The Sales Engagement Enigma: New Report from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, Sponsored by SAP, Unveils How to Win Today’s Empowered Buyer


WALLDORF — The sales game has changed. Today’s customers are coming to the table prepared and armed with more information than ever before at their fingertips, and that’s even if they come to the table at all. With customers’ tendency to research nearly every step on the path to purchase, sales teams are often left in the dark wondering how they can influence the buyer before it turns into a missed opportunity. Today, SAP SE announced the release of Harvard Business Review Analytic Services’ new report titled, (HBR Analytic Services) “Winning at Sales in a Buyer-Empowered World,” that reveals the findings are impacting today’s sales executives along with best practices to seek, grow and retain valuable customers.

The report shows what many already suspect: vendors are no longer the main source of information and prospective buyers are doing their own research before engaging with sales representatives. This research points to the importance for sales organizations to understand their customers by collecting and analyzing data from customer interactions and examining the digital footprints customers leave behind. Winning requires a new level of customer engagement throughout the entire customer life cycle — from engaging and shaping customer buying decisions in new social channels to supporting a unified user experience across multiple channels to driving continued engagement and support post-sale. Key findings from the report, also shown here in an infographic from SAP, reveal:

  • Rising customer expectations is rated as the top issue impacting sales teams, with 65 percent of sales organizations stating this is a major challenge (source: CSO Insights).
  • One-quarter (25 percent) of information technology buyers said the ability to help solve business objectives was the most important quality in a sales representative, ahead of technology expertise (source: IDC).
  • Prospective buyers in B2B settings have completed more than half (57 percent) of their due-diligence work before they engage a sales representative (source: CEB).
  • The sales representative’s ability to help solve business objectives is a major influence on 72 percent of decision-makers buying decisions (source: IDC).
  • More than one-third (37 percent) of businesses expect revenue increases when applying analytics best practices to sales (source: Cognizant Technology Solutions and Oxford Economics).

“The tables are turned and buyers are in the driver’s seat more than ever before,” said Alex Clemente, managing director, HBR Analytic Services. “Better customer engagement is top of mind for every organization. As our report indicates, to be successful, it comes down to targeting the right customers at the right time, anticipating what matters to customers and providing guidance and insights along the customer journey.”

“Not so long ago, customers depended on salespeople to help guide them to their purchase. Prospective car buyers relied on the salesman to learn how many horses were in the engine and how many cup holders were in the backseat,” said Jamie Anderson, global vice president, Product Marketing, Customer Engagement Solutions, SAP. “Today, those customers walk into the dealership with make, model and color picked out and a stack of papers validating exactly what they should pay for that car. The internet has changed the sales cycle, but it doesn’t mean that the sales team is out of the game. At SAP, we pride ourselves on helping our customers better understand their own customers and prospects to ensure their sales teams don’t just serve as a price check at the end of the journey, but as a guide who truly understands their needs, challenges and pain points and will work with them to find the right solution.”

Read the full report here. For more information, visit the SAP News Center. Follow SAP on Twitter at @sapnews.

Media Contact:
Andrea Meyer, +1 (415) 370-7329, andrea.meyer01@sap.com, PDT

Any statements contained in this document that are not historical facts are forward-looking statements as defined in the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Words such as “anticipate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “expect,” “forecast,” “intend,” “may,” “plan,” “project,” “predict,” “should” and “will” and similar expressions as they relate to SAP are intended to identify such forward-looking statements. SAP undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements. All forward-looking statements are subject to various risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from expectations. The factors that could affect SAP’s future financial results are discussed more fully in SAP’s filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), including SAP’s most recent Annual Report on Form 20-F filed with the SEC. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which speak only as of their dates.
Photo: SAP Infographic