There’s a statistic out there that buyers have, on average, progressed 57% through their buying process before they engage a salesperson. That ‘average’ piece seems to have been lost, and a commonly held-belief now is that this 57% is a fact in all cases.
How you act before and after ‘the 57%’ is a matter of choice, not a function of averages. Buyers buy different things, and sellers sell differently. You get to choose. But first, let’s explore the differences.
As we researched this topic, we spoke to many of our great customers to see what they had observed. Here’s their buyer’s point of view.
- Xerox sells many things, including copier paper. Copier paper is a commodity. As a buyer I don’t need a lot of advice. I’m going to buy frequently and only care that the price/quality is reasonable.
- Hewlett-Packard provides most things an IT buyer might need, including a cool laptop called the HP Envy – a little more complex than my copier paper.
- If I wanted a temperature control system in our building, Honeywell is the place to go. It’s a more specialized purchase than a laptop. I am probably going to need guidance and advice.
- Harmonic sells media controller systems that manage video workflows in some of the world’s largest and most demanding video environments. That’s not something I want to buy on my own. I’ll need some consultative advice.
- Box provides enterprise online data sharing and large-scale content management services. Buyers want to engage strategically when determining their enterprise content strategy. It’s a big commitment.
- If you are choosing Salesforce as your CRM, it is likely to have significant impact on your business. You know it is important to get some serious advice.
As evident from these examples, there is a lot of variability in how buyers need to engage before buy, so let’s look about how you might deconstruct that.
Organizational Impact is a Driver of Buyer Engagement
If you engage early with the buyers in their buying cycle you will be more successful. That is a core tenet of my book Account Planning in Salesforce (free extract here). Being a buyer isn’t as easy as it might seem. Understanding and articulating their own needs and then finding the best solution can be a stressful exercise. The greater the organizational impact, the more stressful it gets. Buyers need help.
The two axes on this graph are cost and intellectual property (IP) intensity. As they increase, so does organizational impact. Buyers then need help in establishing criteria, evaluating options and choosing a solution. The engaged salesperson can create value for their customer and gain more control of the deal.
There are also two other factors that matter: risk and frequency. Organizational risk is higher when choosing a CRM system than it is when buying copier paper. The buyer performs greater diligence and needs more guidance. Also, greater frequency translates to greater familiarity and less need for help. I buy copier paper more often than I buy a temperature control system so I know how to make the copier paper purchase on my own.
In the chart here you can see in the top right quadrant, our buyer is more likely to engage the supplier early, because a business process infrastructure project is usually high cost, contains a lot of IP value and a bad decision carries significant risk.
Conversely, there is less IP value in purchasing utilities (e.g. electricity). The difference when buying office equipment is even more striking; Cost, IP and Risk are typically low and Frequency is high, so buyers are less likely to need a seller to guide them.
Here’s the thing: If your solutions don’t fit into the bottom left quadrant, your buyers likely want to engage with you (or your your competitor) much earlier in their process, and there are many things you can do to influence the outcome.
In the next post, I’ll help you understand how to respond when the buyer is in fact well along the path to developing a buying preference. In the meantime, please feel free to download our latest publication Battling the 57%: Deconstructing the Buyer Seller Dance.