse solid opportunity pursuit—with good discovery, deal strategy, competitive analysis, and so on—into a fraction of the usual time. Such compression often results in faulty deal tactics and rushing past hallmarks of strong opportunity pursuit like good discovery and value discussions.
Even getting in the door can be a small comfort, as sellers often face an increasing number of decision makers, which can include those in procurement and even the executive suite. There are greater demands for everything from proof of value and higher customization to ongoing support and immediate response to requests.
The evolution in the sales environment has an impact on sellers in five key areas:
Overcome Misunderstandings and Misperceptions: The information that buyers find on the Internet, especially if not originating from your company, may not accurately represent your capabilities and differentiators. Online reviews of organizations and their products have influence and can foster buyer bias and misperceptions about your organization before you even speak with a buyer. Additionally, by the time buyers engage sellers in their buying process, buyers believe they understand their needs, the required solution, and the criteria for selection of the solution. Buyers have basically self-diagnosed and prescribed a solution, which can lead to inaccurate diagnoses, poor solutions, or treating a symptom versus a root cause. Helping buyers to shift their thinking around these biases and misperceptions can be difficult.
Overinvestment Dilemma: More time and effort is required to navigate a complex decision-making environment, as sellers must propose solutions that satisfy cross-functional objectives and corporate goals. Buyers demand more of the seller’s attention in pre- and post-sale phases, continuing into and beyond implementation. To retain and expand the relationship, especially when turnover can lead to a change in buyer contact, sellers have to continually prove value.
- Struggle to Engage Executive Buyers at a Strategic Level:
Only 17 percent of sellers get a second meeting with an executive, according to Forrester Research. This is often the result of taking a product-focused approach rather than providing value in the first meeting, which limits access in the future and it makes navigating the decision-making process more difficult.
- Pressure on Dialogue Quality:
Buyers have higher expectations for sellers to understand their business, while the shortened selling cycling puts greater pressure on the quality of the sales conversation. Sellers are challenged to bring relevant insights and ideas that create value in the buying experience itself, rather than just in the solution being proposed or delivered.
- Lines Blurred in the Sales Process: The traditional process for complex sales and customized solutions had multiple, distinct phases. Now, one phase overlaps another, requiring greater collaboration to validate needs and priorities, define outcomes needed, and brainstorm ideas to define the right customized solution.
With all of these factors in play and continual change in the selling landscape, it might seem that an entirely new way of selling is needed. I don’t think so. Enhancements, yes. A higher-level order of skill in selling, definitely. But what hasn’t changed is just as important as what has.
Buyers still need guidance to make the best decisions. They may have unprecedented access to data and information, but they need knowledge and context to help them sort through the noise. And buyers are still looking for sellers who can share something they don’t already know, helping them to sift through the avalanche of reviews and opinions available, distilling it down to what can drive the desired results.
This consultative approach is the heart of selling with insights, providing more than data points and adding both context and personalized insights that become the foundation of a productive dialogue. Selling with insights builds credibility and differentiates the seller, which can create and shape opportunities with buyers.
Simply put, selling with insights creates value, value creation builds trust, and trusted advisors influence today’s ultra-informed buyer.