I have been struggling with this question for some time. At first blush, you might answer yes. For the buyer, it is now much easier to research products and services and comparison shop before speaking to a sales rep. However, this now means that a rep can’t rely on being a “two legged talking brochure” to make the sale. I submit that has made most reps’ jobs much more difficult. In fact you might argue the rep provides no value if that is their primary selling tactic (and buyers often echo that same sentiment to me).
For the seller, there are now CRM systems that capture lots of data (often of dubious value). I believe it provides some value to the selling organization in terms of auditing the sales process and perhaps even mining some of the data (however, I wonder if the actual value of the data is suspect simply because it is secondhand data entered by the rep). Unfortunately, most sales reps will counter that it has not helped them sell as it has created a mandatory administrative workload that takes them away from selling (reps often lament this is the case).
I guess what I’m really asking is can technology and/or applications actually facilitate the right conversations between the buyer and seller? After all, the most important information a buyer seeks is “who really understands me and what I’m trying to achieve?” And this is something they can’t Google! Reps should want to understand what is important to a buyer, but often the reps don’t ask the right questions (again, the talking two legged brochure) – and this frustrates buyers to no end. And if the right questions are asked, just as often the buyer does not really know what is important to him/her – which frustrates reps to no end. And now I’ll add my frustrations…
It’s one of my greatest frustrations when working live deals, whether for buying organizations or selling organizations, I observe so much potential value which never enters into the conversation and thus doesn’t get put on the table. It’s like two ships passing in the night. The end result is deals which are closed that are not really that good for one or both parties. The bigger issues raise their ugly head after the sale, when the buyer realizes that he/she is not getting the outcomes they were looking for. What’s to be done? As the old saying goes, if you don’t know where you’re going any road will do. Unfortunately, this applies to way too many B2B business deals.
My conclusion is there is a role for technology to play in facilitating the right conversations before, during and after the sale. As a result, I have joined forces with my longtime friends and colleagues at Ecosystems to try and tackle this opportunity. They have already taken a solution to the market that solves some of the issues I identified above – and have successfully sold it. I’m really excited by the potential here and have made it my primary focus moving forward, but am not under illusions as to the challenges we will face.
In future blogs I will detail the key functions I believe technology should provide in order to address these issues for buyers and sellers. Additionally, I will keep you apprised of progress and if you are interested in trying out offerings as we develop them (such as a beta test), please reach out and let me know. I would love to put these tools in your hands to test drive.
And I promise to keep you in the loop as our thinking and offerings evolve. Look for more details in my future blogs.