Digital Sales Can’t Exclude Reps Completely
While 43 percent of B2B buyers prefer to not interact with sales reps at all, purchase regret for them is 23 percent higher than for customers who interact with sales reps, according to a report from Gartner.
This prompted Gartner to recommend that B2B sales organizations deliver a seller-assisted digital buying experience to customers to succeed in today’s digital-first environment. Companies must engage potential buyers through a mix of sellers and digital self-service options, the firm says.
“The single biggest driver of purchase likelihood in a B2B sale is the degree to which customers feel confident about their own decisions,” says Brent Adamson, distinguished vice president analyst in the Gartner Sales practice. “However, B2B customers in an all-digital world are unwittingly pursuing buying behavior deeply contrary to confidence creation. In other words, digital-only buying actually harms customer confidence.”
Customers with higher degrees of confidence were more likely to buy larger, broader, higher-priced solutions with little to no regret following the deal, the research found.
Gartner research also uncovered three statistically significant drivers of customer confidence—customers’ perceptions of sellers, their perceptions of differences between supplier offerings, and their sense of consensus across the purchase process.
“By choosing to avoid sales reps, customers are forgoing a critical means for distinguishing nuanced differences between suppliers and driving consensus across the buying group,” Adamson says. “It’s like kicking out one leg of a three-legged confidence stool, leaving customers to find nuance and establish consensus on their own in a digitally dominant environment. Everyone loses in this world.”
Another Gartner survey found that customers struggle to distinguish offerings from different suppliers through digital alone. In fact, 64 percent of consumers cannot tell the difference between one B2B company’s digital experience and another’s, and 76 percent report doing nothing different as a result of engaging suppliers through digital means.
“In this world where customers would prefer not to talk to sales reps at all but find little to no value in the online experience, sales leaders have to find a completely new means to give back what neither sellers nor digital can provide on [their] own,” Adamson says.
To engage B2B customers in deeper, more valuable conversations, sales organizations need to focus on three core components: digital differentiation, moments of nuance, and rep-mediated digital experiences.
Sales leaders should ruthlessly evaluate their current digital experience and ask, “How different is our website from our competitors, and what type of experience are we providing to help customers on their buying journey?” Differentiation can be achieved by outfitting digital assets with diagnostic tools, customized benchmarking data, virtual tours, configurable solutions, three-dimensional solutions modeling, and virtual and augmented reality tools, among others.
Digital assets should also highlight the small number of critically important nuances that differentiate one supplier from its competitors. This can be in terms of the problem it solves or the capability it delivers. “Help your customers feel confident that their choice isn’t just a coin flip, but that the differences are meaningful,” Adamson suggests.
And then, sellers should be prepared to complement or support customers’ digital learning, helping them identify the nuances between products and make sense of all the information they encounter.
“B2B selling in today’s world must be digital and human,” Adamson states. “Rather than seeking to engage customers through sellers or digital, the best companies are exploring how to engage customers simultaneously through sellers and digital.”