In recent years the balance of power between buyer and seller has swung dramatically in favour of the buyer. Sellers are now faced with more professional, more knowledgeable and more powerful buyers – and the sales techniques used in previous years are no longer working.
The old sales techniques around how good the products and services were has given way to salespeople reinventing their approach. This has had to happen because, simply put, the way today’s buyer makes decisions has completely changed.
Peter Chaverton and Jan Paul van der Velde’s book ‘Understanding the Professional Buyer’ looks at how the modern buyer operates and discusses how the complex nature of the buyer-seller relationship has changed over the years.
They claim that the new buyers are no longer just ‘administrators’ in a long line of purchase-order-monkeys who perhaps do some price bargaining during the process and not much else. Instead:
The buyer has become a well-trained strong-willed person who knows your products and services as well as you do
They can communicate at all management levels and think cross-functionally
They understand the dynamics of the market they are in
They understand internal and external stakeholders, knowing how your products and services will affect these people
They can identify and control sourcing strategies for current and future opportunities
They report into higher management and are key to providing these levels with information and recommendations
Chaverton and van der Velt state that the very nature and essence of salesmanship has changed to reflect these needs of the buyer and today’s salesperson has had to develop many more entrepreneurial skills than before as they support and drive forward the customer’s business.
I believe this to back up much other research that has been carried out. It supports the idea that salespeople today have to:
Work as if they own their own businesses and have that entrepreneurial mindset themselves
Be able to communicate at all business levels, being just as comfortable in the boardroom as they are at user level
Have inside knowledge of the industries their customers are working in as well as their own
Be ‘future-focused’ so they can drive and influence changes happening in the customer’s business rather than just cope with what is happening now
Continuously develop their skills and talents to not only keep up with but also keep ahead of developments in the buyer-seller relationship
So, identify how you can understand the professional buyer better now and in the future. If you don’t, well, you run the risk of being one of the also-rans in the race to the finish.