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Recent Changes in Buyer Behavior


Unprecedented access to information

Today’s buyers are more informed and more prepared. They perform extensive research, and many are deciding on solutions before even engaging a salesperson or having a conversation. As a result, buyers show up with an arsenal of knowledge, as well as preconceived ideas of what they believe they need.

Availability of options

Related to the overabundance of information, the modern buyer is bombarded with opinions and options. There can be a multitude of ways to solve a particular challenge and navigating the best path can require a new sales approach.

Increased skepticism

Economic instability, geopolitical concerns, corporate scandals, and public relations blunders have created mistrust and greater skepticism among buyers. Combine that with the proliferation of corporate jargon and aggressive marketing tactics, and you can see why buyers might be skeptical of anyone looking to gain a meeting with them.

Increased number of stakeholders

Matrixed, global organizations, the desire for collaboration and buy-in, and increased risk aversion have driven buyers to bring more stakeholders into the buying process.

Navigating complexity and ambiguity

Ironically, as access to information has proliferated, the level of ambiguity in the business environment has increased. This uncertainty makes it hard to determine what long-term sales strategies and short-term tactics will be most effective in reaching business goals, as well as whether those goals are still relevant. High levels of ambiguity create a tendency to preserve the status quo, although this is rarely an effective means of increasing sales, saving on cost, or proactively managing risk.

Decreasing loyalty

The last decade has seen a divergence between customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. It used to be that when a salesperson checked with a customer and the customer said they were satisfied, that meant they would pick them over their competitors. Now, a customer may say that they are satisfied or even very satisfied and still switch to a competitor. Long-term customer loyalty is eroding.
What does this mean for sales organizations and their strategies?

More Pressure.

The combination of the buyer changes above has put great pressure on sales organizations and individual salespeople. To start, sellers have to battle misconceptions and misinformation that buyers may have formed through doing their own research. The formation of these ideas and assumptions can make it challenging to identify true root cause issues that may be preventing the customer from achieving success.

When it comes to getting time with these buyers, sellers must work harder to earn the right to a conversation with skeptical, time-pressured stakeholders. There are more stakeholders to manage and building consensus among them is often what is needed to move a deal forward. In fact, according to Harvard Business Review, “… the number of people involved in B2B solutions purchases has climbed from an average of 5.4 two years ago to 6.8 today.” In complex selling situations, achieving consensus may mean drawing on an internal team who must sell cohesively in front of the stakeholders. Each player must drive value in the buying experience itself, not just in the solution or product.

Selling organizations struggling with these challenges often see verbal commitments that never end up truly closing as deals increasingly get tripped up at the finish line by new stakeholders, disagreement on needs, and risk aversion. There is an increased likelihood of losing to status quo and longer sales cycles.

2020 sales skills capabilities
So how does a seller compete?

Build Modern Selling Capabilities.

While buyers are savvy, busy, pressured, risk averse, and more demanding, they still need guidance to make the best business and personal decisions. Even though customers have unprecedented access to knowledge, they face the difficulty of sorting through what matters most and finding the value among all of the options. More information doesn’t always translate into accurate, clearer understanding; customers still need sellers to accurately diagnose their unique situations and identify the best solutions to make an informed buying decision that drives the results that they need.

To be truly and wholly effective and differentiated in the eyes of today’s buyers, sellers need to create value in the buying experience itself — that means helping customers to better understand the true nature of a business issue and how best to address it. It is not about manipulating or controlling the customer; it’s about building credibility, fostering trust, and creating value for the customer and, in turn, creating opportunities for you as the seller.

Successful selling strategies today are not achieved through one tactic or approach. Rather, it requires a broad set of selling capabilities that are constantly put into practice and refined.

How do you achieve better selling across your team at scale?

Build Agility. Drive Continuous Improvement.

To keep pace with changes in buyer behavior and remain ahead of the competition, successful sales organizations must remain agile and strive for continuous improvement, never resting on the previous year or quarter’s success. For the largest global sales organizations, continuous skill building at scale is not an easy task. Identifying the right skills, the right people, the right sustainment path, and the right metrics to measure takes planning and expertise.

5 Keys to Transforming Your Sales Organization


Start at the Top – Leadership buy-in and commitment is critical. But, the demonstration of this commitment is paramount. From the vision they communicate about the change through the behaviors they display, leaders need a clear path and set of skills and activities to lead


Make it Personal – Every salesperson and sales manager comes to the table as a unique individual with strengths and gaps. Personalization begins with giving the team visibility into their unique needs to create buy-in and engagement — it drives faster improvement. Customized, contextualized content drives immediate relevancy. And, targeted learning paths drive individual behavior change in the field and are achievable at scale.


Focus on Agility – The sales process and methodology a sales organization employs drives consistency and a common language for coaching. But, the selling skills are what drive agility in the moment with the buyer. In a world where change is constant, the most agile sales organizations are the ones that are highly skilled and can stay out in front of their buyers.


Plan with the End in Mind – Sustainment and measurement strategies should be planned for at the beginning of a sales transformation initiative, no matter the size or scope. Knowing the critical business metrics you need to improve should drive the types of behaviors you seek to change. And, sustaining your transformation is the best path to realizing the full potential return on investment. Thoughtfully organizing a plan to keep the new learning alive and drive continuous improvement is worth the investment of time up front.


Use Data to Keep Getting Better – Using real-time data and analytics not only shows progress to achieve goals and business outcomes, but it also allows for in-the-moment adjustments for the most targeted improvement efforts. Commitment, engagement, behavior change, and performance improvement are all measurable elements that should be tightly woven together in a data set that is not only accurate but also delivered in a way that leads to actionable insights for your business.