B2B Buyers Say Quality of Sales Interactions Matters More than Price

October 10, 2019

B2B Buyers on Quality vs. Price

Editor’s Note: This guest post was contributed by Adele Revella, CEO, the Buyer Persona Institute.

You'd be shocked at the companies that send salespeople who read from a brochure. Their solution is the best, but the presentation is the worst — they don’t understand us and can’t answer our questions. That’s the biggest reason we decide against them. 

Are you shocked that a senior executive in a major financial institution would have this experience?

Sadly, I’m not the least surprised. We interview B2B buyers every day, asking them to explain a recent buying decision that spanned weeks, months, even years. We source these interviews through our own channels, concealing both our client’s identity and the buyers to avoid bias and find out what really happens inside B2B buying committees.

In just over 80% of our interviews, without prompting, B2B buyers relate their frustration with salespeople who couldn’t answer their questions. These same buyers tell us that the quality of these interactions has more impact on their selection of a strategic partner than features or cost.

If you find this surprising, it’s because buyers want you to believe that they’ll award the business to the company that brings them the best price when, in fact, this is only a negotiating tactic to wrangle the best deal they can get. It’s hard to remember the last time a B2B buyer told us they had selected the lowest cost solution.

Think about the deals your company wins and you’ll get closer to the truth. You’ve probably noticed that deals go your way, despite your higher price, when the salesperson has a great relationship with that account. Look closely and you’ll find a rep who knows how to be a valuable resource to that account.

The best salespeople, those who work at your company and your competitors, achieve this distinction by being useful to buyers and making their decisions easier.

The trick is knowing how to become useful to those buyers, because we rarely speak to execs who are willing to thoroughly describe their goals, problems and expectations during a sales call. Instead, these buyers consistently kick off their discovery process by turning to their own networks for guidance.

I asked my coworkers and peers what they used. I always find that recommendations are the best way to go. If I call a company I'm interested in, if I don't know enough, I'll get the hard sell and not the information that really works for me.

Buyers want to spend their valuable time with people who can help them make good decisions. It’s not enough to be a good listener or a conduit to an expert. The rep needs to have the confidence to relate the truth buyers would get by speaking with their peers.

Starting from a position of distrust, salespeople can’t afford to drone on about the benefits that are outlined in your marketing content. They need to speak plainly about the potential problems the buyer might encounter and describe the methods your company will use to avoid trouble.

The vendors need to be more honest with responses to the questions that come up, and candid in terms of what they can and can't do. Be honest with us.

Stepping into the expert role requires your salespeople to have serious intel about your buyers’ expectations for this type of purchase.

Your reps need to know what your buyer’s peers are saying when they relate their own experiences with this type of purchase to these executives. If done properly, buyer personas can fill this role, preparing your reps to address the questions your buyers are asking as they evaluate solutions in your category.

When your salespeople have insight into real buying decisions (our definition of buyer personas), they can position themselves as experts who know:

  • Which business issues or circumstances trigger this type of investment in peer organizations
  • How the buyer’s peers describe the outcomes they expect after making this investment
  • Which lines of inquiry allow their peers to evaluate competing solutions
  • Which answers provide the confidence for peer organizations to trust their choice
  • Which buying influencers are most critical to the choice of providers, and how the economic buyer actually affects the final decision

Your buyers believe that you and most of your competitors have good solutions that will get the job done. Ultimately, their choice to buy from you or someone else will have a lot to do with the quality of your relationships. It’s time to honestly assess your sales team’s ability to be a partner who knows what buyers want and tells them the truth.

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