The Marketing Strategist:

ITSMA Featured Research: How Sales Provides Value in Every Stage of the Purchase Process

January 16, 2013

Conventional wisdom holds that marketing owns the early stages of the funnel and sales gets involved only at the end. Says Forrester in The Lead Nurturing Payoff for the Tech Industry: “Technology buyers are two-thirds of the way through their buying process before they engage with tech vendors’ sales teams.” The Corporate Executive Board joins in: “B2B customers are delaying serious engagement with sales until they are 57% of the way through the purchase process.” But that’s not what buyers say. According to ITSMA’s How Buyers Consume Information Survey, 70% of customers want to talk to sales during the epiphany, awareness, and interest stages: when they’re information-grazing, when they first learn what you can do, and when they put you on the shortlist. In fact, buyers perceive value in interacting with sales at every stage of the buying process—even the early stages. In the epiphany stage, they want education and unique perspectives; in the awareness stage, they want product information and subject matter experts; and in the interest stage, they want benchmarks and best practices. Figure 1. What Value Does Sales Provide in Each Phase of the Buying Process? Featured Research January 2013 Buyers are also clear about where they’re getting less value: challenging their thinking, educating them on industry issues, and helping them navigate among alternative solutions. These fall under the category of consultative selling. Salespeople can’t be expected to be full-powered subject matter experts. But they can do a better job of thought leadership selling. The buyers who most desire consultative-style interaction are the B2B social buyers—the young executives with clout who use social media during the purchase process. Social buyers see more value in engaging with salespeople all along the timeline, and especially when salespeople act in consultative roles. Traditional buyers tend to put salespeople into a traditional box. B2B social buyers emphasize such roles as “challenge my thinking,” “provide unique perspectives,” and “educate me on issues and opportunities in my industry.” This is what consultants do. Many traditional buyers also find value in a consultative relationship, but the percentages are far lower. Marketing has a big sales enablement job:
  • Help your salespeople understand the two types of buyers and the expectations of each.
  • Provide salespeople with the tools to distinguish traditional from social buyers (e.g., a set of conversation-starters running the gamut from “challenge” questions (for the social buyers) to offers of solution information (for the traditional buyers)).
  • Continue your efforts to enhance their consultative selling skills with thought leadership content and explicit advice on how and when to build it into the sales process.
Are you ready? Read Three Trends You Can’t Ignore Results from the ITSMA How Buyers Consume Information Survey, 2012 or listen to The Buyer Divide: How to Market to Traditional and B2B Social Buyers, an ITSMA online briefing.

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