In a rapidly changing world, where B2B buying and selling grow more complex, only those salespeople who adapt by becoming value-creating experts will thrive.
You never know who reads what you write. As an author, you hope that between writing, publishing, and Google sending people your content, your audience sees what you believe is most important. To ensure you see around corners, you may repeat certain ideas. This is one of these posts.
Most salespeople are good people, doing right by their company and their clients. Their sales managers try their best to help their sales team win the deals they need to succeed. But while you are working hard, outside your window, the world continues to change faster than ever. Many sales organizations have fallen behind regarding the evolution of B2B buying and B2B selling, both of which are now more difficult.
Factors and Forces Making B2B Buying Difficult
- Information overload: Buyers have had access for a long time. They have been doing research about the companies and the results they need, often without the help of a salesperson. But the exponential increase in content leads to more information, which tends to confuse people, especially when some information conflicts with other information.
- Internal buyer’s journey: Many buyers have journeys that find them working more within their company than outside of it. Between the massive amount of information and internal conversations, buyers spend too little time with salespeople, many complaining about the poor experience they have.
- Lack of certainty: In the end, buyers seem to need the confidence and certainty to move their change initiative forward. We are not preparing or enabling salespeople to provide buyers with who they need to succeed.
Forces and Factors Making B2B Selling Difficult
- Limited legacy approach: Many sales organizations retain large parts of the legacy approaches that create no value for their clients. Many senior leaders prefer this approach because it worked for them when they were selling. Were these leaders to try to sell to a client themselves, they would understand that their clients are not engaged in the conversation, as it does nothing to help them pursue their goals.
- Lack of sales effectiveness: Between technology and the increase in coverage of the pipeline, sales effectiveness doesn’t register with sales leaders and managers. It doesn’t occur to them that higher win rates are a better approach to reaching their goals than treating their pipeline like a lottery, each deal a possible win. One reason win rates seem low is because of all the suspect and false deals they lose.
- Buyer’s Problems: Buyers start with a change initiative, a budget, a senior leader’s authority, and the consensus of what now includes a large part of the organization. The buyer’s problems become the salesperson’s problems. At the same time, buyers spend little time, treating the process as transactional, even when they should treat it with the importance of any other major change.
The Future of B2B Sales
- Value creation: This change has been speeding toward us for decades. Winning deals will require sales organizations and salespeople to change how they sell. For the 14 years I have been publishing on this platform, I have endeavored to explain how the arc of the change in B2B is moving away from transactional and toward greater value creation in the sales conversation. Yet, we don’t build value creators, even though this is what it takes to win deals, especially in competitive pursuits.
- Enter the expert: As you read this post, those who win deals are those with the experience to be experts, who can help their buyers get what they need to move their initiative forward. Even though a buyer has done their research, they lack the confidence and certainty they need. The expert provides what we call a higher-resolution lens, one that helps clients understand things in a way that creates the value they need in the sales conversation.
- Authority and advancing: Imagine you are responsible for a decision that you have never made in the past. Getting it wrong will harm your company because the decision is critical to your future results. Would you believe that a salesperson talking about their company, their clients, and their solutions would help you understand the decision? Or would you want to spend time with a person who has the experience, expertise, and authority to help guide you through the process?
The Trajectory in B2B
There is no reason to believe the future will be easier for salespeople or their buyers. The trajectory is certain to be one where both buying and selling will be more complex and risky.
Our demographics suggest that demand will fall as the Baby Boomers retire without leaving a generation to replace them. Our birth rates suggest our population will decline. The markets will look different, as there are already more than enough suppliers in every industry.
If you believe there are haves and have-nots, wait until demand subsides.
Experience, Expertise, and Authority
If you are a sales leader who wants to ensure they succeed now and in the future, you should build experience, expertise, and authority in your sales force or face losing deals to your competition. You will need to win at a greater rate when there is less demand.
If you are a salesperson, you will need to be One-Up, which means you create value for your clients in the sales conversation and during the buyer’s journey. What you risk now is falling behind in a time when the environment accelerates faster than ever. Either you are an expert and authority, or you are a peddler.
Those of us who do this work can see the future now, especially in how buyers talk about salespeople. Decision-makers and buyers need something more than what they get from salespeople now. Those who are already experts and consultative win at higher rates already.