- Cold calling is dead.
- 57 – 90% of the buying process is complete before a sales rep needs to get involved.
- Marketing and sales are aligned
Do you agree these are lies?
In late August I asked industry experts that same question and asked them to substantiate their answers. The team of experts includes:
Ardath Albee, Marketing Interactions, CEO and Business Strategist
Dave Brock, Partners in EXCELLENCE, President
Deb Calvert, People First Productivity Solutions, President
Ginger Conlon, GingerConlon.com, Chief Editor of CustomerAlchemy.net
Matt Heinz, Heinz Marketing, President
Dave Kurlan, Kurlan & Associates, Inc., CEO
Dave Stein, Dave Stein, Inc., Principal
Ruth Stevens, eMarketing Strategy, President
Mike Weinberg, The New Sales Coach, Principal
Today we will take on the second of the three lies: 57 – 90% of the buying process is complete before a sales rep needs to get involved. Here are their comments:
Dave Brock: “The customer is wherever they are in their buying process. We get them where they are at and have to work with them from that point on. The issue is, should we be waiting until the customer is ready for us to be engaged or should be offering greater leadership by engaging earlier. Too many sales people use the 57-90% figure as an excuse to wait. But when they do that, they minimize their ability to shift the customer’s thinking, to get them to consider different points of view, to create differentiated value. It’s like responding to the RFP that you haven’t written. Your only way to win is by price and even that is low odds. High performers don’t care about this. They engage the customer as early as they can. They create the greatest value when they incite the customer to change in the first place.”
Ardath Albee: “Research finds that sellers can be involved in all stages of the buying process if they bring value to the conversation. And, sitting around waiting for a buyer to decide to reach out to you is not an effective strategy. The challenge is in doing the work to truly understand your buyers and bring that value they’re looking for. In my opinion, marketing should be helping sellers get into conversations earlier. It is possible. I’ve helped my clients do so.”
Dave Stein: Wrong. Your customer only spends about 2% or less of their time buying from you. If you wait until there is an active opportunity, it’s too late. The world’s most effective sellers get into selected, targeted accounts before there is an initiative, drive demand, build credibility, and are in the position to help the customer determine where they might be headed and how to best get there.”
Deb Calvert: “The CEB reports that buyers now work their way 67% through the buying process before engaging with a seller. Buyers resist sellers until it's time to negotiate and place an order. Buyers are looking for transactions. That's not to say that sellers should wait until that point to get involved. On the contrary, sellers need to find ways to transcend the sales transaction and get buyers' interest earlier in the sales process. To do this, sellers need to replace off-putting selling behaviors with behaviors buyers will gravitate to. Buyers do not want to be sold. They do want to interact with sellers who exhibit leadership behaviors -- sellers who will inspire, challenge and enable them.” To learn more about the movement, to Stop Selling & Start Leading™, click here.
Matt Heinz: “I believe the statistic we see is worded a little differently, I.e. some percentage in that range of the buying journey is completed before buyers proactively reach out to sellers. But that doesn’t mean sellers can’t provide value from the very beginning of the process. You earn the right to be in earlier by engaging in challenging, value-added conversations. What are you teaching your customers? How are you helping them uncover and/or reframe issues they have in their business? How does your content earn you the right to get some of their attention earlier – establishing trust, credibility and preference for your brand before that 57-90% of the process is done? That’s the opportunity…”
Dave Kurlan: “While prospects are certainly further along than they have been in the past, the percentages being propagated by marketing firms with something to sell has been exaggerated. The real change is not the distance as much as the condition that prospects are more knowledgeable than ever before, making traditional salespeople redundant and obsolete. Salespeople must be the value in order to overcome the redundancy and must have consultative selling skills to steer the conversation back to an earlier stage in the sales/buying processes.”
Ginger Conlon: “I don't consider this a "lie." It's more of an "it depends" situation. I think this statistic very much depends on the industry, product, and circumstance. In some cases, a prospective buyer may get a referral from a colleague and contact a salesperson at the beginning of the purchase process; in other cases, that same buyer might conduct detailed research into several companies' options before contacting the salespeople for those companies.
Mike Weinberg: “As far as this bogus straw man statistic (that buyers go 57% or 67% or 80% through the process before engaging with a salesperson) being propagated by the Kool-Aid pushers trying to sell you their inbound product or social selling course, forget about it. They’re crazy and they’re wrong. As I’ve been saying for years, the ONLY time that statistic is true is when foolish, lazy sales reps who live in reactive mode sit on their assess all day waiting for a warm lead. I don’t care what data these “experts” quote; it’s simply not true. I’m not smoking something or living in an alternative universe. My clients’ sales teams are getting in front of prospects early in the game, often before they’re shopping, and they’re building relationships and helping to share buying criteria - way prior to the buyer being 67% through the process. And it looks like I’m not the only one seeing this: http://labs.openviewpartners.com/67-percent-buying-process-before-sales-myth/#.V8cn5pMrLox
My take: I cannot say it any better than Julie Schwartz, senior vice president, research and thought leadership at marketing research, consulting and training firm ITSMA: “It’s widely believed that 60% to 70% of the buying process is over before prospects want to engage with a salesperson. The premise is that there is so much information available online that salespeople are thought to be unnecessary in the early stages. ITSMA’s data says that for high consideration technology solutions, this is a myth. In fact, we believe just the opposite: 70% of B2B technology solution buyers want to engage with sales reps before they identify their short list. In fact, buyers perceive value in interacting with sales at every stage of the buying process—even the early stages.”
If you are selling a relatively low-priced commodity, then it is probably OK if you go the inbound, arrive late route. If you are selling a more strategic, more complex product or solution, you better get in early. The earlier the better.
In case you missed it, read part one of this series and see for yourself if cold-calling is dead.
Look for Part Three of this series – Sales and marketing are aligned.