1 Independent Research Commissioned by SAP What s the Future of Sales? Get insights to new trends, benchmarks and strategies based on the views of 1,220 global business buyers SAP SE or an SAP affiliate company. All rights reserved.
2 Executive Summary Buyer Seller The dynamics between buyers and sellers have changed. Whereas once sellers were seen as an unparalleled source of information, the digital revolution has shifted the balance of power, equipping buyers with much of the information they need to make purchase decisions and fundamentally altering how and where sellers are able to add value to this process. SAP commissioned Loudhouse, an independent research agency, to undertake research among this audience of empowered buyers to better understand the changing buyer / seller dynamic and to highlight ways that vendors can differentiate themselves and ultimately better connect with buyers and secure sales. The survey sampled senior business budgetholders from enterprise organizations across ten countries with responsibility for buying goods and services ranging from technology, business and recruitment services to facilities and fleet cars. The research finds that, with information at their fingertips but under increasing pressure to make the right purchasing decisions, buyers are feeling increasingly let down by vendors who still operate using traditional models that lack relevance among an audience with higher expectations than ever. The research discusses how a focus on creating an exceptional, personalized experience that delivers greater trust and value than customers anticipate can help vendors secure a strong position in the hearts and minds of today s business buyers and increase the likelihood of a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship SAP SE or an SAP affiliate company. All rights reserved.
3 Research Methodology 1,220 interviews were conducted during late 2014, with senior personnel responsible for buying products and services in their organizations. Research was conducted by Loudhouse, an independent research agency based in London. Fig. 1 Research Sample, by Country Fig. 2 Research Sample, by Company Size B M B M M SAP SE or an SAP affiliate company. All rights reserved.
4 Key Findings Key findings from the research, which are explored in more detail in this report, are as follows: Social Media 60% of buyers make purchasing decisions based on employee recommendations......while 50% use social media channels to help make decisions. Greater Expectations 91% say they have higher expectations of vendors / sales people now than two years ago. Frustration Trust Issues 60% Aggressive salespeople (48%), salespeople lacking relevant knowledge (46%) and unsolicited approaches (44%) are the biggest frustrations that buyers have with vendors. of businesses say they are generally less tolerant and trusting of salespeople. Expectations Met, Sometimes 52% Just half of buyers believe their most recent purchase experience completely met their expectations. Trust Most Important Trust is rated as the single most important factor when purchasing products / services from vendors, ahead of experience and cost. Demonstrating high levels of knowledge about products / services (74%) and about a buyer s organization (52%) are the most important factors in creating trust SAP SE or an SAP affiliate company. All rights reserved.
5 Key Findings (cont d) Proactive Research Over two-thirds (68%) wait longer to initiate contact with vendors because they are doing more research themselves. Fig. 3 Purchase Responsibility 71% Ratings 80% typically know exactly what they want before they make contact with a vendor. Technology products and services (Internet, printers, software, business applications, hardware, professional services / consulting implementation, mobile applications, data warehousing, etc.) 59% Business services (advertising, marketing, consulting, legal) 30% Only 30% of buyers describe the overall process from initial encounter to the point at which they received the products / services as excellent, with the majority (52%) describing their experience as good. 49% Recruitment / HR services (training, recruitment) Risk-Sharing 66% 49% Facilities / infrastructure (office equipment, security, furnishings) are including more risk-sharing in their contracts with vendors now than two years ago. Business travel / fleet 43% 6% Other SAP SE or an SAP affiliate company. All rights reserved.
6 Informed B2B Buyers are Here to Stay Fig. 4 Channels Used to Research Products, Solutions and Vendors 75% 73% 54% 54% 42% 38% 35% 2% Web search Vendor websites Events / seminars / conferences Peer / colleague recommendations Online associations Press / analysts / influencers / publications Social media and blogs None of the above 70% 60% 42% 44% 52% 42% 71% 7% Companies using the channel today Companies using the channel 12+ months ago The information-rich, social world we now occupy has changed the buying world beyond recognition. The availability of information online has seen broader web searches (75%) and vendor websites (73%) become a more popular source of information over traditional direct approaches, such as events or conferences (54%) (see Figure 4). As the digital landscape grows and evolves, this shows no sign of slowing down. Social networking and blogs top the list of channels used more now than 12 months ago (71%), followed by web searches (70%) and vendor websites (60%). Meanwhile, a growing buyer network exists inside the organization. 60% of buyers make purchasing decisions based on employee recommendations, while 50% use social media channels to help make decisions. As such, two-thirds (66%) agree more people are involved in the buying process than two years ago. With a wealth of information at their fingertips, buyers are more informed than ever. Over two-thirds (68%) wait longer to initiate contact with vendors than they did two years ago because they are doing more research themselves. And when it comes to the actual purchase decision, 80% typically know exactly what they want before they make contact with a vendor. With so much control, it s hard to know where today s vendors fit into the equation. Indeed, 68% admit they don t need salespeople to make purchasing decisions as much as they once did, and 91% of buyers say they have higher expectations of vendors and their sales people than they did two years ago SAP SE or an SAP affiliate company. All rights reserved.
7 Informed B2B Buyers are Here to Stay (cont d) MONEY TIME CREDIBILITY At the same time, there is less slack in the system: 68% of businesses admit they have less time to deal with vendors. Furthermore, 79% say that ROI on products / services is generally under more scrutiny. Buyers themselves are becoming intolerant of inefficiency they are concerned with wasting company money (77%) and time (58%) if they get a business purchase decision wrong (see Figure 5). One in eight (13%) is even concerned about losing their job, increasing to one in four in the UK. The financial impact of a bad purchasing decision is more prevalent in both France (88%) and the Nordics (89%), although this is felt less strongly in Australia (62%). It seems buyers aren t just becoming more informed but are simultaneously more risk-averse. Two-thirds (67%) admit the sales process is taking longer, as they take their time to evaluate more alternatives. Against this backdrop, the onus is therefore on vendors to tell buyers something they don t already know and to reassure buyers that they are spending their companies time and money appropriately. Fig. 5 Risk of Getting Purchase Decisions Wrong Wasting company money Wasting my time Losing credibility internally RISKS OF MAKING WRONG DECISION BIGGEST RISK Losing my confidence in making future purchase decisions Losing my job Other SAP SE or an SAP affiliate company. All rights reserved.
8 Out with the Old, In with the New Fig. 6 Biggest Frustrations with Vendors 48% 46% 44% 43% 39% Aggressive salespeople Salespeople who lack relevant knowledge / subject matter expertise about our needs, whether we re a new prospect or existing customer Unsolicited / cold sales approaches Too much contact / overly persistent Overly scripted sales approaches, not tailored to me 38% 37% 32% 19% 2% Lack of flexibility in terms of product, service or price Salespeople not adding / providing any value to the process Contacting me via unsuitable channels We re forgotten as soon as the contract is signed None of the above As buyers become more immune and intolerant of inefficient product purchasing and services for their organizations, many vendors appear to be taking the quantity over quality route with their sales methods, rather than refining their approach. This is evidenced by the fact that business buyers now receive an average of 64 approaches by salespeople over the course of a week. In some countries, the figure is much higher, with Mexican and Indian business buyers receiving 107 and 95 communications each week, respectively. France, the Netherlands and the Nordics fare a little better, ranging from weekly calls, s, social messages or letters. But the fact: Is buyers across the globe are feeling hounded by the vendor community. While such communications are unlikely to have come from the same person, the resulting perception is that sales teams have become more intrusive. Perhaps understandably, 60% of businesses are generally less tolerant and trusting of salespeople, a figure that rises to 69% in the UK and Australia. Furthermore, sales personnel may not be helping their case if they go in too hard or without sufficient information. Aggressive salespeople (48%), salespeople lacking relevant knowledge (46%) and unsolicited approaches (44%) are the biggest frustrations with vendors (see Figure 6). As a consequence, it is not uncommon for buyers to block calls and otherwise avoid the initial advances of vendors SAP SE or an SAP affiliate company. All rights reserved.
9 Out with the Old, In with the New (cont d) Fig. 7 Most Preferred Channel When Making a Final Decision Face-to-face / meeting 54% 41% Telephone call 34% Through their website 2 3 % Social media 19% Via a mobile app 17% SMS / text message 15% None of the above 6% Other 4% Buyers vary in how they prefer to communicate with vendors throughout the purchase process. During the initial research stage, telephone dominates (used by 60% in the last 12 months), with contact through the vendor s website (49%) also popular. (48%) becomes the chosen form of communication when buyers begin shortlisting potential vendors, but it is face-to-face meetings (60%) that are the most preferred channel when making a final decision (see Figure 7). Against this backdrop of changing communication preferences and being highly informed throughout the process, 75% of buyers say they often feel like they are way ahead of a salesperson who is supposed to be helping them (a figure increasing to 81% in the UK and India). As such, a personalized, consistent and relevant service is fundamental if vendors are to flourish. Furthermore, 80% of buyers believe overly canned, vanilla sales approaches with no value or relevant engagement is off-putting to them as a customer. Decision SAP SE or an SAP affiliate company. All rights reserved.
10 Return on Excellence You Get What You Put Into It Excellent Fig. 8 Customer Experience Satisfaction Good 30% Excellent 52% Good 17% Satisfactory Satisfactory Poor 1% Poor The consequence of impersonal service measured in terms of the overall purchase experience from a customer s viewpoint makes for stark reading. Thinking about their most recent purchase experience, only 30% of buyers describe the overall process from initial encounter to the point at which they received the products / services as excellent, with the majority (52%) describing their experience as simply good (see Figure 8). This hardly reflects the current crop of customer-centric mantras coming from many companies. Vendors need to go further if they are to create the perfect experience that business buyers now demand. Just half (52%) of buyers believe their most recent purchase experience completely met their expectations. While this increases in India (60%), the US (57%) and the Netherlands (56%), the figure drops to 34% in the Nordics. The only real debate for vendors is whether current sales approaches and use of modern sales technologies, given their inadequacies, have any impact on the bottom line. Does the sales process need to be in search of excellence? The reality is that businesses stand to benefit if they shift from delivering an acceptable to an exceptional level of service by knowing what buyers want even before they do and continually delivering value that matters to the buyer. 81% of buyers who have an excellent experience say they are extremely likely to buy again from that vendor, compared to just 28% if the experience is good SAP SE or an SAP affiliate company. All rights reserved.
11 Return on Excellence You Get What You Put Into It (cont d) Fig. 9 Sharing Positive / Negative Customer Experiences Often Share Sometimes Share Rarely Share Never Share (at least 50% of the time) (25% 49% of the time) (1% 24% of the time) Sharing POSITIVE experience 52% 36% 9% 3% Sharing negative experience 35% 39% 22% 4% 88% of business buyers either often or sometimes share positive experiences about a vendor (see Figure 9). Indeed, 73% of those who have an excellent experience say they are extremely likely to recommend that vendor to others, compared to just 20% if the experience is good. Yet, while vendors stand to benefit from getting it right, they also stand to lose if they get it wrong. Three-quarters of businesses (74%) share a negative business purchase experience with their peers or colleagues. The sharing of both positive and negative experiences has an impact on the sales and marketing budget; it is so much easier (and therefore less expensive) to sell to organizations that are already warmed up and is much more difficult (and more costly) to convince someone who has been told of negative experiences. There is plenty to be lost by vendors that aim only for good and not for excellent. If this is coupled with the familiar financial overheads a figure of it costing five times greater is often cited of organizations looking to build new business compared to repeat business, the quest for excellence in the sales process makes absolute business sense SAP SE or an SAP affiliate company. All rights reserved.
12 Close the Good to Excellent Gap Nobody likes to be treated as a number rather than a person, and business buyers are no different. Indeed, 94% would like vendors to treat them more as a partner to win together in the short and long term than a single sales transaction. without intervention, a direct-touch sales relationship is needed when in situations where automated buying will not suffice. This is typically the case in high-value, high-risk purchases of strategic value to organizations where ROI is likely to be under particular scrutiny. Cornerstones of a successful buyer / vendor relationship hinge on understanding and knowledge. Specifically, understanding buyer business needs (98%), providing the most appropriate product or solution (93%) and effectively dealing with queries (91%) top the list of requirements from any vendor. Despite feeling harried by traditional sales approaches, buyers would welcome a new form of dialogue based on relevant and meaningful engagement. 88% want to feel good about purchase decisions they make based on their own due diligence and the guidance they receive from vendors. And indeed, they are more open to suggestions: 66% are including more risksharing in their contracts with vendors than they did two years ago. Although only 52% of Nordic organizations concur, this is still a significant trend. But what do they see as the prerequisites of such closer working? Fundamentally, vendor trust, experience and insight are seen as the most important factors when buying from vendors, ahead of cost (see Figure 10). That cost is not top of the list makes absolute sense, particularly when considered against the context of today s buying market. If many purchases can be researched (and even made) online Fig. 10 Prerequisites of Close Working Relationship with Vendors 1. Trust Vendor has our interests at heart / gives me the better deal and tangible value 2. Experience Personalized and relevant to me / my business needs 3. Insight Vendor understands / can meet requirements 4. Cost Lowest price SAP SE or an SAP affiliate company. All rights reserved.
13 Close the Good to Excellent Gap (cont d) Fig. 11 Most Important Purchase Channel in the Next Two Years 39% Face-to-face / meeting 24% 16% Telephone call 11% Through their website 4% Social media PURCHASE 3% Via a mobile app 2% SMS / text message 1% Other When this is the case, trust and understanding of client needs become fundamental. Despite the opportunities created by technology to empower and educate the buyer, there is no substitute for experience. Human interaction through the medium of face-to-face meetings is seen as the most important purchase channel in the next two years (39%), ahead of (24%), telephone (16%) and social media (4%) (see Figure 11). This doesn t mean there is not a role for technology indeed, 88% of businesses think it should serve to empower them to meet their business and personal goals. However, the sense is that technology should enhance and support, rather than replace, direct contact SAP SE or an SAP affiliate company. All rights reserved.
14 Close the Good to Excellent Gap (cont d) Fig. 12 Building Blocks of Trust in a Salesperson T R U S T 74% 52% 48% 44% Demonstrating high levels of knowledge about products / services Demonstrating high levels of knowledge about my organization Previous experience with the vendor / supplier Having a good personal relationship with the salesperson 39% 27% 25% 1% Demonstrating understanding of what motivates me as a individual Vendor including an element of risk sharing into the contract References from my peers / social networks Other 90% of buyers think vendors can effectively differentiate themselves by offering an exceptional customer experience based on meaningful interactions with them at every step of their buying journey. Yet this can only be achieved by having a greater understanding of the individual buyer. Demonstrating high levels of knowledge about products / services (74%) and about a buyer s organization (52%) are the most important building blocks to creating trust (see Figure 12). Indeed, 88% think vendors need to be more adaptable and respond to changes in how buyers behave a figure that increases to 95% in France and 93% in Mexico SAP SE or an SAP affiliate company. All rights reserved.
15 Close the Good to Excellent gap (cont d) Fig. 13 How Vendors can Enhance the Buyer Experience 48% 47% 46% 46% Speed up the purchase process from start to finish Provide a consistent experience regardless of the channel I choose Enable me to communicate with vendors / suppliers via the channel I choose Anticipate what products / services I might be interested in based on my previous purchase behavior 45% 34% 30% 20% Provide information on my previous purchases / preferences to create a more tailored /personalized experience Provide a more interactive and collaborative sales experience, where I can move online and offline as needed Offer a self-service environment so I can purchase without having to interact directly with sales reps Enable me to purchase products / services where and when I want in a completely moblie fashion if I choose At the same time, buyers do not want to have their own needs compromised. When asked how the purchase experience could be enhanced, the main areas where vendors can focus more attention in their quest for excellence are in speed of purchase (48%), followed by consistency of experience (47%) and ease of communications (46%) (see Figure 13). In essence, buyers cannot afford to become inefficient in order to help vendors deliver excellence; the impetus has to come from the selling community SAP SE or an SAP affiliate company. All rights reserved.
16 Conclusion Increasingly informed, yet pressured buyers can no longer afford to indulge in old-fashioned, lowest-common-denominator approaches from under-prepared, overenthusiastic salespeople. With a wealth of online information at their disposal, buyers have the necessary resources available to them to research vendors and solutions. If salespeople cannot add anything valuable to what buyers already know, deliver unparalleled customer experience, and be trusted advisors, they will soon find themselves left out in the cold. B2B and B2C vendors may not want to change and may even see doing so as an imposition. However, the fact is that companies stand to lose future sales if they continue to engage their buyers in ways that no longer make sense and are, ultimately, counterproductive to their own goals. New benchmarks to sales success, according to 1,200 global companies, are about: Personalization Trust Experience Insight Businesses must provide more As with all solid relationships, a Vendors must look to enhance the Businesses are switching off to the relevant and appropriate content that successful partnership is built customer experience, focusing on a carbon copy sales process and demonstrates a full understanding on the solid foundation of trust, process speed, service consistency instead expect bespoke, actionable of customer needs while predicting transparency and integrity. and seamlessness across channels. and insightful solutions to their their future needs. business problems SAP SE or an SAP affiliate company. All rights reserved.
17 About SAP SE SAP is at the center of today s technology revolution, developing innovations that not only help businesses run like never before, but also improve the lives of people everywhere. As the market leader in enterprise applicationsoftware, we help companies of all sizes and industries run better. From back office to boardroom, warehouse to storefront, desktop to mobile device SAP empowers people and organizations to work together more efficiently and use business insight more effectively to stay ahead of the competition. SAP applications and services enable more than 253,500 customers to operate profitably, adapt continuously and grow sustainably SAP SE. All rights reserved. SAP and other SAP products and services. Mentioned herein as well as their respective. Logos are trademarks or registered trademarks of SAP SE in Germany and other countries. Please see for additional trademark information and notices. Learn more at Learn more about SAP solutions for sales at SAP SE or an SAP affiliate company. All rights reserved.
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