Are You Still Selling Like It’s 1999? (Or Have You Adapted To New Buyer Behavior?)


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1999 A.D. / Predictions From 1967Image by Dallas1200am via Flickr

As we’ve entered into a new decade with new web and social technologies continuing to advance at warp speed, new buyer behaviors continue to emerge. Some new buyer behaviors, such as informational search, are no longer emerging but have crossed over into accepted reality. With other new buyer behaviors, such as those related to social influence, we are only getting a glimpse of at this moment in time. The given in the current state of B2B marketing and sales is that buyer behavior and complex buying processes have changed.

One of the toughest challenges in the past few years has been to figure out how to respond to these changes. One place to start is for executives to ask a bold question: are we still selling like it’s 1999? An especially valid question for companies that have traditionally been sales driven and the dominance of a sales culture has reigned for several decades. Companies have changed and responded – but have the changes been more cosmetically enhancing or truly systemic in nature? I think there is a big difference and let’s look at a few important areas:


Let’s start with the money trail. Has the proportion of budgets devoted to sales and marketing changed? Or are you still having the same ratio as far back as 1999? I am mentioning this first because companies and people will tend to behave and adapt to how much budget they have and how they are paid. If the ratio is still the same or the needle has moved marginally – might be good to think about changing.


Companies are implementing new marketing and sales automation technologies. The real question is: are new technologies automating new systemic adaptations to changing buyer behaviors or are they simply automating existing sales processes that haven’t changed much since 1999?

Inbound versus Outbound

The inbound versus outbound reflection is fraught with real cultural issues. Let’s not pretend that there has not been for several decades a kind of power play and power struggle between inside and outside. For years, most prominently in sales driven cultures, the inside sales teams and inbound marketers have been relegated to the second tier in terms of budget, talent, perception, and support. If your culture is still a reflection of 1999 where there is top heavy dominance for outbound activities and strategies, then you might want to get past the idea that you have new web site as being your big change. Inbound marketing and the support of highly skilled inside sales teams are here to stay.

Talent and Hiring Criteria

Are your hiring criteria’s the same as 1999? If you haven’t worked with human resources for several years to examine new talent requirements for true systemic changes, then this could be a good starting point. Does the majority of your sales teams still look like and possess the same talent like it’s 1999? If so, the attribute and skill levels may prove to be a mismatch to new changing buyer behaviors and having buyers heading towards competitors. Buyers will want to work with advisors good at orienteering versus sellers good at presenting.

Sales Training and Processes

When was the last time you examined sales training and sales processes? Are sales people still going through the same or similar sales training that sales teams went through in 1999? Do your sales processes, despite the addition of new technologies, represent the same 4, 5, 6, or however many stages you had in 1999? To adapt to new changing buyer behaviors calls for systemic changes to training and sales processes. Not doing so in today’s evolving buyer driven world will alienate your company from buyers.

The world of buyers and sellers has literally been turned upside down since 1999. If your organization hasn’t made transformational changes yet, it’s not too late. The first step to doing so is to take a hard look in your boardroom mirror and ask perhaps one of the most profound question you can ask: are we still selling like it’s 1999?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tony Zambito
Tony is the founder and leading authority in buyer insights for B2B Marketing and Sales. In 2001, Tony founded the concept of "buyer persona" and established the first buyer persona development methodology. This innovation has helped leading companies gain a deeper understanding of their buyers resulting in revenue performance. Tony has empowered Fortune 100 organizations with operationalizing buyer personas to communicate deep buyer insights that tell the story of their buyer. He holds a B.S. in Business and an M.B.A. in Marketing Management.


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