Negotiation is all about nuance. It’s about what is said and not said. About decoding ideas, needs, and requirements to reach consensus.
At least it used to be that straightforward.
B2B buyer behavior has changed.
- Are well-informed
- Prefer self-service
- Prioritize visibility and transparency
- Are impacted by complex purchase systems
- Aren’t as tech-dependent as you think
Organizations must adapt to maintain firm footing through these changes.
Forward-looking business leaders will invest in the right resources to equip the people doing the negotiation to excel in these new norms.
Let’s talk through this new set of B2B buyer behaviors.
B2B Buyers Are Better Informed Than Ever
B2B buyers are doing their research. When it comes to vetting new vendors, new products, and new services, they’re doing a lot of pre-work.
There is plenty of information online for them to find and compare available resources. This is becoming a preferred way of shortlisting companies they may do business with.
Gartner researchers relay that only about 17% of the total B2B purchase journey is spent with sales reps. Independent research and customer self-learning is the norm.
Plan for it: Every team member involved in the sales process has to be trained on how to converse with well-informed buyers. They will often not be starting at the beginning with preliminary product information. It’s vital that they become increasingly skilled at facilitating in-depth discussions, getting to the heart of choice factors, and driving decisions with sophisticated negotiation tactics.
This last may feel especially difficult, as many sales leaders are being asked to do more with a lean team. Outsourced training and even coaching that help your team upskill are increasingly popular for this reason — it accelerates individual and team growth. After all, if buyers are more prepared, your team has to be too.
After all, if buyers are more prepared, your team has to be too.
An Extra Word About Self-Serve
In-depth buyer research prior to vendor involvement was unthinkable 30 years ago. Now, 65% of the workforce is digital natives (Millennials through Gen-Z) who want a digital-first buying experience. This isn’t a fundamentally bad thing.
At RED BEAR Negotiation, we like to say that selling is “if” we will do business. Negotiation is “how.”
If self-service becomes a standard practice, it will change the nature of deals. It could mean that by the time a B2B buyer makes contact, the “if” has already been well thought through, narrowing efforts on “how.”
This means it has never been more important for teams to be prepared for the negotiation phase of a deal, especially since it may be earlier in the deal lifecycle than before.
Visibility and Transparency are High Buyer Priorities
Great negotiators are great communicators. Part of being able to communicate well is identifying what the other party cares most about.
Two primary B2B buyer priorities:
Visibility — Can I find the information I’m looking for and answers to my questions?
Transparency — Can I trust what you say and are you up-front with me?
Because of these priorities, sales professionals in all departments have to thoughtfully evaluate how they communicate during a deal:
- Visibility is enhanced when sellers are available, open, generous with the right information, and clear.
- Transparency is enhanced when sellers handle objections with honesty, are candid about limitations, don’t overpromise, and follow through on what they say.
Negotiations cannot be won through coercion or half-truths. These will directly erode the all-important buyer trust, and violate the very things they find important.
Procurement Issues Impact Deal Velocity
Deal velocity is the speed of a deal to close.
Lose velocity, and a deal may limp across the finish line, if it gets there at all.
Procurement plays an important role in deal velocity and is currently experiencing challenges that could slow down B2B sales.
Statista reports that as many as 43% of B2B buyers are frustrated by delivery delays and 31% feel that purchase systems are too complex.
Everything from supply chain to staffing shortages to global market conditions can be the root cause of these issues. In other words: they may be entirely unavoidable. Despite that, they have to be dealt with in a way that doesn’t kill a deal.
Your people need to be taught to avoid wrong turns and costly mistakes. To advance profitable, value-based agreements, your team can learn from our negotiation ninjas.
Automation and Tech Adoption is Slowing Down
The general impression may be: tech is everywhere; but the truth is that, in some sectors, automation and tech adoption is dampening.
We are all still in the people business. Sales organizations cannot lose focus on their people. These people continue to be the primary drivers of sales.
Analysts at Forrester explain that, in 2023, leaders need to not rely on tech for new wins, but instead fully equip their teams to deliver satisfying experiences from prospecting to negotiation to close to customer success.
This means that people investment is the most important investment, not to be replaced with tech spending or the latest shiny AI toy.
Your people will be the ones to endure these and any shifting dynamics in B2B buyer behaviors.
They will be the ones who continue to win business.
Be Proactive: Train Your Team for Success
55% of buyers in B2B decisions estimate that the length of their time to buy has increased significantly. Sales reps get about 5% of that time, most of it being spent solo by the buyer, anonymously gathering information.
Once your team finally gets a chance to make their case, they have to do so honestly, effectively, and with great confidence. Once engaged, your team needs to be able to focus on the customer and ask the right questions, so they can understand and prioritize the customer’s needs.
All of these new B2B buyer behaviors and added complexity should be a welcome challenge… if your team is well trained.
If they’re not, let’s talk.