Buyer 4.0 vs Seller 4.0

Adapt to the new paradigm

In the first part, we illustrate the decrease in seller involvement at the start and middle of the buying process today. Before delving into how business organizations must adapt to Buyer 4.0, it is now worth considering an integrated “buyer / seller framework” that has a CRM application for B2B Scenarios.
While there is no “one size fits all” sales process for B2B, a combination of marketing and sales resources typically navigate
a sequence similar to the one shown here:

Purchase cycle

Awareness of needs

◄ The buyer becomes aware of the potential problem or need
◄ Awareness can be done through marketing and / or sales activity

Evaluate the alternatives

◄ The buyer investigates the possibility of options to resolve the problem or meet the perceived needs
◄ The buyer can do his own research and / or talk to representatives

Assess the risks

◄ The buyer concludes that the need should be resolved
◄ The buyer concludes that there is justification for making a commitment in a sales cycle

Whereas, the sales cycle:

  1. Plan : Determine who to sell to (the target) and best methods to approach the target (can be marketing or sales)
  2. Create : An opportunity must be created by a combination of marketing and sales activity
  3. Qualify : When interest is expressed, both the buyer and the seller need to decide if the opportunity is worth more investment of time.
  4. Develop: The buyer and / or seller must come up with a definition of a solution to resolve the problem or need
  5. Prove : The proposed solution must demonstrate that it meets the criteria to solve the problem
  6. Close : A financial commitment is secure

Variations in this framework are generally motivated by the following:

Role variations – some roles may be involved in a subset of these stages [for example, a telemarketing group may
focus only on the first two steps and move leads to sales for further qualification and development]

Complexity of the solution – simpler offerings may require much less time between stages and fewer activities
at each step

Customer Status – existing customers may require less activity at an early stage because your organization is a
known entity

Marketing and sales in 4.0

The principles of business development (“driving interest”) within traditional solution selling are relevant to marketing and sales – don’t lead with the product, focus on critical customer issues, focus yourself on how you have helped others and be concise! The downside of this scenario is that win / loss ratios generally favor sellers involved earlier in the buying cycle, rather than sellers who enter the buying cycle in response to an active need.

Plus, marketing has much less control over how your business is viewed in the market. With the emergence of blogs, discussion forums, improved search engine optimization, third-party information aggregation services, and social media with communities (groups on LinkedIn, etc.), there is more sharing during conversations, opinions, experiences and information about you, your business and your products and services in cyberspace than ever before.

While you can’t control the message, you can monitor, listen to, and participate in it, as well as help shape it.
Messaging and credibility building are no longer just the role of “formal” marketing. Many marketing organizations
just doesn’t have the bandwidth to operate at such precise levels. To return to the “front” of the sales cycle, the
The sales professional must now actively engage in “informal” marketing. Representatives must therefore actively participate
in industry or community focus groups to demonstrate thought leadership and credibility. They must regularly
initiate discussions that take place in affected communities. To do this, sellers must become ‘Social Media Literate’ – they must become users of the new tools and technologies that allow them to work effectively and engage when buyers form their initial ideas on a problem or need. potential. Marketing and sales need to be better connected than ever … Selling turns into a traditionally pre-sales funnel and marketing moves into the sales funnel itself.

Bottom Line: Salespeople need to become highly effective “micro-marketers”. They must become users of new social media tools and technologies to get back to the “front” of the sales cycle. “Micro-marketing” is about building relationships, building credibility, providing value, but not selling overtly.

The B2B comparison

Armed with an abundance of information resources, the new buyer is empowered to conduct in-depth research and find solutions when they anticipate having a problem or a need. More often than not, by the time an actual sales conversation takes place, the new buyer usually has a premise already forming about what their problem is and how to fix it. This does not mean that they are fully aware of the extent of their problems, the underlying reasons for them or the financial impact on the business. It also does not mean that they are objectively informed; but, their perspective has already been shaped and influenced by a variety of resources and mediums.

This means that a different level of sales conversation needs to take place – a level that is sort of a hybrid between the
Consultative conversations “value creation” and “reengineering of the communication of value”. The seller must quickly determine where the buyer is in the buying process (phase I, II or III), what the buyer knows about the sales organization and its offers, if he knows the competitive offers and if a diagnosis of the inventory has been made by the buyer. The ramifications here are clear; the seller must be very “situationally fluent” with regard to the buyers’ industry, the issues, the competitive alternatives and be able to objectively validate or challenge the buyer’s perception.

Additionally, buyers may already have an opinion on how much value a seller will bring them if and when (and if) they decide to engage them. They may have searched for you on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. to form an opinion about you. Not only should this research put you in a positive light if your information and content is appropriate, but the research needs to foster the “social credibility” of participating in leadership conversations, creating white papers, participation in professional industry associations, etc. Buyers look for relevant mutual relationships that they can reach. Similarly, you can explore the same avenues to gain a better understanding of the buyer once you are in In essence, buyers are “comparators” not only of solutions, but also of the people they meet in the buying cycle.

Bottom Line: Salespeople must become “consultative challengers”. They must be “situationally fluid” to quickly and objectively validate or reframe an existing premise of a buyer already in the market.

Risk aversion as the new normal

A recent industry study indicates that almost 50% of planned opportunities do not close. It’s not that companies fail to see the problems they need to solve or the opportunities they can capitalize on. That’s because for a combination of reasons, taking action and committing financially just doesn’t happen on half of the “qualified” sales opportunities. There are a number of potential factors that contribute to this “failure to close”.

The global economic climate has suffered multiple forms of trauma over the past decade. The dot-com bubble was closely followed by the events of September 11, and more recently the instability of the global financial system has suppressed companies’ willingness to invest. A by-product of this environment has been the emergence of increasingly sophisticated corporate purchasing. These organizations typically have extensive training in purchasing and negotiation practices, and create a new layer that directly interacts with sellers to navigate successfully.

Thus, the 4.0 shopper environment is not only a more informed consumer, it also has an increasingly risk aversion based on sophisticated purchasing. As a result, salespeople will need to improve their capabilities in several areas to have growing sales close rates. Sales professionals in the world of buyer 4.0 will have to be exceptional in their capacities to position themselves, to articulate and to defend the value of their offers with the principals. Organizations are also arming themselves with formidable negotiating skills. In many countries, in addition to better business acumen, salespeople must be well versed in the principles of negotiation.

These higher skill levels will require investments in education and tools that incorporate business acumen and
process execution based on the value of the experience delivered to the customer throughout the sales process (we call this the “value cycle”). The sales professional must be insightful and efficient to legitimately help the 4.0 buyer streamline the need to take action – in a way that is mutually beneficial for both buyers and sellers.

Bottom Line: Salespeople must become “risk managers”. They must be able to skillfully position and demonstrate defensible value to increasingly sophisticated buyer organizations.

Adapt the sales process and methodology to the 4.0 buyer

By revisiting the integrated buyer / seller model and considering the ramifications of Buyer 4.0 in the marketplace, we can
start to get a clearer and more structured picture of the changes needed in the sales process and methodologies.

The demands of this new environment suggest three distinct “sub-roles” for sales professionals.
• The “micro-marketer”
• The “advisory challenger”
• The “risk manager”
These subroles align closely with the buyer’s cycle, and the illustration below shows an updated buyer / seller framework.

Purchase cycle:

  1. Awareness of needs
  2. Evaluate the alternatives
  3. Assess the risks

Sales cycle:

  1. Awareness of needs
    1. Plan
    2. Create
  2. Evaluate the alternatives
    1. To qualify
    2. Develop
  3. Assess the risks
    1. To prove
    2. To close

New roles:

  • Awareness of needs
    • Seller as “Micro-Marketer”
  • Evaluate the alternatives
    • Seller as “Consultative Challenger”
  • Assess the risks
    • Seller as “Risk Manager”

New activities:

  • Awareness of needs
    • Seller as “Micro-Marketer”
      • Proactive territory / account planning
      • Monitor / react to trade triggers
      • Monitor / participate in social conversation
      • Monitor relevant web “content” and route to prospects
      • Influence your perception as an SME (forums, blogs, etc.)
      • Network and leverage industry connections
  • Evaluate the alternatives
    • Seller as “Consultative Challenger”
      • Quickly establish credibility
      • Quickly validate or challenge the premise buyer (“situationally fluid”)
      • Knowledge of the industry
      • Knowledge of capabilities
      • Knowledge of solution
      • Competitive “knockouts”
      • Agile with research and alternatives
      • Value based on differentiation
  • Assess the risks
    • Seller as “Risk Manager”
      • Clearly define differentiated value
      • Provide fast and efficient forms of proof
      • Clearly define the evaluation of the approaching solution
      • Negotiate effectively
      • Access to capital

New tools and new resources:

  • Awareness of needs
    • Seller as “Micro-Marketer”
      • Marketing automation (participation)
      • Monitoring of campaigns and prospects
      • Promote Marketing
      • Open business directories (Jigsaw, Zoom Info)
      • Social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook))
  • Evaluate the alternatives
    • Seller as “Consultative Challenger”
      • Business intelligence tools (InsideView)
      • Social networks (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs / industry forums)
      • Business Intelligence Tools (InsideView)
      • Easily accessible sales tools
      • Diagnostic models
      • Problem / solution maps
      • Competitive comparisons
      • Case studies
  • Assess the risks
    • Seller as “Risk Manager”
      • Web presentation tools (WebEx, Go to a meeting)
      • Value Calculators (ROI)
      • Collaborative tools (wikis, etc.)
      • Online proof of concept demonstrations


While this model is neither universal nor exhaustive, it provides a framework and direction for the types of skills, activities,
and tools that become new essentials for effective sales execution.

This thinking is a driving force for new learning and sales development programs in the age of process digitization.

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