The Changing Sales Landscape – The Buyer

Business people handshaking.
Prognostication is risky, especially when it comes to business.
This article goes on a bit of a limb, connecting seismic shifts in B2B purchasing to a new set of competencies professional salespeople will need to be more efficient producers.
In this first of four articles, we’ll look at the buyer.
By now, we are all familiar with this insight from The Challenger Sale (2012):

Corporate Executive Board (CEB) reported that “In our most recent survey of thousands of participants in a typical B2B purchase, we found that on average customers are nearly 60% of the way through a purchase prior to proactively reaching out to a supplier for their input.” (2012, Adamson, CEB Blog).

The purchase dance of old will never be the same. The days of the salesperson showing up on a white horse with a previously unknown product or solution are long gone.
Front and center today are:

  • Information
  • Product
  • Service and Adoption

Information about products, services, and brands – once hard to get – is now as close as your search bar. And companies who were shy about dipping their toes into the waters of Sales/Marketing 2.0 are now all wet in 2013-2014.
White papers, presentations, articles, and videos – the backbone of search, email, and lead generation efforts and the marketing domain- trumpet the value propositions of B2B business products and services all over the internet before the salesperson even opens their mouth.
The product is on a higher pedestal than ever before. The “digitally enabled sales model” allows for fully functioning cloud-based software and solutions trials. Trials are now an expected part of the sales process – at no cost. So too, is the “competitive shoot-out” where customers conduct exhaustive due diligence before making any major purchase decision.
While healthy relationship skills may get salespeople in the door, the product must prevail empirically to win the deal.
Finally, shifts in revenue recognition practices mandated by Sarbanes-Oxley (recognizing sales monthly and not in one big upfront lump sum) have spotlighted service and adoption. With annual subscriptions and “seats” in play every year, vendors must make sure that products do as promised and get used. Detailed web analytics make adoption stats impossible to avoid. Onboarding, training, and service – not the usual sales domain – can make the difference between an increase or a drop (or sharp cut in the number of seats) at renewal time.
What does this all mean for the sales professional?
Next time we’ll look at The Changing Sales Landscape – The Hunter.
McKinsey Digital Sales Model retrieved from
Challenger Sale quote retrieved from

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