How Are Buyer-Seller Relationships ChangingArticle by Colleen Francis, January 12, 2022
Having long studied the habits of top-ranked sellers and the changing nature of the marketplace, I’ve seen a steady shift in the power in buyer-seller relationships. Now, study after study confirms what I’ve been observing in the field: today’s buyer is showing less and less desire to engage with salespeople than ever before.
And you can’t blame them. As I talked about in a previous article: this is a sell-to marketplace, and it’s almost entirely digital-driven. That’s why Garter concludes in their recent Future of Sales report that by 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will happen online.
Events since 202o were not the catalyst for this. Rather, that was just the tipping point on a change that’s been a long time coming. So, what does this mean for you in 2022? If you’re paying attention, you’ll recognize that this changes everything.
When you think of buyer-seller relationships, imagine a bow and arrow set. You used to be the arrow—or you had a sales team that was like a group of arrows. Your job was to hit a sales target. And your customer was that target. The more often you’d hit a bullseye, the better things were for you.
However, the order of that analogy only makes sense in a world where market and sales power is in the hands of the seller. And today that power is in the hands of the buyer. They see you before you see them. And they only will call on you—if at all—if they’re convinced they can trust you to help them meet their needs and goals.
So, the order of that bow-and-arrow analogy is now reversed.
You are the bow. Your customer is the arrow. And the target you need to hit is measured by whether you’re successful in meeting the needs of your customer, which mean correctly solving their business problems.
Think further about that drawn bow (i.e., it’s being pulled back on). It resembles a bell curve laid on its side—like the illustration below. As the arrow is drawn back, the archer needs an equal amount of two things that are represented at opposite end-points of that bow: customer centricity and sales velocity.
HOW DOES CUSTOMER CENTRICITY AFFECT BUYER-SELLER RELATIONSHIPS?
Here, you’re asking questions that are external in focus about the way you present yourself as the seller to your customer. You must regularly ask:
- Am I making it as easy as possible for my customer to find me?
- Am I easy to work with while skillfully eliminating any friction points in our interactions?
- Is what I have to tell my customer easy for them to understand?
- Am I showing them value that’s important to the customer personally, as well as unique to their organization?
All of this is in service to helping your customer build confidence in their own decision making in the context of doing business with you. With customer centricity, you’re working hard to showcase your value and ROI to them, both in terms of time and money. Do this right and your buyer quickly sees that choosing you is the right decision.
CAN SALES VELOCITY HELP YOUR INTERNAL PROCESS?
At the other end-point on this analogous bow is sales velocity. This side involves a series of internal metrics that help you better understand how well you and your sales organization are performing relative to the task of solving your customer’s business problems. This is painstaking, mission-critical work.
You must regularly ask:
- Do you have enough in your sales pipeline to hit your goals?
- Are the customers and prospects in that pipeline sufficiently valuable to hit those goals?
- Is each and every deal moving through your pipeline with the right amount of efficiency so that you keep on hitting those goals reliably?
YOU MUST FIND THE SWEET SPOT
Just as an archer needs to draw on their bow evenly, you must find balance between the two end-points. That’s the sweet spot. You must get your external focus and internal focus in precise equilibrium so your arrows confidently hit your targets over and over.
Moving forward in this radically changed marketplace, it’s your job as a seller (or as a leader of sellers) to find that sweet spot. It’s not up to your customer to do this. As the ancient poet Rumi (still considered the best-selling poet in the United States today) once wrote: “I am only an arrow. Fill your bow with me and let fly.” That’s what your customer is calling out for. They are arrows. They seek out the best bows and the most skilled archers.
How will you answer that call? Fostering new buyer-seller relationships is the most important challenge you must meet in 2022.