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    “Customers Only Spend 5% Of Their Time With Sellers!”

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    I read a post from a “thought leader.” If focused on how profoundly selling is changing—Wow, I’ve never heard that before. It focused on buyers spending less time with sales people, quoting a Gartner survey, suggesting they get their information from other sources.

    It concluded that we have to change, that we had to figure more/different ways to engage customers getting more of their mindshare.

    All the points are true – sort of.

    Gartner, has published post using the 5% figure as an eye grabbing lead. But you have to dive into the research to understand it The research actually shows, buying groups tend to spend a total of 17% of their time meeting with suppliers. Hank Barnes has supplemented this, stating that buyers spend about twice as much time with their preferred vendor, as they do with others.

    There’s a whole bunch more data in that report, The B2B Buying Journey. This actually provides more insight. It shouldn’t be surprising, though we have probably never thought much about it. Buyers have never spend a majority of their time with sellers (directly or indirectly). For complex B2B buying decisions, buyers have always spent a huge amount of their time in internal meetings trying to figure out what they want to do, trying to define the issues, gaining alignment and support within the organization. I suspect, though I don’t have the data to support this, the internal time spent with the group has increased as more people have become involved with the decision.

    But let’s go back to the 5% and run with it. Should we be worried about it? Is the number of hours we spend with customers a meaningful indicator of our potential success?

    Let’s look at how we used to spend time with customers

    In the “old days,” perhaps 15 years ago, sellers spent a lot of time educating customers about their solutions. The primary source for learning about products and solutions was a human being. Sellers basically became walking/talking product brochures. Today, that’s completely unnecessary. Through digital resources, customers can learn about our products much more effectively than they can through salespeople.

    The bottom line, is sellers aren’t the best/most impactful people to teach customers about our products/solutions. This is great news! We free the customer up to learn about solutions through the most effective channels, enabling them to spend their time well. And it frees sellers up, to focus on the aspects of buying that buyers struggle with the most.

    As we start thinking about this, buyers spending 5% of their time with each seller isn’t necessarily something we should be worried about. But the issue is, are we using that 5% as effectively as we can? If we are using it to talk about our products and how great our company is, then we are wasting both our and the customers’ time poorly. We aren’t presenting anything new, we aren’t helping where they need help.

    Buyers spending 5% of their time with each seller isn’t worrying; using this time ineffectively is.

    What if we spent our time on the areas where the customer struggles the most? We know 60% of their buying efforts fail through FOMO/FOMU. What if we helped them making sense with these issues–the things that keep them from succeeding with their project and making a decision? We know buyers struggle with overwhelm of all sorts–both the process they are going through, indecision, information overload. What if we helped them make sense of this? We know that buyers struggle with their own process. More people are involved, priorities shift, it’s difficult to align agendas, goals, objectives. What if we helped them more effectively navigate their own buying process?

    And interestingly, if we help buyers where they most need help, they might invest more time with us rather than those sellers who continue to focus on their products. (Which is the basis of Gartner’s data for buyers spending more time with their preferred vendor.)

    We don’t need to be worried about the 5% of time buyers invest in our sellers, as long has we have very strong digital and other resources that enable customers to learn about issues, challenges, products/solutions and how others are achieving success with our solutions.

    We don’t need to be worried about the 5% of time buyers invest in our sellers, as long as we invest that time doing the things that are most important to our buyers. And those, actually, have little to do with our products.

    And now, we have freed up time, to work with other customers–helping them through their buying journeys!

    Article originally published on Nov 8, 2022 on The Partners in Excellence Blog
    Dave Brock
    Published November 13, 2022
    By Dave Brock

    Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.

    Find out more about Dave Brock on LinkedIn