Selling is always  more about the buyer than the seller. So, it is quite obvious that any effective sales model has to adapt to changing buying behaviors. Recent research by Gartner verifies what we have observed for some time:

Instead of moving sequentially through a funnel, buyers actually work through different streams in parallel to make a purchase decision.

  1. Explore: Buyers identify a need or opportunity and begin looking for ways to address it, usually via interactions with vendors and self-directed information search on the internet.
  2. Evaluate: Buyers take a closer look at options uncovered while exploring, again leaning heavily on self-directed search and peer interactions as well as vendor sales representatives.
  3. Engage: Buyers initiate further contact with providers to get help in moving toward a purchase decision.
  4. Experience: Buyers use a solution, increasingly in pilots or proof of concepts, and develop perceptions about its value based on that usage.

Regardless of the order they take these steps, „customers want to deal with people who can help them move toward a purchase decision. Sales people have not been replaced by digital, and providing relevant solutions remains key in most B2B buying scenarios.“ (Frank V. Cespedes and Tiffani Bova in HBR)

The source considered the least influential is social media. Don’t believe the hype.

Most b2b-products and services are components in a wider usage system, not just individual products. And business buyers must justify a decision to others in the organization. So, Gartner research also found that sales presentations tailored to the customer’s need, core solution-selling and account-management skills still matter a lot.

It’s also important that everyone within an organization who deals with customers has a shared vision of how customers buy and, more importantly, a clear sense of their own company’s strategy.

It’s the end of solution sales – not!

Despite what you often hear, no single tactic — e.g., a given selling methodology, “challenging” the customer, or more “big data” analytics — will address the new reality. Aligning buying and selling is a process, not a one-shot deal.“ (What Salespeople Need to Know About the New B2B Landscape, HBR, Aug. 2015)


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