By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company
Image courtesy of Akeeris at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Buying has changed forever. The Internet, search engines, Websites and social networking allow long-suffering buyers to turn the tables on sellers that in the past have been guilty of hype, half-truths, omissions or outright lies. Everyone has had one or more experiences with sellers they feel took advantage of them.
Until the last 5 years or so, B2B selling for complex offerings changed at a glacial pace. If interested in offerings, buyers had no choice but to contact sellers fairly early. This gave the first seller an opportunity to skew the requirements in a way that made their offering the best fit. This reinforced the notion that selling was convincing, persuading and overcoming objections.
Some of the most unpleasant interactions with sellers occur early in our lives in B2C buying decisions. After making retail purchasing decisions everyone has had interactions with sellers where we felt manipulated. Because of the commodity nature of the transaction (you can buy the car from many dealers) and the sizes of the transaction, car salespeople set the bar very low and have given the sales profession many black eyes. In the ladder of careers people aspire to, salespeople and lawyers are usually at or near the bottom rung.
In my mind, one of the best things that has happened with new buying behavior is the transformation of buying cars. If and when visiting a dealership buyers have a good idea of the value of their trade, the exact features of the car they want to buy, know the dealer invoice for the car they want and how much profit the dealer should be allowed to make.
As part of the buyer revolution, the distrust of sellers learned early in their lives has been transferred to B2B sellers. Guilt by association is applied to anyone with a business card with a title that has anything to do with sales. I understand why this happens, but it doesn’t seem fair. I believe B2B sellers are different than B2C sellers for many reasons:
- They try to establish long-term relationships with companies.
- It is difficult to determine based upon product information posted on websites.
- There is accountability. Buyers must be satisfied to continue the relationship.
- They recognize that an unhappy customer will drain resources and hurt their reputation.
- If they blatantly misrepresent offerings, legal action may result.
In life and business when pendulums swing they usually go further than they should. Over time they self-adjust toward the middle. I feel that B2B buyers have overreacted in marginalizing the role of a salesperson. When evaluating complex offerings, a great deal of time and effort can be wasted. A competent B2B seller will be helpful in determining requirements, professional services that may be necessary, building a business case and moving a committee in a direction so that a decision can be made.
There can be a great cost in evaluating complex offerings. This is on both the buyer’s side (in time and effort) as well as a vendor’s side in allocating time and resources. If an offering is not a good fit, what percentage of competent B2B sellers will tell you and withdraw?