How Buyers are Disrupting the Sales Process

In my previous posts on the Impact of 2 Speed IT on  Innovation  Culture and Sourcing IT Delivery I have discussed how each aspect requires a different approach to be managed for better success and outcome. In the continuing series, today I would like to reflect upon how the sales process has been disrupted.

Technology has evolved over the years and with each evolution, it becomes a disruptive force in the marketplace. In the current environment, it is not just the technology that is rapidly disrupting the business model across the industries. What is intriguing is that it is the Customer who is disrupting the industry at a rapid pace.

In my view, customers are far more disruptive today than technology-driven disruption, because they are far more sophisticated and demanding, and understand what is happening in the technology space. In the past, they used to rely on advisory firms, vendors, and salespeople to educate them and share necessary information to make a decision. Today, buyers have confidence in their own research, information, and trusted networks. They are not averse to risk or lowering switching costs. Cloud-driven consumption model has made buyers more dynamic, fluid and customer-driven

Traditionally technology or IT sales have been relationship, business and provider-driven, with face-to-face interaction and primarily inside out. From a sales organisation perspective, when interaction with the buyer is initiated from an internal marketing team or sales team, it becomes inside out.

As technology has evolved, the sales engagement process has evolved with it, from face to face, phone-driven, e-commerce chat, to the social platform. Today, sales have become outside in, which demands a different engagement model. Hence, the existing sales model and process are struggling in facilitating the desired outcome. From a sales organisation perspective, when interaction with the sales organisation is initiated by a buyer and dictates the sales process, then it becomes outside in.

Buyers are adopting an outside-in approach for engaging with the sales organisation because the consumption model for technology has enormously changed. Cloud is one of the prime drivers for this change in the consumption model.

Buyers are not engaging linearly with sales anymore. They are simultaneously moving and jumping across exploration, evaluation, engagement, and experience. For example, they go from the exploration to evaluation stage, and if they are not sure after evaluation, they go back to exploration and then jump to engage and experience and finally make a purchase. Because of this dynamic engagement, sales pipeline predictability has been reduced.

Customer-driven sales model with a reduction in pipeline visibility and predictability has put enormous strain on vendors and service providers. It is affecting their quarterly targets and win-loss conversion ratio. The productivity of the salesforce has suffered, in some cases driving a higher attrition rate of the sales force.

So what does it mean for vendor and service providers sales force under this new disruption and consumption model:

  • Management of sales funnel cannot be linear anymore; it needs to be flexible with what customer wants. Different buyers, depending upon their need and urgency, will close the deal in a different order of the sales funnel in their buyers’ journey.
  • Following a linear sales funnel model religiously during the buyer's journey can be a hindrance to their decision-making process. Hence, align and adjust your sales funnel with their dynamic buying process. This is more prevalent in the Digital IT domain.
  • Customer experience is the new battleground in a buyer-driven sales process. Every touchpoint with a buyer needs to be consistent and must be tailored to their needs. The sales process needs to be frictionless and must progress at every touchpoint.
  • When buyers are shopping on price, functionality/feature, service, or consumption model, vendors need to ensure that buyers’ entry point in the sales journey must be matched with an adequate or a tailored sales model, else customers will move away and in some cases, they will be moving backward.
  • Today, customers are well informed and confident in their own research. When meeting with a buyer or a customer with an existing relationship, keep interaction minimal and specific to their needs. Do not try to dictate them with your mandate, let them drive you through their own process.
  • Nurturing of both human and digital connectivity is required to mitigate the risk of no buy. For example, Response to Inbound (outside-in) sales is high when a request comes from a known contact, while the response to Outbound (inside-out) sales will be high if a refresh of technology is required. When these two scenarios are reversed, the risk of no buy is high.
  • To improve pipeline visibility and predictability under the new consumption model, insight-driven and smart selling must be practiced especially in a Digital IT landscape.

Every technology and every buyer is different. The salesforce needs to come out of its comfort zone, take some risks, and dream big to succeed. Albert Einstein said:

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them

first published on linkedin.