Your content can be expertly created, precisely targeted and amplified on every social media channel, but content alone won’t guide a prospect to the purchase-decision phase. Salespeople, it turns out, also are integral.
So says SiriusDecisions, which two years ago released the oft-quoted research stat that B2B buyers progress through 67% of the buying journey before they interact with a sales rep. Other thought leaders pushed out more drastic findings, including Forrester, which reported that 93% prefer to buy online versus through a salesperson.
At SiriusDecision’s 2015 Summit, Research Director Jennifer Ross and VP/Group Director Marisa Kopec revealed new research that shows how valuable the salesperson is in providing crucial elements, such as a contextual framework, for discussing content.
“You cannot make the statement that B2B buyers go through two-thirds of the buying journey without talking to a salesperson,” Kopec said. “The data shows that it’s not true. . . Buyers need that content customized to them. They need it in a contextual fit.”
For example, the new research shows that analyst reports are the most popular content format in the early education stage, while sales presentations were more popular in the selection phase. Salespeople are the ingredient that makes these more general types of content more specific to a buyer’s need.
In fact, the researchers said that salespeople are involved in buyer interactions from start to finish of the buyer’s journey, and represent a portion of the 11 to 17 interactions (on average) that marketers must facilitate in order to engage a buyer in a purchase. Some examples of these interactions are highlighted in a recent blog posting by Carol Krol, Editor-in-Chief of Demand Gen Report, and include things like vendor-hosted webinars or peer-networking events.
“Buyers communicated to us that they need trust, confidence and validation,” Kopec said. “It’s not about marketing and sales alignment. It’s about alignment across the organization. Great marketing to us is great content, great experiences and opportunities for handshakes. Handshakes must occur in a B2B buying process.”
The research was based on a survey of 1,000 B2B executive decision makers and influencers, 80% of whom made a purchase within 90 days, and 50% within 30 days. More than 900 participants provided in-depth responses, Ross said.