[STUDY] Bridging the Great B2B Vendor-Buyer Divide

In a perfect world, the B2B buyer-vendor relationship is mutually beneficial – and most of the time, it is. So why don’t buyers like salespeople?

It may be true that some sales professionals are, shall we say, less than professional; but B2B buyers have to get their products and services somewhere, so it’s important to make this inevitable relationship a positive one.

As you hone and evolve your sales practice, consider these three ways to quickly join the ranks of sales professionals who are seen as trusted advisors who bring benefit and ROI to their customers – based on a survey of 270 B2B buyers.

Get the entire FREE study: 30 Ways to Get Inside the Mind of Your Target Buyer

1. Differences in communication style and personality alienate buyers

In every good sales call, there is an equilibrium point where the buyer respects the salesperson’s conviction and is not offended by persistence.

Pushy salespeople quickly alienate prospective buyers because they don’t develop rapport. Rapport is a special relationship between individuals based upon harmonious communication. Buyers will choose to work with the salesperson who develops rapport over those who don’t.

 

In addition to lack of rapport, other factors may prevent greater sales success. Most likely, salespeople are comfortable selling to specific types of people. They are far less likely to establish rapport with someone who is wired differently. Since they’re not exactly sure how to behave, they may act in a way the buyer considers too pushy, or overcompensate by being overly friendly.

Here’s how buyers in our study answered the question “When I don’t connect with a salesperson, it is because…”

  • They are too pushy
  • There’s a difference in communication style
  • Their personality is much different than mine
  • They’re too eager to befriend me
  • There’s a difference in age
  • There’s a difference in gender

A few of these points are important to be aware of, but are unlikely to change (To buyers who cite differences in age and gender, we say: Get over it.)

The first five points, however, have merit. Luckily, it’s possible for salespeople, often natural chameleons, to adjust behavior – if they know which direction to go.

“Salespeople are too pushy”

Well, yes, PUSHY is the name of the game. Sometimes you have to be pushy just to get in the door. But the fact that most buyers still identified this as the primary reason they don’t connect with salespeople (and there’s a lot of supporting evidence, such as this excellent breakdown from Hubspot, for buyer-vendor disconnect) means that it’s still a big problem.

“There’s a difference in communication style”

Analytical, Intuitive, Functional, Personal: Most communication styles are broken down into these four categories. Picking the wrong style for a your buyer, whether it’s one person or a buying committee, can halt a pitch or negotiation in its tracks. The good news is communication style is learned – and you can be flexible.

Take this communication-style quiz from Leadership IQ to see where you land.

Which style are you? 4 Intelligence Styles of Successful Sales Professionals

“The salesperson’s personality is much different than mine”

Viva la differance! Communication style may be flexible, but personality isn’t. Spend some time learning about the different personality types (often typified by the Jungian-based Myers-Briggs test). Then take a guess at what personality your prospect has, and take a smart, complementary approach. Even ESTJ’s and the INFP’s have something in common!

“They’re too eager to befriend me”

This response supports another interesting finding from the 270-person study: 66% of buyers prefer a friendly salesperson who has a proficient knowledge of their product.

This answer fell squarely between two other possible survey answers: (1) “A professional salesperson who knows their product inside and out but is not necessarily someone you consider yourself befriending” (preferred by 23% of buyers); and (2) “A charismatic salesperson who you truly enjoyed being with them but they are not the most knowledgeable about their product” (preferred by just 11% of buyers).

The moral of the story? Be friendly, but not too friendly. And know your product.

 

Most sales training programs focus on the recitation of facts. However, two salespeople can say the very same words with entirely different results. Mastering the soft skills – building rapport with skeptics, understanding how people process and interpret information, and framing your ideas within a buyer’s personal desires – is what ultimately makes someone influential.

Get Part 1 of our 2-part study: Why Didn’t They Buy?

2. Salespeople don’t adapt their approach to different gender perspectives

Women think one of the biggest mistakes a salesperson can make is to assume prospective buyers know less, not more, than they do. Men are evenly split on this subject.

The results are stark when responses are analyzed by industry and department. In Technology, for example, 80% of women say the salesperson assumes knows less than they do. In Accounting, 42% of women responded this way, and 58% of women think the salesperson assumes they know more than they do.

The reasons are undoubtedly complex, but women in business are often underestimated.

All salespeople know there are subtle differences between selling to men and to women – but knowledge is not one of those differences. Before engaging with a buyer of any gender, avoid assumptions by asking a few preliminary questions to see how much they know.

 

Get all of our 2-part study: 30 Ways to Get Inside the Mind of Your Target Buyer

3. Salespeople want relationships, but buyers are too busy

The salesperson’s main goal is to gain continued access to the prospective buyer and start a relationship.

But the buyer has a different set of goals – and relationships are expensive and involve investments of valuable time. Buyers have to spend time to determine whether a product’s characteristics are accurately represented, they must evaluate vendors to find the best possible partner to solve a business problem, and they must learn and implement the new product. Obviously, they’re very busy. Therefore, when salespeople meet with buyers, it’s best to provide a wealth of information, while being very judicious with time.

You don’t need to be friends with someone in order to work with them – or win their business.

 

Buyers share an interesting collection of traits, from their decision-making processes to shared favorite subjects in high school. It’s a valuable exercise to learn more about what they appreciate, and what they find off-putting – so sales professionals can sell an excellent product or service on its merits alone.

 

What's wrong with salespeople (& how to fix it)Get the complete study
Charity Heller

Charity Heller is a content strategist at DiscoverOrg. She has 15+ years’ experience in publishing, retail, ..read more