B2B Imperative: Reinvent the Sales Experience


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Adapting to transformative changes in buyer behavior is the most significant challenge facing B2B organizations.  Buyers are asking for better experiences and better solutions.  The digital age bringing new expectations on the part of buyers for learning experiences, subject matter expertise, innovative customization, and varied channel engagements.  As B2B businesses seek to achieve post-recession revenue growth, they also must confront the issue of how to rethink long standing conventional practices in sales they know must change to meet this challenge head on. 

For the past thirty to forty years, sales have focused on relationship building, methodology, and processes.  The variety too numerous to mention but a trip to a Barnes & Noble or a perusal through Amazon will give you a good sense of what has transpired in this time period. On Amazon, over 1,500 titles in sales process and over 500 titles in sales process management are listed in their book category.  Sales management has become defined primarily by implementing and enforcing methodology and processes.  In today’s new state of mind of buyers, exercising rigidity to sales process management may very well be out of synch with buyers. 

How should B2B businesses respond to changing buyer behaviors and the issue of sales process management being out of synch with buyers?  One critical response is to develop strategies designed to innovate the sales experience for buyers.  The essence of sales experience lies in the ability of B2B organizations to innovate unique buying experiences.  While defined sales processes offer structure and guidance, enhancing the buyer experience will mean being less rigid.  B2B businesses can adapt to buyer behaviors by first gaining critical insight into the mind of the buyer and then innovating the sales experience.  The end result being a unique buying experience for their buyers.  The terminology in this new thinking could get in the way of the fact that sales experience is really about innovating as well as enabling a unique buying experience. 

Page11 A recent study by the Corporate Executive Board bares this out.    Interviewing 2,400 businesses, the study gives good reason to have an imperative to reinvent the sales experience.  In asking which drivers contribute to loyalty, whereby loyalty is defined as the willingness to repurchase, the largest percentage driver was sales experience at 53%.  The driver of sales experience was more than the combined percentage of the three other drivers defined in the study – company and brand, product and delivery, and value-to-price ratio.  This strongly indicates that if B2B businesses want to achieve strong buyer loyalty, they need to act on reinventing the buyer and sales interaction to create unique buying experiences. 

How should B2B organizations go about reinventing the sales experience as a means of creating unique buying experiences?  This question undoubtedly will be pondered for quite some time.  Here are a few suggestions on how to begin:

  • Insight-Driven Planning:  Creating unique buying experiences and interactions with sales starts with gaining critical insight into the buyer, buying process, and the buyer experience journey.  Investing and obtaining in-depth buyer insight will directly correlate to the ability to innovate sales experiences and buying experiences that resonate with buyers. 
  • Buyer Persona Understanding:  Today’s sales organizations must become experts on knowing their buyers as opposed to experts on sales processes.  Crafting buyer persona sales playbooks that offer guides to sales teams on buyer goals and issues will result in reshaping the sales and buying experience.  These buyer persona playbooks enable sales teams to help buyers consider options as well as offer insight to buyers on how issues and problems can be addressed.
  • Subject Matter Expertise: As buyers work on initiatives or respond to triggers, offering subject matter expertise by way of content is critical to engaging buyers early in the buyer experience journey.  Insight-driven content is the key to establishing the organization in the role of educating buyers on how to address issues and attain goals.
  • Multi-Media and Multi-Channel: The advent of the digital age has resulted in buyer expectations to engage in multi-media experiences as well as to have multi-channel options.   Gaining insight into what types of multi-media formats buyers respond to can lead to effective digital and social media marketing strategies. 

What is becoming evident today through various studies such as that completed by the Corporate Executive Board is that B2B companies will need to reorient thinking on the role of sales as they adapt to buyer behavior changes.  In the future sales will be less about the execution of process but more about how they can offer buyers a unique buying experience.

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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