5 ways your sales team needs to change to meet the buyer decision making process of the future

‘B2B decision-maker preferences and behaviours have shifted dramatically since the onset of COVID’, notes insights firm McKinsey, with the impact of the crisis causing widespread market changes that are affecting the buyer decision making process.

While every industry has been impacted differently by the pandemic, there are a number of changes and challenges that have been experienced across the board:

  • Increasing competition and more demanding customers
  • Rising market complexity and number of market players
  • Increasing globalisation of business and value chains
  • Digitalisation of value chains
  • Professionalization of customer procurement

These aspects - and more - are changing the buyer decision making process and mean that sales leaders are having to rethink how to build a sales pipeline. The decisions that are being made today are not taken lightly. As the World Economic Forum’s ‘The Future of Jobs Report 2020’ notes, ‘the decisions and choices we make today will determine the course of entire generations lives and livelihoods’, suggesting that decision makers are being more careful and thoughtful in their decision processes.

This is why it’s fast becoming a strategic necessity for sales leaders and their teams to understand the stakeholder landscapes that are influencing the buying decisions - which are often quite complex - and adapt their sales approach to meet this change.

Critical questions that sales leaders should be asking themselves and their team members about the buyer decision making process of today and tomorrow include:

  • Who is the user of the product? Has this changed following COVID-19?
  • Who stands to benefit from the product? Again, has this changed?
  • What are the goals of the client stakeholders? Have these goals shifted?
  • Who is determining and allocating the purchasing budget for the client?
  • Which person or team is responsible for making a purchasing decision?
  • Which person or team is involved in the buyer decision making process?

Answering these questions can help sales leaders to create a highly tailored strategy for meeting the buyer decision making process of the future. However, along with these niche, company-specific shifts there are five global changes that can also be beneficial:

1. Identify ways to create more value for buyers

It’s more important than ever before for sales leaders and their teams to consider the big picture; to deepen their understanding of the post-2020 market to better understand what customers need in the moment, and ensure they’re not only providing that, but also incorporating it into their sales strategy, communications and presentations. By identifying the unique needs of tomorrow’s buyer, sales leaders can work to translate these needs into highly specific and tailored value propositions, shifting from a ‘product selling’ to a ‘solution selling’ approach that highlights long term value to the customer. 

2. Design strategies that increase efficiency

It’s becoming increasingly necessary for sales leaders and their teams to boost the efficiency of their sales strategy to drive improved results. Right now, leaders must be taking a data-driven approach, evaluating the attractiveness and profitability of individual customer segments to ensure that resources are allocated effectively to focus on the segments that are most likely to convert. Ultimately, allocating resources to segments that are not in a position to buy is largely useless given the current landscape and will severely limit remote team performance. Data must play a significant and key role in driving sales excellence in the future. 

3. Include the client

Fostering collaboration across companies can help to make decision makers feel more involved, and more loyal to the business. While this can certainly be a big change, sales leaders and their teams might want to consider including the buyer in more than just buying. Ways to approach this include asking for feedback and input that can be integrated into operations such as research and development, and product development, to bring mutual value to both parties. This also helps to optimise products and services, ensuring they continue to meet the evolving needs of users. This type of shared knowledge is set to be critical in the future of sales management

4. Embrace digital

Buyer decision making processes are adapting quickly as the world continues its shift to remote selling. Today’s buyers - and tomorrow’s - are increasingly looking to support, guide, and justify their decisions using digital information and tools. Research conducted by McKinsey suggests that 70% of B2B decision makers would be happy to use digital tools to support purchases of $50,000 or more, while 27% would do so for $500,000+. Understanding the impact of digitalisation, and the digital trends, tools, and methods that buyers are beginning to rely on, is important for influencing purchase decisions. 

5. Work to influence the decision making structure

In tomorrow’s sales landscape, sales leaders and their teams cannot afford to sit back and let the process happen organically. It is becoming critical for sales teams to actively insert themselves into their buyer’s organisations to more fully understand the individual decision networks of their clients, and influence them. Sales leaders need to ensure that they know who’s involved, that they have access to key decision makers, and that they are able to approach these decision makers on a personal level. This can be done by increasing customer-facing time, both in person, and with remote methods. 

Understanding the buyer decision making process of tomorrow

Having a good grasp of tomorrow’s buyer decision making process is vital. A study by research firm Gartner found that sales teams that work to improve the decision making process of their clients were able to reduce buying uncertainty by as much as 8%, helping customers to feel more confident about their decisions, particularly in an uncertain market. By understanding how the crisis has affected decision making, sales leaders are able to introduce changes that streamline the process and drive results. 

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