We’ve entered a new information age.
Gone are the days when buyers of products and services were forced to rely strictly on information from vendor sales teams.
The Internet has created a shift in power from seller to buyer.
As a result, prospects are self-educating, and they’re postponing interactions with salespeople until the latest possible moment in the buying process.
In fact, a recent study by the Corporate Executive Board reported that B2B buyers get 57 percent of the way through the buying decision before they’re even willing to talk to a sales rep.
Some argue away this self-educating buyer phenomenon as simply a fad, but it’s more than that. I believe it is a fundamental shift in the way people gather information to make informed purchasing decisions.
The world has changed.
The buying process is increasingly becoming invisible as the buyer hides behind the anonymity of a Google search and freely available digital content.
How to Work with Self-Educating Buyers
We are moving from an age of cold-calls to an age of Social Selling. There are the four key cultural and technological trends driving this shift.
The Google Effect
There was a time when a person searching for information would have turned to a library, opened an encyclopedia, or maybe contacted a professional for the answer.
Today that same individual goes to their computer, smartphone, or tablet, points that device to Google (or their search engine of choice) and within seconds accesses not one, but many possible sources of answers to their query.
Ubiquitous Access to Broadband Internet
According to a recent FCC Broadband Progress Report, 94 percent of Americans have access to broadband-speed Internet. At these speeds, text, audio, video, and interactive applications are all accessible at the click of a mouse or a thumb.
Information that used to be delivered via mail or FedEx is now transmitted almost instantly, regardless of file size.
Rapid Growth in Smartphone Penetration
A 2012 Nielsen Report found that, as of June 2012, nearly 55 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers owned smartphones.
We now have a rapidly growing population that is walking around with a computer in their pocket—and using it to do a whole lot more than just talk.
The Encyclopedia Phontanica
With broadband access speeds at their smartphone-toting fingertips, people find themselves a click away from the answer to every question they can think of, delivered immediately to the palm of their hand.
We are being trained by this technology to intuit that if we need information to satisfy a curiosity, meet an intellectual need, or provide a foundation for a purchasing decision, we need look no further than a simple Internet search.
How This Shift Affects Your Sales Prospecting Process
The effect of this cultural and technological shift on the sales industry cannot be ignored because it fundamentally changes the buying process.
Consumers – your prospects – in both the B2B and B2C worlds have been trained to look to the Internet for product information, pricing, and reviews before they make a purchase. They have been trained that it’s more efficient and more empowering.
I’ve heard the argument from multiple sales directors in the B2B world that this shift doesn’t apply to them – that consumer buyers are different than B2B buyers.
That simply isn’t true.
In a 2012 DemandGen Report, 77 percent of B2B buyers said they did not talk with a salesperson until after they had performed independent research. In fact, the number of respondents claiming to initiate contact with vendors only after compiling a short list of candidates jumped from 24 percent in 2011 to 51 percent in the 2012 study.
Like it or not, in the new digital first world, your company’s online content is your salesperson. If you aren’t providing the kind of online information your prospects are searching for, you may be losing up to half of your sales opportunities – and you won’t realize it’s happening before it’s too late.
Instead, if you develop online content that caters to the invisible buyer, you will help customers before you even know they exist, meaning you’ll work less to sell more.
For more information on how to market more effectively to self-educating buyers, visit Converse Digital, or purchase The Invisible Sale, a field guide to creating a digitally powered sales & marketing process to better prospect, qualify and close leads.