Why Value Trumps Selling in the Complex B2B Sales Cycle


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In 2011 the Marketing Leadership Council surveyed 1900 customers to uncover insight regarding B2B purchasing behavior. It turns out, that on average (and with little variation among industries) customers will contact Sales when they independently completed about 60% of the purchasing decision process. That’s right. When you get that coveted form completion on the website “Contact Us” or a phone call to sales, chances are your prospect has weighed the alternatives and more than likely is ready to do business with you. In many cases, prospects are so educated they may even know more about your products and services (and competitive alternatives) than your own sales reps.

Value Equation for B2B SalesThis finding highlights a critical nuance to the modern complex sale. The sales process and the decision to take action is happening long before a prospect actually reaches out to talk with sales. The age of digital and mobile means information is readily available 24×7 and buyers have become accustomed to a self-service information gathering and decision making processes. These days we don’t really need to engage in a human interaction to feel reasonably confident in a purchase decision; even a complex and costly purchase decision in a B2B environment. After all, business don’t buy products and services, people do. In fact these days we avoid human interaction at all costs; we buy products on Amazon.com so we don’t need to go to the store, we use the self-service checkout lines in grocery stores so we don’t have to interact with the clerk, we text instead of talk, tweet useless thoughts, wall post to update friends and family. It’s connection without the connection and it’s rippling through other facets of our life such as our careers.

Value is Selling

The implications for these findings suggest that companies need to shift the focus on process and resources away from “selling” and more towards educating and developing a reputation as a trusted advisor to the prospect. Sales reps are still critical, but for prospects who actively reach out, the deal is yours to screw up. In effect, providing educational, relevant, timely, and valuable information has become a critical part of the selling process. Today this is largely accomplished with digital content such as blog posts, document downloads, video, and social media. In fact, it may even demand content that is indirectly related to the product you offer, or promotes the tradeoffs of competitive products and services. You might even offer an alternative solution or do-it-yourself educational perspective. Effectively, you must deliver value for prospects even if it means educating them about a competitive product or service in the process. It’s all about what they really truly VALUE during the educational process.

One great example of this in a B2C context is the Best Buy Geek Squad. Despite the fact that the Geek Squad is selling services to fix your computer, you can go online and consume do-it-yourself how to tips and tricks right beside the Geek Squad services. That’s because when customers can’t figure it out themselves, where else would they turn than the place that genuinely tried to save them money with self-service how to tips. Plus, most customers are more than capable of sufficiently messing things up regardless of how many self-service tools they offer. It’s a win-win for Geek Squad and the customer.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ian Michiels
Ian Michiels is a Principal & CEO at Gleanster Research, a globally known IT Market Research firm covering marketing, sales, voice of the customer, and BI. Michiels is a seasoned analyst, consultant, and speaker responsible for over 350 published analyst reports. He maintains ongoing relationships with hundreds of software executives each year and surveys tens of thousands of industry professionals to keep a finger on the pulse of the market. Michiels has also worked with some of the world's biggest brands including Nike, Sears Holdings, Wells Fargo, Franklin Templeton, and Ceasars.


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