There seems to be an arrogance or conceit in so many of the conversations I see about the future of selling. My feeds are filled with new technologies, new selling models, new engagement strategies, new organizational structures. We have a fascination with exploring the latest, greatest tricks we can leverage.
What we fail to recognize in all these conversations is our customers are quietly changing how they buy faster than we are changing how we sell. As a result, sellers are playing a losing game of catch up.
Reflect back on how buying has changed over the decades. There used to be a small number of decisionmakers, but as the decisions became more complex, buyers quickly engaged more people in their buying teams, moving to consensus decisions. But, even today, sellers are asking the question, “Are you the key decisionmaker?”
Or buyers used to source their information from sellers (and conferences/tradeshows), but then discovered Google and the power of the web. Yet, sellers are still focused on being purveyors of the same product information that buyers have already studied on the web.
We’ve adopted “clever prospecting techniques” leveraging volumes of emails, back to back calls from different numbers, local presence, social outreach. And customers have quickly recognized these and adapted, not responding to our clever outreaches, multichannel, multitouch. They don’t respond–partly because they don’t like them, but mostly because the don’t need them. They prefer rep-free buying experiences. Yet we continue to inflict a seller on them.
And we have now discovered AI and tools like ChatGPT. We are looking at leveraging these tools to extend the volume and types of outreaches. We can create clever pictures, videos, music with these tools, hoping to catch more attention. But we seem to miss out on the fact that our buyers have discovered the same tools and are using them to help them in their buying process. They now can evaluate a number of solutions/alternatives without ever leaving a “footprint” on our websites or other online presence. All the while, we are focused on tracking our customer digital and personal footprints.
Sellers have, blindly, applied “manufacturing” technique to managing their selling process. Customers and sellers have become widgets moving along the sales manufacturing line, losing the humanity, failing to build trust and confidence the buyers crave. But buyers don’t need to participate in that assembly line, they are learning through other channels, so our assembly lines are underutilized.
In every instance we can cite, the customer is always moving and adapting far faster than sellers are!
Yet we, blindly, persist, thinking we are doing new and innovative things.
During this time, we, somehow, seem to want to ignore the data that demonstrates how we are failing.
Percent of sellers reaching quota continues to plummet. While we may be hitting our revenue goals, our costs of selling are skyrocketing.
Win rates are plummeting. As I’ve written before, we are seeing research showing win rates in the 15-20% range.
Sales cycles are extending.
Response rates, regardless of channels, are plummeting, so we keep ratcheting up the volumes, barely keeping our noses above water. And this causes response rates to fall further, yet we persist in doing that which doesn’t work as well as it used to. Why— customers have found more productive ways of getting what they need to learn!
Buyers have long complained that sellers don’t understand them, don’t talk to what the buyers care about, yet sellers continue to focus on product pitches. Now we have 72% of buyers preferring a “rep-free” buying process.
And for those buyers that are still engaging sellers, the time they spend with sellers, has declined to 17%–for all sales engagements.
Data point after data point shows sellers not keeping up with changes in how people buy, with how to create value with customers. Yet sellers are falling further behind as buyers accelerate in changing how they buy.
At the same time, buyers are struggling, but sellers are still playing the catch up game, continuing to fail.
Buyers, increasingly, abandon a change effort/buying process, with 60% of those ending in no decision made. 57% of those fail because of decision confidence, otherwise known as FOFU.
And when they buy, leveraging digital channels, buyer regret is increasing.
And as we see changes in the economy, increases in disruption/turbulence, skyrocketing complexity, the challenges buyers face are skyrocketing—which should create more opportunity for buyers and sellers.
It’s ironic, sellers are going 1000 mph and trying to go faster. Yet they fail to recognize buyers are already at 2000 mph and accelerating because of disruption, VUCA and everything else. We are falling further and further behind, losing the race.
What do we do? How do we address this massive disconnect? Can we?
Perhaps, if we sellers focus less on our efficiency. If we stopped trying to increase volume and velocity. If rather than focusing on achieving our goals, we might focus on helping our buyers achieve their goals.
Afterall, if the buyer isn’t achieving their goals, we won’t achieve ours.
Perhaps we can jump on the same bus that our customers are on, focusing on helping them improve the results they get from the buying process. Help them navigate it with greater confidence, helping them learn and and change, directly addressing FOFU. What if we started demonstrating our commitment to their success?
Rather than playing catch up, we have the opportunity to provide leadership, helping our customers achieve their goals more effectively, with greater confidence, and much more quickly.
We have to open our eyes and recognize, despite all the things we are doing to move faster, we will never catch up. Our customers are far ahead and distancing themselves from us. We have to jump on the buyers’ bus.