Today's buyers are influenced by a wide variety of sources, far beyond the conventional analyst and press community. They look from recommendations from trusted advisors, who can include formal and informal networks, business connections, existing vendors and many other sources - collectively referred to as the BuyerSphere.
Prospects are building these connections, following these pathways of influence and forming opinions long before they decide to take action on an issue, with significant consequences for the “sales process”. By the time they make direct sales contact with a potential new vendor, the balance of information power is clearly in the hands of the prospect.
Even the timing of this contact is increasingly in the hands of the prospect - a recent study concluded that in more than 80% of cases involving major business purchases, the prospect initiated first contact with the vendor, rather than the other way around.
Faced with today’s realities, what is an enlightened vendor to do? Attempts to push messages harder through conventional marketing tactics are proving to be increasingly ineffective, as evidenced by plummeting email open rates, declining exhibition attendance, and low direct marketing response rates.
The BuyerSphere is clearly having an increasingly powerful influence on when, how and why prospects go about searching for solutions, and who they choose to consider. Vendors clearly need to make a systematic attempt to map and navigate the BuyerSphere that surrounds their most promising prospects.
The first place to start is with recent past prospects - but unlike conventional win-loss reports, which tend to focus on the sales process, the most illuminating answers come from exploring what triggered the search for a solution in the first place and the people and institutions they chose to turn to for advice.
Vendors are invariably surprised to discover the routes by which some of their best prospects have come to them. Even a relatively inexpensive qualitative research project can quickly generate invaluable enlightenment - and the process can and should turn into a habit of continually building connections with the key players in the BuyerSphere.