June 8

What is a Salesperson’s Role in a B2B DIY Buying World?

The Problem: Research shows that worldwide B2B buyers are increasingly moving towards DIY buying processes that eliminate the salesperson entirely.

In a Gartner Research pre-pandemic survey of 750 B2B customer stakeholders involved in complex “solutions” purchases within their organization, customers reported spending only 17% of their total buying time interacting directly with supplier sales teams. Instead, much of their purchase activity comprised independent learning online (27%), independent learning offline (18%), and building consensus across a wide range of internal and partner stakeholders (22% and 11% respectively). 

When asked, many B2B buyers of complex solutions express a strong preference for a purchase experience free of sales rep interactions altogether as shown by a recent survey of nearly 1,000 B2B buyers, where 43% of surveyed respondents agreed that they would prefer a rep-free buying experience. In other words, the future of sales success hinges on successfully prospecting, nurturing, and closing these self-educating buyers.

By The Numbers:

As we always say, research will tell you anything you want it to if tortured long enough. So in that spirit, here are four key data points from different studies that you should be aware of as you consider our POV. 

Percentage sales via digital channels
Self-Educating Buyers Research Stat
87 percent of B2B Buyers want self service option
48% of sales happen virtually

The Big Picture: This trend isn't going anywhere because of The Google Effect.

When B2B Buyers believe that the answer to every question lies on the other end of a Google search, the need for a human salesperson becomes less important during the Research and Consideration stages of the Buying Journey. Considering recent research from FocusVision stated that as many as 13 pieces of content are consumed before a B2B purchase decision is made, it certainly seems that B2B buyers are far more comfortable talking to Google than your salespeople. 

Yes, but this cultural change can actually enhance your sales team's ability to prospect, nurture, and close deals more efficiently. 

Smart organizations will evolve the salesperson's role from Seller to Guide in an attempt to excel in a new digitally centric, highly integrated sales and marketing process. In some cases the salesperson will serve as Virtual Guide, answering questions or sharing content via email, social media, or video chats to help the self-educating buyer complete their education and facilitate their journey towards a purchase decision. In others, he/she will perform the SAME exact role, only in a face-to-face environment. 

Here is how these B2B organizations will evolve and adapt to the new DIY B2B Buyer World they find themselves operating in today.

  • First, eliminating the traditional gulf between Sales and Marketing. The new sales and marketing team will work from a centralized prospect, process, content, campaign, automation, sales opportunity, and reporting platform.
  • Second, integrating the content creation & utilization process. Successful B2B sales and marketing teams will work together to create 1st and 2nd click content designed for each stage of the buying journey and every type of buyer targeted. Further, as Sales discovers previously unknown buying hurdles, they will notify Marketing and together craft perfect replies that are then added to the centralized sales and marketing platform.
  • Third, retraining Sales to function as professor vs salesperson. Sales organizations will invest in new forms of sales training that emphasize the need to help prospective buyers complete their education vs persuading them to buy what the salesperson is selling. 
  • Fourth, reorienting Marketing KPIs to focus less on "leads" and more on "conversions." Smart Marketing organizations will begin working in tandem with Sales to create the necessary 2nd-Click materials Sales needs to properly serve as a "Guide" helping today's self-educating (DIY) buyers find the information they require to finish their pre-purchase research and complete their purchase. Further, they will actively audit the usage of their content during the sales process to ensure maximum effect, either through the evolution of the content or retraining Sales to better utilize the content in the buyer journey.

Why This Approach Works:

Science tells us that the most convincing form of selling is self-persuasion. Historically, most sales approaches neither believed in this science nor integrated it into their processes. Sales was a numbers game and thusly, sales training focused on creating effective call scripts, cold email templates, or techniques to overcome sales objections.

But, in today's digitally centric, largely virtual world, smart companies will reap the rewards of listening to and acting upon the science because virtual sales approaches are uniquely appropriate to leveraging content marketing and self-persuasion to help self-educating buyers convince themselves that the product or service Sales is attempting to sell them is the right purchase decision.

The Bottom Line:

Like it or not, the pandemic accelerated the B2B self-service buying trend exponentially. Virtual Selling and DIY Buying will continue their unrelenting march toward becoming The NORM vs EXCEPTION. So B2B Sales & Marketing Teams can either hop on the train or be left at the station desperately to compete in a 21st-century sales world using 20th-century technology and approaches.

If you'd like to dive deeper into the topic of virtual sales and selling, go here, or go here to learn more about how Converse Digital can help you level up your virtual selling skills. And if you liked this post and want to be notified when future posts are published, please consider subscribing to Insight & Information our weekly missive covering everything you should have read but didn't. Of course, you can cancel free of charge at any time 😉. 


This post was originally published on Insight & Information, the weekly sales and marketing blog created by the fine folks at Converse Digital. If you want to learn how to create, engage in, and convert conversations into new clients and customers, give them a call


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