Last week was the annual Sirius Decisions Summit, where Sirius Decisions shares new research results from their studies in the business-to-business space. Several things were interesting that I want to point out. The B2B Sales Process has changed, but the B2B Sales Rep is not obsolete - but she needs to adapt to the new buying environment.

Contrary to popular belief, the B2B Sales Rep isn't dead. Even though there are many sales training programs that purport that fact, it's false. There are many points that lead people to conclude this:

  • According to Accenture Interactive, only 12% of buyers want to meet in person with a sales representative.
  • Reseearch company, Meliorate, claims that 60%-70% of decision making in b2b is made before the supplier is approach - this means the customer is already 3/4 through the buyer's journey before they speak with a Sales Rep
  • The growth of inbound marketing has made information, research, and comparison shopping so easy and accessible that renders the b2b sales rep not needed as much

These 3 statistics and many other have led the larger business community to claim that b2b sales is dead. Specifically, have you heard these statements?

From Corporate Executive Board:

"57% of the buyer's journey is complete before a customer's first contact with a supplier."

From Forrester

"Death of the B-to-B salesperson; 93% say that they prefer buying online rather than from a salesperson"

From Gartner

"Customers rate salesperson as the least influential interaction in the buying process"

sirius-decision-b2b-sales

But, according to Sirius Decisions, all the naysayers forget 1 critical fact: there are several buyer's journeys.

sirius-decision-buyers-journey

According to Sirius Decisions, there are, in fact 3 very distinct buyer's journeys:

Scenario Decision Orientation Typical Price Range Typical Timeframe Buying Centers Colleagues
Committee Agreement at the executive leadership level $500K-$millions 1-2 Quarters or more 5 or more 6-10
Concensus Agreement across teams, functions or departments $50-$500K 1-2 quarters, but no more 3-4 3-5
Independent Agreement among individuals Less than $50K Less than 8 weeks 1-2 1-2

This is quite important. If their findings are correct, then it also follows that the level of interaction for each buyer's journey is different.

sirius-decision-interactions-human-non-human

Indeed, if the data holds then the 3 distinct buyer's journeys redeems the B2B sales rep - there is a clear need for her. What the data shows is that where the interaction is has changed. The chart above shows human and non-human interactions for each of the buyer's journeys.

And as always, the demand funnel or demand waterfall plays center stage:

marketing demand waterfall and funnel

If the buyer journeys have changed, then so has our mode of interaction.

sirius-decision-demand-content-formats

In fact, the formats and level of interaction have both changed. This means that organizations need to adjust and meet the buyer where they are, in the format they are expecting. In other words, if the buyer is early in the buyer journey, then they most likely expect an automated interaction, or a non-human one. But if they receive a human interaction, they may not appreciate that because it's an unexpected means of communication.

sirius-decision-content-assets-helpful

According to Sirius Decisions, a clearer understand of the Buyer Journey leads to creating an even more integrated marketing - what they call a Demand Center.

sirius-decision-integrated-marketing

They try to make it clear what a Demand Center is and what a Demand Center is not:

sirius-decision-demand-center-what-it-is-what-its-not

More specifically, they explain the role of a Demand Center using the following diagram:

sirius-decision-demand-center-marketing-ecosystem

And the role of a Demand Center in the larger marketing ecosystem:

sirius-decision-demand-center-role-in-marketing

And, they explain how to measure the output and performance of a Demand Center, using what they call a Demand Center Scorecard:

sirius-decision-demand-center-scorecard

According to Sirius Decisions, the Demand Center KPIs should include Business Contribution, Operational Efficiency, and Stakeholder Perceived Value and be measured agains Objectives, Measures, Targets, Results, and Initiatives.

But, for a Demand Center to work, the organization cannot forget foundational processes, structures, and tools. For example, the notion of a customer persona still needs to be used in order to produce relevant and contextually well timed content. They recommend using their Sirius Decisions Persona Framework below.

sirius-decision-persona-framework

There was also quite a bit of discussion on customer experience. From a marketer's perspective, the customer experience looks differently at each stage of the marketing funnel.

sirius-decision-customer-experience-why-important

Their view of the customer experience, like their notion of a Demand Center, is also an integrated one as demonstrated by the use of the Venn Diagram below:

sirius-decision-demand-center-customer-experience-venn

In conclusion:

  • The Buyer Journey has changed. In fact, there are 3 very distinct Journeys.
  • Interaction at each stage needs to be very tailored and a mix of human and non-human interaction is expected by the customer.
  • To cater to this new world of how buyers buy products and services, a concept of a Demand Center should be considered and its unique role in the overall marketing ecosystem.
  • But, with all these changes, one cannot forget foundational principles such as buyer personas and the customer experience.

And,

The Business to Business Salesperson is clearly not dead.

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