The job of a sales rep has never been so difficult. Customers are probably more demanding than they’ve ever been and in a better position to drive a rep into a corner where all they can do to clinch a deal is to concede on the price they sell at.
And this does no more than frustrate reps and hurt their employer’s margins, as well as often provide a customer with a worse product than what they could have ended up with, given all they can often agree on is the most basic options at the lowest price.
As a previous post showed, three broad forces have given customers this power; they now have access to more information, more people, and more product options.
It Might Be Harder to Sell But It’s Also Harder to Buy
While all three of these certainly make it harder to sell tailored products that justifiably command a premium, these self-same forces also make it far harder for customers to buy products.
Too much information: This doesn’t refer to a plea for someone to keep their private thoughts private, but that too much information can stymie decision making, and leave customers confused. Imagine doing some research on a new product you wanted to buy – anything from a car to a new kitchen appliance. The vast amount of marketing collateral, product options, online reviews, and sometimes entire websites devoted the product can easily overwhelm you.
B2B customers face the same analysis paralysis as they do when they find themselves in the role of B2C customer. There’s almost always more information out there than we expect to find, and it’s difficult to work out what is relevant and what isn’t. Complex B2B deals often stall as customers get hung up on irrelevant details and conflicting information.
Too many people: According to CEB data, the average number of stakeholders involved in a customer purchase decision is 5.4. And with 5.4 stakeholders come 5.4 different sets of goals, priorities, means, and metrics, all based on the stakeholders’ individual roles within the organization.
As solutions purchases involve a wider variety of roles, functions, and geographies than ever before, the goals and priorities of the stakeholders are more varied as well. With such a diversity of views and goals, getting stakeholders to agree on the specific business problem they’re looking to solve or even a prioritized set of criteria can be near impossible.
Too many options: This can be best summed-up as “The Cheesecake Factory effect.” US restaurant chain, The Cheesecake Factory is infamous for the sheer number of items it has on its menu. (More than 200, not including the cheesecakes.)
If you go as a customer, so many choices make you confident you’ll find the perfect first course. You place your order and you’re pretty happy with your choice, but then sure enough, the minute the waiter walks away, you begin second-guessing yourself. “I should have gotten the Thai lettuce wraps… But the Louisiana chicken pasta looks so good too.” With such a proliferation of options, customers will naturally consider the opportunity cost of their choice, and wonder they could have made a better one.
Sure enough, for customers, it’s become a situation of too much information, too many people, and too many options. The effect is that of a road littered with potholes, each one causing the customer to slow down, veer off-course, or get stuck.
For more on CEB’s work with heads of sales and their teams, see these pages.