Salespeople and marketers – your role as dispensers of data and information on the products you’re selling may be coming to an end.

That’s one of the conclusions of a new report from Harvard Business Review Analytics Services, sponsored by SAP SE. It found that before a B2B buyer even picks up the phone to call a vendor, typically he or she may have done all the work required to be able to talk to a sales rep and know what they’re talking about.

That’s had a big impact on how sales organizations interact with potential customers. About 65 per cent of respondents said the top challenge they’ve had to contend with is rising customer expectations, according to a recent CSO Insights survey that was cited in the Harvard and SAP report. So even though buyers may have once turned to vendors for help in choosing the best solutions for their organizations, nowadays the Web and other sources of information have taken away their reliance on vendors’ expertise.

Another stat worth noting is that 72 per cent of these buyers have said that a salesperson’s ability to solve business problems is an important factor weighing into their decisions to close sales. That’s ahead of expectations that a salesperson will have a wealth of technical knowledge, according to an IDC survey mentioned in the report.

“To meet these rising expectations, sales organizations need to enable their sales representatives to act as trusted counselors and advisors who can offer decision makers advice on solving important business problems and preparing for trends – counsel that often extends beyond the products or services they’re selling,” the report’s authors noted.

“Leaders from sales and marketing need to collaborate on consistent ways to engage with customers across channels. That means, for example, providing valuable insights to customers that are relevant at different phases of their buying process and – for large B2B purchases – tailoring content for important stakeholders at specific accounts.”

They added that also means revving up the digital marketing activity by using online events and forums to show their salespeople have business savvy and deeper insights.

To help salespeople get wise to what their buyers really need, it helps to turn to analytics. Using data to understand behaviour helps make messaging more targeted and relevant, the report’s authors said, citing stats from a survey by Cognizant Technology Solutions and Oxford Economics.

In that survey, 37 per cent of respondents said they expected their revenue to increase when using analytics to boost their sales. Another 30 per cent said they felt they would see revenue gains in product and service development through analytics, while 24 per cent felt the same about manufacturing, the supply chain, and service delivery.

For the full report, head on over here.

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