According to ValueSelling Associates Inc., a sales training consulting company, 60 percent of business-to-business (B2B) buyers today distrust the integrity of salespeople, while only 34 percent of buyers currently agree that their point-of-contact sales representative is actually a helpful contributor to the buying process. The sponsored study, entitled “Sales from the Buyer’s Perspective,” aims to shine a light on how buyers truly feel about their vendor sales relationships.
While the study doesn’t necessarily represent how every buyer really feels about these relationships, it is a strong indication that something may not be quite right when it comes to the way sales representatives conduct themselves when doing business.
ValueSelling Associates Inc. and Training Industry Inc. conducted the online survey, accumulating feedback from 206 managers and executives in the U.S. from a wide range of industries, with the goal of examining the current state of B2B transactions according to buyer perspective.
Julie Thomas, CEO and president of ValueSelling Associates Inc., commented on the importance of the survey as both a warning and a challenge for sales professionals throughout the country.
“This survey is a reality check for sales teams that assume their current skills are good enough to compete for larger, long-term contracts,” she explained. “Expectations are shifting, and sales professionals need to become more adept and agile, so they can effectively engage when a buyer is ready. Sales team members must be armed with industry-relevant knowledge and master the communications skills now required in an increasingly technology-enabled sales environment.”
While these numbers are far from encouraging, other statistics from the study point toward areas for growth. According to the survey, B2B sales have become a team activity, which means that buyers depend on a variety of touchpoints in order to form a positive image of a vendor. The top roles that buyers interact with in B2B sales are as follows: subject matter experts, account executives and managers, outside sales, inside sales and coordinators that show demos. If a sales team has the right people in these roles, then team-based B2B sales has a better chance at forming a positive relationship with a buyer, as well as getting their business.
The study also found that buyers prefer to be contacted via technology about sales. The most preferred avenue of communication was email, at 81 percent, followed by phone call at 63 percent and even text messaging at 38 percent. In-person meetings were preferred by a mere 27 percent of subjects. That said, mastering the art of communication via technology, especially email, will go a long way to forming healthy B2B relationships.
Other findings of the study include the revelation that buyers pay close attention to communication skills, such as writing and speaking both in person and on conference calls. This means that if sales teams are going to use presentation technologies to conduct B2B communications, then they’d better make sure those technologies, such as PowerPoint and Skype, are used properly and efficiently.
Shockingly, 75 percent of buyers said that sales representatives do not demonstrate knowledge of their industry structure, while 74 percent believed that salespeople don’t demonstrate basic financial literacy. These statistics are very clear: B2B salespeople have to do a lot more work to stay informed, or else buyers will look elsewhere. To top this off, buyers also communicated through the study their belief that sales representatives do not effectively engage leaders of buyer companies.
The disconnect here between B2B buyers and sales representatives is staggering, but the study isn’t all doom and gloom. Clearly, in order for B2B sales to improve, communication and subject-matter proficiency need to do so as well. If sales representatives can’t communicate with buyers, then no amount of knowledge and professional experience will be able to salvage a B2B sale. If they don’t even know what they’re talking about in the first place, well, then good luck. At least they won’t have to worry about the whole communication disconnect part of the equation.
The simple fact of the matter is that, according to the study, B2B buyers are unhappy with their sales representatives. In the promotional products industry, B2B relationships are the crucial cogs in the overall wheel of the supplier-distributor-end buyer universe. This industry features a lot of moving parts, and a lot of key players as well. For deals to get done, and to remain both profitable and sustainable, sales representatives need to do a better job of convincing buyers as to why they can only do business with them, and no one else.
For sales representatives unsure as to whether this applies to you ask yourselves the following question: Why should your buyers trust you?
If you can’t answer that question clearly and concisely, then you may have some work to do.
This article was originally posted on Promo Marketing Magazine