The impact of alternatives, choice, and access to information is no more apparent than in relationship-led sales processes. Mostly seen in B2B sales practices (but also found in car and home sales), sales rep traditionally manage the cadence and visibility of the process leaving the customer powerless for a large part of the purchase journey. It's unnerving for prospects and customers. But the introduction of digital has shifted the control back to consumers and its ushering in a whole new set of expectations for B2B buyers.
Digital B2B buying is on the rise
When it comes down to it, the opportunities to interact directly with prospects is increasingly harder to come by. In a report by Gartner (prior to COVID), it was reported that only 17% of a buyer's time was spent interacting directly with sales reps. Keep in mind, that 17% was for all potential suppliers so many B2B sellers may only be able to capture 5-7% of that time at most. In comparison, they spend 27% of their time researching online. We expect the gap between these to be even more significant in a post-pandemic world.
Buyers are using more channels
It used to be that the rep experience was the channel for acquiring information, but now it's become a channel as buyers are interacting in new and different ways – which are increasingly digital. For the better part of a decade, brands have been responding by offering new communication channels (web, chat, mobile, SMS, etc.) and people are using them. Multi-channel buying is now the norm.
Your prospects want to research on their own terms – not your reps’
Prospects don't reach out to reps for the sake of conversation, but rather, as a practical means of gathering information. Now that digital has stepped into the forefront, more and more buyers have shifted away from rep conversations to a preference for a rep-free experience – and they're trending younger.
In a Gartner report from 2021, on 29% of Baby Boomers preferred a rep-free experience to 54% for Millenials. As buyers age, the need for a digitally-led sales experience is always going to be more important.