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Harvard Business Review Survey Reveals How B2B Sales Reps Can Win

Consumers have long been empowered to locate and expect the best deals on everything from automobiles to vacations. A newly released report from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services finds that buyers in the business world are almost equally empowered with information. Entitled, Winning at Sales in a Buyer-Empowered World,” the new report confirms what many have already experienced in the business-to-business sales environment. Key findings from the report, also shown here in an infographic from SAP, reveal:

  • Prospective buyers in business-to-business settings have completed 57 percent of their due diligence work before engaging with a sales representative.
  • Rising customer expectations is the number one  challenge that 65 percent of sales organizations face.
  • Seventy-two percent of decision-makers say the sale rep’s ability to help solve business objectives is a major influence on their buying decision.

This is how Gerry Murray, research manager at IDC’s CMO Advisory Service, sums up the situation:

“The vendor has historically been the primary source of information, and that is no longer true. That’s a radical change in the exploration process. If you are still training salespeople on the old model, you are going to struggle to connect with buyers.”

So what’s a sales team to do? Well, for one thing, their homework. The onus is on sales organizations to make sure their people have the information they need to be the kind of trusted advisors that prospects and customers expect. Just like consumers, telling B2B buyers what they already know (or can easily find out is or isn’t true), just won’t cut it. In order to get the information they need, here is a sampling of the report’s recommendations for sales team empowerment:

Go beyond automation: Like everything else in the digitized business environment, success comes down to quality data. Sales teams need to know what customers are doing so they can respond with the right information at the right time. For example, many companies are turning to collaborative workspaces that connect salespeople, customers and experts using social technologies. Think of it as a virtual “deal room” that reveals conversations salespeople can monitor and respond to in real-time.

Data-driven playbooks: Using analytics that track and analyze customer response, sales and marketing can get much better at informed strategies and tactics, applying them immediately and over time. This typically requires cultural change along with the technology.

Unite sales and marketing: Don’t forget to factor in organizational change management that puts marketing and sales leadership on the same page.

Obsolescence may be a fact of life in a world of fast-paced innovation. But sales organizations enabled to move one step ahead of customers with actionable insights have the best opportunity for growth.

Download the complete Harvard Business Review Analytics Services report

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This post originally appeared on SCN Business Trends by Susan Galer.

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