The Future of Sales: Adapting to the New Buyer's Journey
(Watch Marcus Sheridan's full session from INBOUND 2022 above)
Do you believe that now, more than ever, is the time to reengineer the buying process? To rethink how our sales teams function and thrive? The future of global sales and marketing is constantly evolving with the changing landscape of social and industry climates. Sales teams are adapting how they sell with the availability of new technology (AI in sales, anyone?) and changes in the buyer journey. According to Marcus Sheridan, author, partner, and INBOUND speaker alum, there must be an absolute willingness to do what no one else is doing in order to truly change the sales process, compete, and stay relevant amidst all these changes and grow your business.
Sheridan shares that studies have shown prospects are 80% through their buyer's journey before they talk to a salesperson. On the other hand, sales teams believe they are the 80% leading the majority of the sales process in their departments. As Sheridan says, "And then we wonder why we have alignment problems. We wonder why marketing oftentimes is understaffed and under-resourced. This is the trend that every single marketing, leadership, sales team should be discussing — not enough are. If we're being really honest with ourselves, where is this number going to go? It's only going to go up. That's exactly right. And if it's only going to go up, what does that mean in terms of the importance of marketing? And is your organization adjusting right now?" (Sheridan, INBOUND 2022)
A mindset shift that brings change is needed. Organizations must realize that their salespeople aren't in control and that the buyer now holds the reins. Sheridan's organization came to this realization in 2009 when they decided to change the way they marketed their products. He called it the "they ask, you answer" philosophy. With this shift, his organization began to "obsess" about the needs, concerns, and questions of their customers on their website. They chose to be as open and honest as possible, using text and video tools. Back in 2009, they recognized the opportunity to start thinking digitally. Marcus and his team were right, as now more than 75% of buyers and sellers prefer to engage digitally over in-person. He notes this has been an increasing trend since pandemic lockdowns. Organizations need to search for solutions to this behavior shift while still focusing on the customer. With the buyer in the driver's seat dictating how they're sold to, sales teams can hone in on leveraging specific marketplace insights to build trust with their brand's community.
As we continue in this uncertain future, it's important to gather insights from thought leaders, your peers, and industry data to stay informed on what's next. Focus on the trust that your community has given you and provide them with the autonomy to learn more about your products and services — meet them online where they are now — don't get stuck on "how things used to be." Marcus shares what today's self-service buyer wants: self-scheduling (choosing their salesperson and when to engage), self-selection (salesperson guidance via a prospecting tool — mirroring an in-person meeting — from your website), and self-pricing (honest and detailed pricing with related benefits and key factors). Ultimately, he suggests five action steps for companies to start implementing right now.
As you learn more about the rise of the seller-free economy, be sure to dig deeper into the latest industry research. For example, Gartner has recently released their Future of Sales report. According to the report, by 2025 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels. Gartner cites that “Millennials, the first digital natives, are now decision makers and are far more skeptical of sales reps than their predecessors.”
And according to HubSpot’s 2023 Sales Trends Report, “with 67% of sales teams operating under a remote or hybrid model in 2023, leaders will need to invest in virtual team building and collaboration tools, and consider a more flexible org structure than in the past.”
Just like Sheridan said, the buying process is evolving, and now is the time to make some bold changes to meet the changing needs of your customers.