B2B Buyers don’t Hate Salespeople. But They Aren’t that Impressed Either. Announcing the CSO Insights 2018 Buyer Preferences Study
Jun 05 2018
For 25 years, CSO Insights has been surveying and analyzing sales organizations to find out what works and what doesn’t. Over the last few years, we’ve noted a substantial decline in many key leading indicators for sales performance, including percentage of sales representatives who are making/exceeding their quota. When we look underneath this statistic to the root causes, sales leaders tell us the same thing: buyers’ expectations have changed. In fact, in our recent World-Class Sales Practices study, three-quarters of sales organizations told us that customer expectations had changed significantly, impacting their business. This is not surprising when you keep in mind that business buyers are consumer buyers too. Their expectations for what is possible (pricing transparency, seamless interactions, omni-channel, personalization, self-creation) have skyrocketed as new players in the retail market continue to revolutionize consumer buying.
At the same time, there is much discussion in the marketplace about the future of sales overall. With more and more artificial intelligence (AI) tools being used in practical settings (versus futuristic pilots) there are many real examples where specific sales tasks no longer require human intervention. This creates a very real question: At some point, will salespeople even be necessary?
We wanted to validate those themes with actual buyers. We surveyed 500 business buyers globally (50% of respondents outside of the US) who were responsible for purchases of $10,000 or greater on behalf of organizations $250 million or larger.
Buyers told us that they harbored no ill will against sellers and found value in their interactions. However, buyers also told us that sellers seldom exceeded their expectations and were not thought of as resources to solve business problems. As a result, buyers prefer to make several initial decisions in their buying process before engaging sellers, limiting sellers’ ability to differentiate.
But all the news was not glum. Buyers did share several situations where early salesperson involvement was welcomed. They told us what the expectations were that needed to be met and exceeded. And they provided insights into how the desired buying experience varied by decision-making style, situation and context.
• How many buyers are included in a typical buy cycle
• The average length of a buy cycle
• The apathy loop built by buyers over time which continues to narrow the role of sellers
• The four factors that cause sellers to exceed or fall short of expectations
• The approach that offers the best opportunity to differentiate
• Common obstacles to utilizing insights and perspective with customers
• A view of how well-equipped most sales organizations are in context of these requirements
As you review the study results, consider your own sales organization. What do your buyers have to say about the experiences your sales team provides? Are your sellers meeting, exceeding or falling short of expectations? How do you know?
When we ask sales leaders what challenge they are worried about today that was not as important to them 12 months ago, the number one answer was “transforming my sales organization.” Breaking out of the apathy loop that sellers are trapped in will take more than just a new tagline, product sheet or pitch deck. Organizations will need to take a step back and look in depth at their sales processes, sales methodologies, sales structure and more. Buyers are changing drastically and sales organizations will need to do more than just tweak the sales systems that they current have in place.
Download our new research to help you start or continue this conversation in your organization.