New Report from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services Unveils How to Win Today’s Empowered Buyer

SAP NewsbyteThe 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. The newly released SAP-sponsored report by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services (HBR Analytic Services) titled “Winning at Sales in a Buyer-Empowered World,” reveals the biggest challenges for 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 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.

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