Within the professional buyer/seller environment, preferences and practices have altered dramatically since the spring of 2020. In many sectors, the dynamic between buyer and seller has changed in fundamental ways. Some of these changes, according to a new Sandler Research Center report, What Buyers Want and How Buyers Work, tend to favor the buyer.
The Sandler survey is based on responses from 602 sales professionals in 43 countries. The accompanying report explains how, in the wake of the global pandemic, buyers are often operating with a radically different set of priorities than they did just over a year ago.
How do buyers research and execute a major purchase today…and how can sellers best adapt to buyers’ emerging priorities to streamline the purchasing process? Key takeaways from the report include the following:
Buyers aren’t engaging as early in the cycle. Today’s buyers have access to most of the information they need long before they engage with prospective vendors, which means that contact with sales professionals is, in many sectors, occurring far later in the sales/buying cycle than it once did. 53% of respondents to the Sandler survey said that they identified the need for a major purchase entirely on their own. Not only do buyers conduct more thorough independent research into products and services once they do identify a need, but they also are more likely to access trusted reviews, speak to existing clients, and seek out market intelligence about potential allies. This means that a vendor who is finally invited into the process must have already completed their own homework on the buyer – and must be able to demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the vendor’s industry/sector. This is one reason a premature pitch can be a disastrous misstep for sellers.
Buyers like the control and scheduling flexibility that email conversations give them. Despite the increased availability of video conferencing options, the survey’s findings suggest that email correspondence is still the preferred means of communication for professional buyers who interact with salespeople. 50% of respondents identified email as their preferred means of communication with sellers. This finding suggests that sellers who try to pressure decision makers into scheduling initial video “discovery” calls may be doing themselves and their organizations a disservice.
On major purchases, buyers are looking for a long-term relationship with a responsive partner they can trust – and they are willing to pay more for it. Emphasizing low cost in early discussions with professional buyers may backfire. 84% of those responding to the Sandler poll said that the opportunity to build a long-term, symbiotic relationship with a vendor was a critically important factor in their decision-making process. Responsiveness and overall suitability of the offer ranked high on the list of attributes sought in a professional relationship. The ability to deliver the lowest possible up-front price ranked at the bottom of the list of attributes sought.