Yesterday, an entrepreneur engaged with a post about what buyers need from you. His platform allows sales organizations to do their research on their own. His comment said, “Buyers want to have all the information they need in one central place, consume it at their own speed, convince internally, and drive the deal themselves—the days of sales pushiness are over. It’s almost all about how we enable the buyer to make the right decision quickly and easily. 😊”
Having done the research on buyer’s remorse, I responded, “We will have to disagree. Information is not insight, nor is it wisdom, nor is it the experience that prevents missteps and mistakes. When buyers make a significant decision every 5 or 7 years and a salesperson facilitates buyer’s journeys every day, the experience helps improve their decision and results.”
Buying without help is like reading a brochure on open heart surgery and doing it yourself.
Gartner’s research shows buyer’s remorse is close to twice as high when buyers use digital commerce (i.e., researching on their own) as when they use a traditional rep-led approach. This is supported even more by buyer responses to the following statements:
- “With more information, we could have made a better decision.” 27 percent of sales-led buyers agreed, compared to 50 percent of digital commerce buyers.
- “We should have thought about it before making this decision.” 21 percent of rep-led buyers agree, compared to 41 percent of digital buyers.
- “We should have chosen something different from what we ended up buying.” 22 percent of rep-led buyers agreed, while 34% digital buyers agreed.
Gartner identifies a set of changes that might help with the digital buyer’s journey, one of which is “Even stronger encouragement on the website to utilize a salesperson for help.”
The tech entrepreneur responded, “75% want a rep-free experience and 68% did recently purchase without a single rep touchpoint (also Gartner) The trend is unstoppable—we are coming from way lower numbers here just a couple of months back.”
What people say they want and what they actually want and need are often wildly different. Consider the health-club membership you bought at the beginning of the year, and your membership card that has never seen the inside of the gym.
The tech entrepreneur moved to another post about the story your client needs, leaving this comment: "It’s all about buyer experience now and how to enable your champion to convince internally. We need to invest in both, sales enablement (which sadly mostly covers only 17% of the buyer’s journey) and buyer enablement (which covers the remaining 83%) -> so we get 100% insights into a deal to better judge and assist.”
Time versus Impact
The 17 percent statistic cited by the tech entrepreneur comes from Gartner. That is what their surveys show when buyers are asked how much of their time they spend with salespeople, and if my memory serves me, it is split among three sales organizations that are competing for their business.
Let’s assume that a buyer first engages with a salesperson using a legacy approach. Is it possible that the client provides the time without the salesperson creating an impact? If so, we agree that different salespeople’s effectiveness is variable.
The buyer interviews another sales organization, this one using a modern sales approach designed to create value for the client. This value enables the client to make the best decision for their company and their results. This sales rep created a preference to buy from her because she helped them. Do you think this salesperson had the same 6 percent of the client’s time as the legacy salesperson who likely lasted one meeting? If you believe this is possible, or even probable, you agree that the time did not produce their desired positive outcome. Instead, was the salesperson’s ability to create value for the prospective client.
We used to describe a certain type of salesperson as a walking, talking brochure. They would recite exactly what was on their four-color glossy sales collateral, before opening a catalogue and asking the client what they needed to buy. Today, you don’t see many of these types because the internet allows buyers to explore and research, although the word research may also be an overstatement.
The Impact of Digital
You know how you ask a question that causes the client to blurt out, “That is a great question.” When that occurs, you have taught your contact something they were unaware of or something they hadn’t considered. In the digital journey, the buyers have been given the keys to a plane without a pilot.
Like you and I, buyers are often ignorant. Ignorant doesn’t mean they are not intelligent; it means they don’t know what they don’t know. In this case, acquiring foundational information may feel like understanding. To truly understand something, including how best to make an important decision requires more than information alone. It requires experience.
The impact of digital commerce can feel as if they can determine what to buy and from who, only to suffer from buyer’s remorse. That buyer’s remorse is expensive. It causes a loss of time, results, and potentially a downgrade in their status and position.
I posit that the 83 percent of research is nowhere near as helpful as the 17 percent buyers allegedly spend with salespeople with the experience to educate the client through their experience. Buyers would be better off spending more time with salespeople, using that time to learn what they can’t know from a visit to a digital platform. Fit is often an important factor that cannot be discerned on a website, even one with a lot of content. Should a stakeholder be unhappy with the potential solution, your sales champion will have a hard time finding a way to mitigate or adjust how they deliver value.
Sales Reps vs. Research Platforms and Impact
Selling is still about helping people solve their problems and improve their business. Marketing is a one-to-many interaction, while sales is one-to-one. Too many leaders, especially technology leaders, want to treat sales as a transaction, which undermines its enormous benefits.
In a time of great uncertainty, you can engender trust by providing your clients with more time, greater understanding, and the certainty that they will make changes that improve their results. Buyers need to spend more time with salespeople, and salespeople should give them the experience they need to succeed in the future. Be less transactional and more consultative. This is the way forward now.