“67% of the buyer’s decision now happens digitally.“
This has been one of these most quoted statistics over the last four years, and the leaping point from which other influential stats were born, like:
- 57% of the buyer’s purchase decision is complete before he or she ever reaches out to the seller
- 93% of buyers prefer to purchase online instead of through a salesperson
- The salesperson is the least influential interaction with the buyer
- 22% of the 4.5 million U.S. B2B sales agents will lose their jobs to eCommerce by 2020
But good news came from this year’s SiriusDecision Summit: salespeople, you aren’t going to lose your jobs.
The B2B salesperson is not dead. In fact, he or she may be the most important part of the buying process.
The Human Touch Still Matters
Whether it’s a sales touch, marketing touch, or customer success touch, human interactions seem to weigh more greatly in the buyer’s mind, and can have significant impact on the outcome of new business. How does SiriusDecision know?
In their report, Sirius broke down three buying scenarios for the B2B purchaser:
These scenarios represent different ways in which the B2B decision is made, showing the varying levels of complexity in a purchase.
- Committee: Multiple decision makers and influencers
- Consensus: One decision maker, multiple influencers
- Independent: One decision maker, one influencer
Sirius then mapped the number of touchpoints that occurred for each of those scenarios on the buyer’s path to purchase. As you can see, as the decision becomes more complex, there are more points of influence.
The interesting part is that the number of human interactions outscores the number of non-human interactions regardless of the type of decision path. This demonstrates how important human interactions are in the sales process.
Why Might This Be?
Technology allows us to have more meaningful conversations. By utilizing data and insights about where our buyers have been online, and which topics they seem most interested in, our human interactions can accelerate into more worthwhile conversations. Sales reps can cut to the exact pain points of interests of our buyers, bypassing early-stage chit-chat of the weather, so to speak.
In short, with the right technologies enabled, sales teams can have conversations that go beyond the products they’re pitching.
Not only that, but businessmen and women have always known that people do business with people they like. That hasn’t changed.
“Despite all the attention around digital marketing and its ability to connect with customers in new and meaningful ways, it is still the case that people selling to people continues to be the primary way in which B2B technology purchases get made,” SiriusDecision reported in a news release.
What Does It Mean, and What Should I Do about It?
The data suggests, firstly, that you should keep the budget for your salespeople.
Secondly, it suggests that marketers and sales teams should look at how to bake more human interactions into their strategies.
Some ideas for this are increased importance on:
- user group events
- customer happy hours
- in-person events
- meals or coffee meetings scheduled with prospects and customers
It also suggests a tighter alignment between sales and marketing.
In order to have technology-boosted conversations with prospects, sales must be intimately informed about what topics their prospects have interacted with. This includes not only knowing which web properties the prospect has landed on, but what exactly those web properties say.
For instance, it probably isn’t enough to know that a prospect has downloaded an eBook. Your sales staff needs to know what was in that eBook, which topics were covered, and they should be able to ask intelligent questions like, “Were you more interested in the thought leadership in eBook X or the case studies?”
This means more integrated campaigns, both externally and internally. That might put a little extra homework on the salespeople’s plates. But at least they’ll keep their jobs.