As B2B companies work to adapt to today's more technological business world, it's easy to get caught up in the idea of leveraging advanced tools. While it may be critical for organizations to effectively use analytics, social media and more to enhance their sales strategies, the fact remains that traditional methods have a great deal of merit. In fact, it is becoming increasingly clear that B2B buyers don't want a purchasing experience that lacks a human touch.
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According to a recent study by Gartner, even in higher-tech industries such as IT, it takes a personal element to really connect with customers. Among the respondents to a survey of 503 enterprises in North America, Europe and China, 56 percent of B2B customers stated they feel "direct interaction with the [service] provider" is highly important, with an additional 42 percent ranking it of "medium importance." Only 3 percent of the professionals polled didn't see this element of the sales process as crucial in some way.
"Personal interactions with providers are still the most influential activity in B2B buying decisions," said Tiffany Bova, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.
However, Bova noted that buyers may value their relationships with sales agents less than in years past. This represents an opportunity for vendors to adjust their sales techniques to ensure they are offering value that not only meets their potential clients' demands, but will shine above the service offered by competitors.
Further, Gartner emphasized that engaging with customers will require organizations to make some critical investments, including the implementation of effective sales training programs so that staff members will have the strong interpersonal skills necessary to take on the challenges of the evolving B2B sales process. Bova pointed out that while in high-tech industries sales agents have long acted as a source of technology products, they must now go beyond the role of vendor to become strategic partners to their clients. This can only be accomplished if sales representatives are ready to get to know their clients on a deeper level.
Companies have to be mindful of which sales training programs they ultimately deploy to build up their employees' abilities. Considering the strong desire for personal interaction, it will be critical for leaders to select training options that see this element of the sales process as a top priority. If businesses are sure to choose programs that focus on developing professionals' face-to-face and communication skills, they will be poised to improve their client relationships, which translates into better bottom lines.