How to Improve Your Understanding of What Buyers Want

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It should not be news that only 53% of sales representatives are meeting or exceeding their quotas, and 2017 represents the fifth straight year of decline. If these statistics applied to any other department, everyone would probably be fired.

CSO Insights, the Research Division of the Miller Heiman Group, recently published key insights in a report, “The Growing Buyer-Seller Gap: Results of the 2018 Buyer Preferences Study,” a survey of over 500 B2B buyers at medium to large sales organizations.

The study reached four key “buyer preferences,” which it termed an “apathy loop”:

1. Sellers meet, but do not exceed, buyers’ expectations.

Only 62% of buyers felt that sellers just “met expectations,” as opposed to 32% of buyers who felt that sellers actually “exceeded expectations.”

2. Buyers do not value sellers as a top resource for solving business problems.

Out of ten resources that buyers could use to solve business problems, vendor salespeople came in second to last; only 23% of buyers wanted to work with sales professionals.

3. Buyers do not engage sellers until they have already identified their needs and narrowed to a solution.

The study concluded that 70% of buyers wait to engage with sellers until after they have fully defined their needs, and almost half (44%) prefer not to engage until they have already identified solutions. Another 20% do not even want sales to be involved in evaluating solutions and would rather engage with them only to resolve concerns, negotiate the contract, or implement the solution.

4. Buyers see only a little difference between sellers.

The majority (57%) of buyers thought that one vendor is “typically a little better than the others.” 31% felt that one typically outshines the rest, and 10% usually found no differentiation between vendors.

Areas for Improvement

The study found that sales should improve in four key areas that are impactful to buyers:

1. Understand the buyers’ business.

With the rise of AI, buyers often enter the initial conversation with the expectation that the seller already knows a lot about their business.

2. Demonstrate excellent communication skills.

Examples of this include mastery of active listening, advanced questioning, virtual presentations, negotiating, storytelling, business case/ROI analysis, and social selling techniques.

3. Focus on the post-sale.

Buyers think that sellers put too much emphasis on the buying stage and not enough on what happens after the sale. According to CSO Insights, “[s]ales organizations need to carefully re-examine their account management methodology, the integration of their service and sales functions, as well as the potential for customer success or other hybrid sales/service models.”

4. Provide perspective.

“Perspective” was defined as new ideas, insights, expertise, education, and thought leadership. Selling with perspective is an evolution of solution selling, and this is the biggest opportunity for vendor differentiation. 46% of buyers preferred hearing about new ideas at the beginning of a conversation – so this is also a great way to get the buyer engaged early.

Review the full CSO Insights Report here.