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Rewriting B2B Selling for Digital Buying.

Brent Adamson, Distinguished VP Analyst, Gartner Research and Advisory kicked off Gartner’s virtual Chief Sales Officer and Leaders conference, held today, June 16th. 2021.

Brent’s keynote topic: Rewriting B2B Selling for Digital Buying

The following is a summary of highlights in Brent's keynote

This was a compelling and interesting keynote focused on changes in B2B Buying Behavior and how CSO’s and sales leaders must adapt.  The key insight here is that B2B buyers are adopting B2C buying preferences and would prefer a sales-rep-free experience.  A recent Gartner survey asked the question, “would you prefer a purely digital buying experience without having to speak with a sales rep?”  The results, 54% of Millennials would prefer not to have to speak with a salesperson, indicate that changes in how companies sell to B2B buyers are imminent as Millennials become the dominant buying generation in B2B companies.

  • Boomers 29%
  • Gen X 43%
  • Millennials 54%

The question Brent posed was, “are you out of sync with how your customers would prefer to buy?” There are plenty of risks to consider in a purely digital buying environment and the path forward is not clear cut. 

What to do? 

Option 1  

Upskill our sellers so customers do want to talk to them.  The question then is “how do we make our reps more effective at virtual selling and more interesting and valuable to B2B buyers in the moments that matter during the buying process when we are interacting.

Option 2. 

Invest in digital to align to customers' buying preferences.  Fascinating statistics revealed that even though buyers want to purchase without interacting with a salesperson, their buying experience is less satisfying and their decisions more worrisome than through a traditional buyer-seller interaction.

The survey revealed that 23% more customers regretted their buying decision without contacting a salesperson.  The upshot is that when customers make decisions that they feel less good about (pure B2B digital buying), everyone loses.

Brent posed another interesting question to Chief Sales Officers. “As a supplier how can we give back what digital is taking away?”

The outcome of the digital buying experience is less about what they know about what they acquired and more about how they felt with their decision and this = confidence.

The Confidence Factor

Again, a Gartner survey reveals an interesting statistic about self-perception, “the likelihood of a high-quality low-regret deal is 10-X average decision confidence. Gartner then explored the dimensions of buying confidence. Buyers who were confident in their decisions had the following in common: they

  • Asked the right questions
  • Identified best information
  • Aligned as a buying group at key decision points in the buying process
  • The purchase will positively impact the performance of their business.
  • A consensus that the purchase was a good choice.

For CSO’s CRO’s and sales leaders, this is what we need to solve for today.

  • How do salespeople elicit the right questions from buyers and are they capable of answering key buyer questions clearly?
  • How do your salespeople feed the buyer/buying team the right information at the right time to help advance the sale?
  • How does your sales process align with your customer's buying process and have you created audit points for both buyer and seller to agree and advance beyond them together?
  • What have you done to enable your sales team to articulate the value your solution will bring to the buyer so that they are clear on how it will impact performance?
  • What have you done to enable your sales team to differentiate, build and validate consensus in the buying team to create confidence in their decision?

Secondary Drivers of Customer Confidence

Gartner identified statistically significant 2nd order drivers of customer confidence (perception)

Perception of consensus

  • Buying group consensus on the business problem 8.3% vs 4.8% on a range of problems (solving the right problem)

Perception of Nuance

  • Perception of nuance, 5.1% of buyers perceived supplier differentiation

Perception of the sales interaction

  • Reps understandable explanation of the technical aspects of the offering 5.6%
  • Reps more accurate diagnosis of the business problem 5.2%

The Digital Buying Sea of Sameness

When buyers go digital with no sales rep engagement, there is no discernable nuance between one vendor and another’s website.  In a digital world, we swim in a sea of sameness. 

More interesting statistics bear this out:

  • 64% of buyers can’t tell the difference between one brand and another based on their website and the buying experience.
  • 76% of B2B customers did nothing different after their most recent digital experience.

Adamson refers to the book, The Shallows, by Nicholas Carr, which is now 10-years old, but correctly identifies how the Internet has taught us to engage in information in a shallow manner, i.e. we don't read every page, we skim, scroll and scan.

Humans spend 10-seconds or less viewing most web pages, regardless of their quality how much was spent on design.

Another downside of the Internet is attention discord, where 83% of global consumers surveyed report they are using 2.23 devices at the same time.

Consensus in the Digital Buying Process

Adamson indicates that digital buying stakeholders engage in their own individual buying journeys. Each stakeholder individually engages with between 3-8 pieces of content.

This exacerbates the diverse priorities and is unlikely to coalesce decision consensus

This leads to “Good Enough” learning and agreeing, which leads to good enough buying, which leads to purchase regret.

What can be done as Commercial Leaders?

How can we create a commercial opportunity from this digital “sea of sameness”?

  • Create digitally different experiences - richer, more immersive digital experiences
  • Focus customer attention moments of nuance on what matters most to create meaningful differentiation
  • Find a way to create a sales rep-mediated digital experience.

Sales Rep Digital Integration - a Silver Bullet? 

17% of more than a thousand buyers surveyed, by far the biggest group, felt that the reps' effective use of technology to facilitate buying group decisions was critical in creating confidence.  In other words, the salesperson is the guide, coach, and sherpa to help the buyer see nuance, discern value and create consensus inside the digital buying experience. 

It is going to be mission-critical for reps to make the most of the moments that matter during this buying cycle.”That means building buyer empathy, sharing more compelling content, asking smarter questions, and having conversations that build trust, communicate the financial value of their solutions, and reveal the nuanced differences between their competitors."

I want more Mojo in our virtual selling presence!