Closing deals in the B2B world has become a challenge. The path to purchase is getting longer and increasing numbers of stakeholders are involved in making decisions.
Buyers also spend more time researching on their own before contacting vendors. Sales reps are a long way from becoming obsolete, however – they can evolve their role to add more value and create a high quality, personalised, interactive buyer experience.
Today’s B2B selling process is complex. In a recent study commissioned by Showpad, more than 50% of UK buyers said their path to purchase was longer compared with a year earlier.
The number of people involved in the average sale is also growing: 21% said more than five people were involved in purchase decisions at their organisation. Meanwhile, three-quarters of buyers undertake up to 20 hours of research before even contacting a salesperson.
Despite this, buyers in complex selling scenarios still want a salesperson they can count on; someone who will add value beyond the information they can find online.
In fact, 38% of B2B buyers prefer interacting with sales teams over researching alone (36%), with top-level executives most likely to prefer direct interactions with reps. More than a third still favour face-to-face interactions, in the form of onsite visits and demos. When buyers have questions, they’re also more likely to turn to reps for the answers.
In short, the human touch remains a vitally important part of the buying experience.
This is confirmed by the factors buyers cite as their biggest ‘deal breakers’, with a lack of available, clear and relevant and information coming out on top.
Clearly, buyers still need a guiding hand through the sales process. This is an opportunity for the salesperson to be a hero, to step in and deliver answers to questions, provide solutions, demonstrate ROI, and connect the dots from what customers think they need to what will actually save them money and foster long-term growth.
There are four ways in which a business can evolve the role of their sales teams to meet B2B buyers’ expectations.
1) Present them as trusted advisors and experts in their industry
More than a third of UK B2B buyers say “demonstrating knowledge of my industry” is a primary quality for choosing a rep to work with. Buyers want sellers they can rely on to create new solutions to problems they’re anxious to solve.
They want to know what the product will do for them long-term, and how their business will improve by using it.
Reps must be authorities not only on the product or service they’re selling, but on the industry itself, and also the business’s specific challenges, competitors and stakeholders. To build trust, they should show that they relate to the buyer’s needs, and can offer a convincing solution.
A key part of this is providing content that gives buyers a reason – as well as the confidence – to purchase.
2) Provide the right content at the right time – and make it easy to understand and share
After price, content that fails to hit the mark is the number one factor that slows down purchase decisions. Salespeople should be equipped with content that’s relevant and adds value during all stages of the buying journey.
It must be easy for buyers and reps alike to find and access, whenever and wherever they want it.
The rep can then add value by making the content easy to navigate and giving it clarity. Because they won’t be actively working with everyone involved in the sales process, they must be able to share information and resources with all stakeholders, ideally through a centralised platform.
Some 42%of B2B buyers feel overwhelmed when they have more than five pieces of content to review, so reps should tailor their choices to the customer based on what has worked best in similar sales situations.
Case studies and technical specs top the list of content UK buyers find most valuable, followed by streaming videos.
These are table stakes; they’re required to keep the buying process moving. To accelerate the process, the rep must be able to create a more interactive and personalised buying experience.
3) Personalise the selling experience
Putting the prospect’s logo on your standard slide deck just won’t cut it. Reps must be equipped to deliver customised and tailored pitches for buyers – providing relevant information and resources that address their specific questions, needs and use cases.
Due to the number of stakeholders likely to be involved, messaging must also be targeted to accommodate more than a single lead.
Technology can be used to create a dynamic and interactive presentation.
4) Use tools to bring the product to life in context and prove ROI
When it comes to the tools B2B buyers say would most help to speed up their buying decisions, top of the list is an ROI calculator or analysis, a personalised content portal, and augmented reality (AR) technology.
AR and VR (virtual reality) solutions enable products to be demonstrated in context, and allow customers to try out and experience the product without actually holding it in their hands. For example, a buyer can test heavy machinery that isn’t easily transportable.
B2B customers are smarter than they’ve ever been. With easy access to product information, demos and reviews, they can also ask other customers for answers to almost any question they have. However, they still need – and want – interaction with a sales team.
Buyers are looking for much more than a sales pitch. They want a rep who serves as a partner, as opposed to someone who’s only selling them a product or service.
Today’s B2B sales reps must be well informed, but also able to inspire. By applying their expertise, providing the right content and personalising the sales process, they can create a buying experience that strengthens trust and motivates the prospect to buy.
Stuart Small is managing director UK of Showpad.
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