If you’re like most B2B companies, you’re making at least one of these mistakes. In this three-part series, we explain what’s gone wrong and how to fix it. Ready to start fixing today? Give us a shout.
#1: You cling to the belief that “our business is all about relationships”
Time and time again we’ve been told B2B selling is all about relationships. We’re willing to pay top dollar for the salesperson with the best network and sink tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars a year into our T&E budgets, believing that an investment in customer relationships gives us an irrefutable advantage over our competition.
While that belief may be supported by anecdotal legend, it is not supported by facts, causing many companies to vastly overestimate the weight buyers place on interactions with sales reps.
Depending solely on your sales reps will cost you
In a 2012 study by CEB and Motista, researchers asked more than 1,500 decision makers and influencers who had recently been involved in a major business purchase for 22 large B2B organizations spanning all major NAICS categories and 10 industries1.
Their results showed less than 17% of B2B buyers’ time is spent meeting with potential suppliers, while a staggering 45% of their time is spent researching independently!
Unless you’re a monopoly, you’re splitting that measly 17% with every company with whom you’re competing for that sale. Since most of us have at least 3-5 competitors on any given deal, that leaves each company with only 3-6% of any given sales cycle to make our case and leverage our relationships.
By the time your sales team sits down with a prospect, it’s too late
Even if you think 3-6% of the sales cycle is plenty of time for your sales people to work their magic, you’d want that time spent educating buyers and convincing them of the superiority of your solution, right? Unfortunately, they won’t get that chance.
Amazingly, the survey results also revealed that the average buyer had already completed 57% of the decision-making process before engaging a supplier representative (some reported as high as 70%)!
That means for nearly two thirds of the buying process, your customers are forming opinions about you and your competitors, learning about your products and services, generating a list of requirements, and narrowing down their options all on their own, without any input from sales reps!
Only after buyers have formed their opinions about us and determined their own expectations of our products and services do they allow us face time. At that point, our sales reps are only there to negotiate pricing and terms. Sound familiar?
Be the solution, not the problem
To be clear, this problem is not the sales team’s fault; they’re simply playing the hand their executive leadership team has dealt them! Even the most adept B2B salesperson would be hard pressed to change a buyer’s well-researched perceptions with the hour or two that buyer is likely to give them. So how do we overcome this obstacle?
By making sure buyers have access to plenty of positive, accurate information about your brand, company, products and services, and value proposition when and where they’re looking for it. The “when” is simple: all the time! The “where” is another story, and the second of the three biggest mistakes you’re probably making. We’ll explore exactly what that is in Part II of the series, but if you’d like to discuss the best way for your company to get its information to buyers, drop me a line.
*Source: CEB/Motista survey