Yesterday, I shared my original Future of IT Sales post on LinkedIn (as a note, I share older posts on LinkedIn every Monday and Thursday) in celebration of the release of our fifth wave of research on the topic. It generated some nice feedback, but there is more to the story. As our research deepens and inquiries increase, we learn more and more. This post reflects some of our latest thinking.
As the buying process continues to change and digital marketing and sales technologies evolve, the frequency of articles about the death of the traditional B2B sales role has increased. Many of those articles are either focused on some very specific type of B2B sales (information you don’t get from the article headline) or simply off-base. When reading these articles, please get past the headlines and understand if the context and situation fits your business. If it does, great–the insights may be of value. But if it doesn’t, then following those insights could be detrimental to your business. Bob Apollo recently shared a similar perspective that is well worth the read.
Based on the research Gartner has been doing on technology buying, I continue to believe that the death of B2B sales is greatly exaggerated—at least for complex technology purchases.
The reality that we see at Gartner is that B2B sales, particularly for complex decisions based on more than price, availability, and reliability, is not just alive, but healthy and growing in importance. The research associated with our fifth installment of our Future of IT Sales Special Report just published and it is in high demand across our client base. One of my contributions to the report, in collaboration with Tiffani Bova, is a document (Gartner clients only) called “Tech Go-to-Market: Effective Sales Interactions Guide Buyers Forward Through Insights and Added Value.” The document covers some of the key findings from our most recent research into the B2B technology buying process.
Some highlights include:
- Buyers rate sales interactions as the most influential form of “engagement” with providers—higher than marketing activities, viewing their Web site, and reviewing other content. Without sellers, many purchases simply won’t happen.
- Contrary to research from some others (or more appropriately contrary to using that research without enough context), technology buyers are willing to interact with providers early in their buying process. They will do their homework and be more prepared, but the look to engage with sales–on their terms–to gain details they can’t learn on their own, to confirm recommendations or opinions of others, and to gauge how much they feel they can trust the provider (this could possibly be the most important aspect of many interactions).
- The most important sales interactions are tailored to the customer—specialized presentations, discovery sessions, live demonstrations, and project discussions. The least valued are general sales presentations, “nagging” calls after registering for provider content or events, and non-value added interactions during a trial.
As these highlights show, B2B Selling is still important, but it need to evolve. Buyers want more from the people that sell to them. They don’t want to hear things they can learn on their own. If that is your sales approach, then the death of your sales organization is NOT exaggerated. It is eminent.
But if you are evolving your skills, processes, and approach to reflect what customers want and need, then your sales organization can, and will, be a huge growth driver for your business. For some, the adjustments just require some fine tuning. For others, it will be more dramatic.
Don’t be fooled by hype and rhetoric that may not apply to your business. Decreasing your sales investments for the wrong reasons could be a big mistake. Focus on your buyers and how they want to buy. If there is any complexity in their decision process, then increasing your investment in sales may be the best path for you to explore. If you follow that course, make sure you also invest in sales enablement and other operational enhancements to adapt your approach to today’s technology buyer.
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