I’ve never worked in sales, only in engineering and marketing, but I will admit that over the years I should have made a greater attempt to understand the sales process at the sharp end. Perhaps everyone outside sales should. A fascinating conversation recently with a salesperson of a big-ticket technical system was quite an eye-opener to me. I was told in no uncertain terms that the buying cycle was getting longer, which I thought anecdotal and doubtful. However, subsequent research showed me that it is. In a world where vendor details and any amount of technical information is just a click away, how can this be?
It seems that the volume of information available actually gives buyers an excuse to kick the can down the road. They’re forming larger groups to discuss the issue, conducting more detailed ROI analyses and – crucially – by spending longer on decision-making, often finding that the requirement changes completely.
Perhaps a bigger task for sales now is not to advocate our particular product, but more to encourage the buyer to get on with deciding to buy something. Marketing and sales need to work break down the buyer’s decision-making process in more detail than ever, and anticipate the smaller decisions that will be made along the way, lubricating the path to reaching a buying decision. As time goes on, it appears that buyers believe less in the benefits claimed by vendors, and want more evidence: not just in our particular product or service, but in the need for the product or service in general. Providing this has always been a marketing responsibility; however, it may be a more critical one than ever.