If I were to assess the worlds of buying and selling through much of what I read, I would conclude that Customers and Salespeople are on diverging paths as we minimize our interactions with each other.
The Holy Grail of these diverging paths is AI:
- From a buyer's perspective, helping us buy efficiently and intelligently.
- From a seller's perspective helping us sell more efficiently.
Someday buyers and sellers will have their bots talking with each other, freeing human beings from the process of buying and selling.
Deeper Signs of the Disconnect
Survey after survey discuss buyer dissatisfaction with sales–they don’t understand customer businesses, focusing on what they care about. They don’t know their own products that well. They waste buyers’ time. We all know the data that customers often prefer digital research (why 100% of customers aren’t researching digitally is beyond me).
At the same time, sales seems to be on a different path. Yes, there are those Challengers and Insight driven sales people (I’ll come back to this later). But more and more we seem to be focused on driving inbound–waiting for the customer to now they want something, yes, after they’ve completed their research. We seek to automate and segment the process, focusing on our own efficiency. Marketing creates MQLs, SDRs pass leads to BDRs/AEs who pass opportunities specialist and demo’ers, who pass them to account management or closers, all ultimately received by customer success who then go after retention, renewal, upsell, cross sell. We seek to automate as much of the engagement process as we can–sure it’s efficient and potentially cheaper, but does it create meaning for customers?
I was recently speaking to a sales team about a big win, I asked, “What did you sell it for?” Their response was “A little over a $1 million.” They missed my point and couldn’t answer when I clarified my question. In another conversation with a senior sales person, I asked, “What do they do?” He didn’t know, but he was busy trying to get them to buy.
Customers and Salespeople Truly Need Each Other
It’s easy to see why we are on diverging paths. We are each optimizing our own workflow with little attention to the other.
But customers and salespeople need each other—at least in complex B2B situations. Each buying decision is different–there are different situations, differing goals, differing company cultures, priorities, change/risk profiles. No amount of digital research will help customers understand their own situation. No amount of research will help customers know whether they are asking the right questions or oblivious to critical issues.
And then there are those customer who desperately need to change, but are so busy doing their work, they are oblivious to that need.
Great salespeople offer great value to customers in addressing these along with a myriad of other issues they may not appreciate in their buying processes.
Sales needs these customers too! Beyond the obvious need for orders and revenue, we learn from our active engagement with customers. It helps us improve, it helps us recognize where we create and deliver differentiated value, it helps us learn how to compete. Without deep engagement with customers, how do we learn about new and emerging problems that drive our own corporate strategies for new solutions, services, and ways to grow.
Customers and sales have a shared dependence. What would happen if we started acting on this, designing our engagement strategies to build on these relationships and value?