B2B Sales Teams, Waiting to Engage Buyers Is Costing You

When should sales reps engage with buyers?

It’s a question that all marketing and sales leaders ask themselves. To complicate matters, there’s a statistic out there that many thought leaders cite: Buyers typically are 57% through their buying process before they engage a salesperson.

So, should sales reps sit at their desks and await perfect, sales-ready buyers to raise their hands and exclaim, “Show me the contract”? Absolutely not. In fact, waiting is detrimental to your company. Let’s take a look at what happens when you wait.

Entering Late into the Buyer’s Journey

Here’s the buyer’s journey that IBM developed:

It’s fairly straightforward. Buyers need to discover that they have a problem. They need to learn about your company, your category, and the solutions in your category. They need to try your product. Then, they need to buy your product. Next, they need to use your product. And finally, they can advocate for your company.

Where do you think most sales reps enter into this journey?

You got it. At the “Buy” stage.

Many sales reps wait for the perfectly qualified, highly scored buyer to be passed to them from the marketing department. Once the unicorn buyer appears in the CRM, the sales rep goes to work, trying to convince the buyer to choose their product over their competitors’ solutions.

When they’re lucky, the sellers win. But often times, they lose. In fact, sales teams that wait are 56% more likelyto miss their numbers. Let’s take a look at why that happens.

The Price Problem

Nowadays, buyers are in control. They can easily research companies, and when they are ready to buy, they bring their research to the negotiating table.

Buyers know how much your competitors charge, and when companies wait for buyers to approach them, they find themselves negotiating deals based on price. As a result, sales reps slash their prices in order to close deals, and since their deal size drops, sellers have to bring in more deals to hit their numbers.

On the other hand, when sellers are proactive and engage buyers sooner, a different story unfolds. Sales Benchmark Index’s research shows that sales teams that focus on the first part of the journey (i.e. the “Discover” and “Learn” stages) rarely compete on price and often win deals with zero competition because “they got in early” and were able to influence the buyer’s purchasing criteria. In fact, proactive teams are 56% more likely to hit their numbers.

The Consensus Problem

In addition to the price problem, there’s another hiccup in the B2B buyer’s journey. It’s the consensus problem. Sellers often look for a mythical “decision maker” who can approve a complex deal on behalf of the company. But it’s more common to encounter a purchasing committee, which, on average, consists of of 5.4 members.

Think about it. That’s 5.4 opportunities for someone to say, “No.” In fact, the Corporate Executive Board’s research shows that where there are more stakeholders, there’s less likelihood that a purchase will happen.

Note: that’s the likelihood that any purchase will happen – not the likelihood that buyers will choose your solution.

This begs the question, Where do buying committees get stuck? Believe it or not, it’s not at the “Try” or “Buy” stages, when buyers are preparing to select a supplier. It’s much earlier in the process.

Buying committees are most likely to get stuck when they’ve identified their problem and are trying to find the best course of action. In other words, even if groups can agree on the problem they are trying to solve, they encounter even more problems when they try to agree on how to solve their problem.

Buying committees need someone to guide them. They need your sales team to coach them.

That’s why today’s sales reps need to be more than closers. They need to be helpers. They need to be guides along the buyer’s journey, moving buying committees across the chasm between “Discovering and identifying their problem” and “Learning about solutions.”

When sellers are proactive helpers, they win deals that their competitors, who complacently await the perfect lead, never realized were on the table.

Social Selling: They Key to Getting in Earlier

So, what can salespeople do to get into accounts earlier? How can they influence buyers as they figure out how to solve their problems? The CEB surveyed over 1,000 salespeople to find out. Here’s what they discovered:

Social selling is what separates high performers from average performers. The best sales reps actively use Twitter and LinkedIn to:

  • Connect with potential customers
  • Share points of view valuable to customers
  • Generate leads

The best sellers actively position themselves as resources of information on social media, and they are doing so even before sellers are selecting vendors. By having a remarkable presence on social networks, they help buyers discover their company, and by sharing great content, they help buyers learn about and solve their problems.

In other words, by using social networks, sales reps have the opportunity to walk buyers through the entire journey – not just the last few steps before they sign a contract.

Unlike the sellers who wait for the perfect, sales-ready lead, proactive social sellers help your company’s profitability because they aren’t negotiating on price and discounting the cost of your services.

Furthermore, they are uncovering sales opportunities that your competitors never knew existed. By engaging buyers earlier, proactive sellers are teaching their buyers how to buy. They are helping buyers get over the “solution identification” hump. They are showing buyers why they need to solve their problems using a solution from your category, and they are encouraging them to build consensus within the buying committee.

That’s why getting in early is so important.

Want to Learn More about Social Selling?

Check out the Executive’s Guide to Social Selling Success.

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