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We're one quarter into a new year, and if you're like many sales leaders, you're fretting over your team's performance. Perhaps your sales reps missed their number during Q1. Or maybe your team is crushing it, and you want them to crush it even more.

Either way, it's worth taking a look at the current state of B2B sales.

There are numerous statistics, surveys, and studies on the new B2B buyer and how it's impacting sales. We've tried to condense all of that information into seven charts. Let's take a look at them and see what they mean for your business.


1. Buyers Want to Avoid Sales Reps

Don't believe that B2B buyers are changing? You may want to rethink things. In 2015, 53% of buyers preferred gathering information online over speaking with sales. In 2016, that number grew to 64%.

In other words, more and more B2B buyers are trying to avoid sales reps. in part, that's because B2B sales reps aren't giving buyers what they want. Not sure what they want? Well, there's a chart for that, too…

2. Here's What Buyers Want

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In the pre-internet days, sellers benefited from information asymmetry. They could guard information that buyers needed to reach a decision, which meant that buyers had to speak with sales reps.

With the rise of search engines and social media, all that has changed. Buyers are more autonomous, and they know exactly what they want from the buyer-seller relationship.

According to Salesforce's report on the state of sales, buyers want to work with reps who listen to them and take time to understand the unique challenges at their businesses. For their part, sellers need to focus on helping buyers through their journey, as well as acting as trusted advisors.

What does the buyer's journey look like? CEB has done some research on that subject…

 

3. Sales Reps Need to Guide Buyers Earlier in the Process

The CEB distills the buyer's journey into three steps. First, a buying committee must define a problem. For example, they need to decide whether their CRM needs upgrading or replacing. Next, they have to identify various solutions. In the CRM example, the committee might explore building or buying, as well as the challenges of software integration. Finally, they research vendors and select one.

On average, there are 6.8 people involved in this process, and it ain't an easy process. Plenty of decisions never reach the third stage because the buying committee cannot agree on what their problem is or how to solve it.

Unfortunately, many sales reps are trained on the ins and outs of the "Supplier Selection" stage. For example, they can articulate why their product is better than their competitor's. But many of them aren't trained on helping buyers through the "Problem Definition" and "Solution Identification" stages, where buyers struggle the most.

To close more business, B2B sales reps need to engage buyers earlier, and that requires a different approach.

*Cue the next chart*

 

4. The Consultatitve Seller Thrives in Today's Buying Environment

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Source: Sales for Life/Forrester

Consultative sellers excel in complex buying environments because they take a more proactive approach. They educate their buyers with new ideas, showcase their knowledge of the industry, and tailor their messaging for the many stakeholders they engage.

While many sales positions are expected to disappear over the next decade, the number of consultant sellers is expected to grow by 10%. If you're in sales, now's the time to become a more consultative seller.

5. Social Selling Is Crucial for Engaging Buyers

 

The CEB surveyed over 1,000 sales reps to discover what made the best reps different from their peers. 

Was it making more cold calls? Nope. Was it sending more emails? Nope.

Social selling is the single most powerful behavior separating high performers from core performers. But there's a catch. The high performers don't simply have accounts on LinkedIn and Twitter. According to the CEB's research, the best sales reps use social media to:

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

To put it differently, social sellers don't spend their days sending emojis on Facebook Messenger. Instead, they are actively positioning themselves as resources of information on social media.

6. If You Don't Have a Social Selling Program, You're Behind

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Given the crucial role of social selling in quota attainment, it's no surprise that sales organizations are building out social selling programs. When Altimeter surveyed companies, they found that 43% of them had social selling programs that were being optimized or mature. Another 39% were planning, piloting, and in the first year of implementation.

If your sales organization hasn't embraced social selling, you're behind, and your reps aren't as successful as they could be. (See chart #5 again.)

7. Going Digital Requires Change Management

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As sales teams go digital and social, other departments need to evolve with them. In The Transformation of Selling: How Digital Enables Seamless Selling, Charlene Li and the Altimeter team outline some of the changes that must occur. For example, marketers play a key role in a sales team's success on social. To support reps, marketers need to provide their teams with the right content that will engage customers throughout their entire journey.

To start building your change management plan, check out this post from Kim Babcock: To Be a Social Leader, You Must Be a Change Leader. It offers a great framework for mitigating risk while launching new initiatives with your sales team.

Don't Fall Behind

If you want your team to be successful this year, you'll need to embrace the current state of B2B sales. It's a world where buyers want to avoid sales reps, where a consultative approach is most effective, and where digital channels like LinkedIn and Twitter must be embraced. 

To learn more about the state of B2B sales, you might want to check out these posts:

Posted by Mark Bajus

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