What If Salespeople Worked For The Buyer?
Who ever would have thought it’d be so hard to buy something?
Businesses are prepared to spend thousands, if not millions, on software annually. In 2017, they spent 25% more on software and services than the year before. The problem is, as your software needs grow, something else grows too: the time you spend trying to find, research, evaluate, and buy software.
It used to be that buyers couldn’t find what they were looking for because the information wasn’t there. Google and inbound marketing changed that. Now, buyers can’t find what they’re looking for because there’s too much information online.
It’s surprisingly difficult to find the right vendor to give your budget to today.
Think of a problem, a specific problem, your team or organization is having. Now do a quick Google search to see if there’s a software solution out there to solve it. I guarantee you won’t only find one — you’ll find tons of vendors to choose from. For example, say you want to use electronic signatures with your sales contracts. According to G2Crowd, there are 89 vendors in the e-signature category. 89.
In other words, software is in the long-tail.
There are dozens (sometimes hundreds) of software solutions for any given problem. And for every solution, there are dozens of steps buyers need to take to evaluate it, from reading reviews to scheduling demos. Do the math; just buying software can be a full-time job.
This new world of consultative selling, where ‘Always Be Helping’ trumps ‘Always Be Closing’, is a good thing. But it doesn’t fix the core problem that buyers are facing: noise. To truly provide customers value in the future, the role of salespeople will have to change. Instead of helping them navigate one evaluation, of one software provider, we should be helping them navigate the long-tail.
And we simply can’t do that if we are working for the vendor.
A World When Salespeople Work for the Buyer
Recently, I had a conversation with Mark Roberge and he wondered, what if salespeople worked for the buyers?
Think about it. Smart companies are already moving toward a more touchless sales process with freemium products and one-click buying. Why? Because to solve for the customer, you have to remove friction, and salespeople are part of that friction.
Instead of being helpful advisors in the evaluation stage, prospects usually don’t want to talk to a sales rep today until it’s time to have the pricing conversation. And today, only 28% of public SaaS companies publish their price online. This will change. In that freemium, transparent world, do companies really need to invest in growing their sales forces?
Probably not, but that doesn’t mean software doesn’t need salespeople. It’s the buyers who are going to need us though, not the vendors. Currently, buyers are navigating the long-tail by figuring out what to buy, when to buy, how to track ROI, etc. That requires expert help, and salespeople are experts in diagnosing problems and making recommendations.
Buying and selling software is a different game than it was ten years ago. And to truly help customers ten years from now, I think salespeople will need to ask themselves: am I playing for the right team?
I’ve spent the past 10 years as a salesperson for the vendor. But today, I work for the buyer. I help buyers cut through the noise of the long-tail; I help instill confidence with purchase decisions; and I help buyers pay the right price for a product. Working for the buyer is liberating and it means I can focus on my strengths: providing expert recommendations.
So, to my fellow salespeople out there, don’t fret. We are entering a world where we can make unbiased recommendations, vs. simply pumping a single product. And when that happens, our value will reach an all-time high.