What buyers want now

There’s no question that, within the professional buyer/seller environment, preferences and practices have changed dramatically in the last 18 months. In many organizations—on both sides of the desk—the dynamic between buyer and seller has been altered in many obvious, and not so obvious, ways. In a newly released Sandler Research Center report, What Buyers Want and How Buyers Work, the trend in today’s business environment seems to favor the buyer.

The Sandler survey is based on responses from over 600 c-level executives, and sales professionals, in more than 360 businesses, and industries, and it explains how, in the wake of the global pandemic, buyers are often operating with a somewhat different set of priorities than they did just over a year ago.

As sellers and business development professionals, it is important to understand how buyers, and prospects, research and execute major purchases today and how professional sellers can best adapt to buyers’ desires to streamline the purchasing process? If you’re a business owner, company executive or a top producer who has managed to survive, and thrive, in the marketplace, some of the findings in the report may not be a surprise to you. If you’re a buyer, these findings likely also ring true:

Buyers aren’t engaging as early in the cycle. Today’s buyers have access to most of the information they need long before they engage with prospective vendors, which means that contact with sales professionals is often occurring far later in the sales/buying process than it once did. Some 53% of respondents to the Sandler Research Center survey said that they identified the need for a major purchase entirely on their own. Not only do buyers conduct more thorough research into products and services once they identify a need, they also are more likely to access trusted reviews, speak to existing clients and seek out market intelligence about potential allies. This means a vendor who is finally contacted by a buyer, or potential customer, must already have completed their own homework on the buyer’s company or industry. That vendor must be able to demonstrate an in-depth understanding of his/her own industry/sector and be ready to recommend a solution that precisely meets the buyer’s requirements. (It does not mean quickly launching into a pitch on their particular product or service, which we refer to as “premature presentation syndrome.”)

Buyers like the control, and scheduling flexibility, that email conversations give them. Despite the now-common availability of video conferencing, the survey’s findings suggest that email correspondence is still the professional buyer’s preferred means of interaction and communication with vendors and salespeople. While video conferencing and, certainly, face-to-face interaction play an important role in the buyer/seller relationship, 50% of respondents identified email as their preferred means of initial, and ongoing, communication with sellers. This finding suggests that sellers who try to pressure decision-makers into scheduling initial video “discovery” calls, could be doing themselves, and their organizations, a disservice.

On major purchases, buyers are looking for a long-term relationship with a responsive partner they can trust—and they are willing to pay more for it. Emphasizing low cost in early discussions with professional buyers may backfire. Some 84% of those responding to the Sandler poll said that the opportunity to build a long-term, symbiotic relationship with a vendor was a critically important factor in their decision-making process. Responsiveness, and overall suitability of the offer, ranked high on the list of attributes sought in a professional relationship. The ability to deliver the lowest possible up-front price ranked at the bottom of the list of attributes sought.

More than anything, today’s buyer—just like you—wants to be understood, and not sold to. They need to feel respected and trust that you, as the business owner or seller, is continually working to earn the right to their business. For a complete copy of the report, please call or contact me.

Jim Marshall is owner and president of Sandler Training of Tampa Bay, which provides sales, corporate and management training to high-achieving companies and individuals. Contact him at 813.287.1500 or jmarshall@sandler.com.

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