Many sellers of commercial products and services have missed a major shift in the buying process. There is enough anecdotal and survey research available that tell us that buyers are now more in control of the buying process than ever before.
Unfortunately many current “go to market” plans, marketing and direct sales training programs have not adjusted.
This is the era of customer initiated research and networking on almost all products and services. It was only a few years ago, where customers met with salespeople to gain vital product information to investigate solutions to problems and business opportunities.
Simply, buyers go to web to research projects and network with colleagues and associates before they engage a salesperson. Some estimate that more than 50% of the buying process is completed before the salesperson is engaged.
This change has been accelerating. Consequently:
· Buyers initiate more research on their own. They seek information from a multiple sources and channels.
· More people within companies are involved in the buying decisions. This is due to cost constraints and economic uncertainly.
· New buyers are competent and highly encouraged to research before engaging sellers. New demographics of buyers are driving this change.
· There is greater access to informational videos, social media and content via a multitude of form factors.
What Can Sellers Do To React
Direct salespeople will need to react to the changing of the buying process. Buyer initiated research has significantly changed the dynamic between buyers and sellers. Canned sales presentations, manipulative sales techniques and traditional sales processes must be either discarded or dramatically altered.
Having a strong knowledge of a customer or industry is essential and a prerequisite. Successful salespeople must bring fresh insights to customer problems and opportunities that are not easily found on the Web. Also, it is expected that salespeople bring business and financial acumen to every sales call. This will be a big challenge to managers who need to hire and train salespeople.
Going forward, all direct sellers will need to react. Marketing, branding and direct sales integration models should be carefully reviewed. Old and hybrid direct sales processes will need to be re-engineered. To successfully compete in buyer research initiated market, direct sellers must change.
Joe Rickard works at Intellective Solutions andis a training leader and consultant dedicated to the graphic communications Industry.