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Study Finds 60% of B2B Buyers Question the Integrity of Sales Representatives

The study also reveals how busy executives prefer to interact with sales using technology and virtual communications at any point during the buyer journey

According to research findings released by ValueSelling Associates, Inc., a leading sales training company, 60% of business-to-business (B2B) buyers distrust the integrity of salespeople and only 34% of buyers strongly agree that their point-of-contact sales rep is helpful throughout the buying process. The sponsored research report, “Sales from the Buyer’s Perspective,” sheds insight on how buyers really feel about their vendor sales relationships.

Julie Thomas
Julie Thomas

“This survey is a reality check for sales teams that assume their current skills are good enough to compete for larger, long-term contracts. Expectations are shifting, and sales professionals need to become more adept and agile, so they can effectively engage when a buyer is ready,” said Julie Thomas, CEO, and President of ValueSelling Associates.

Julie added, “Sales team members must be armed with industry-relevant knowledge and master the communications skills now required in an increasingly technology-enabled sales environment.”

ValueSelling Associates, Inc. and Training Industry, Inc. surveyed online 260 U.S. managers and executives in a wide variety of industries to examine B2B sales transactions from buyers’ perspectives, including their perceptions of salespeople and the quality of buyer-vendor relationships.

Key study findings include:

  • Complex B2B sales have become a team selling activity. Although a buyer often has a point-of-contact sales representative from a vendor company, a buyer’s impression of the vendor is shaped by multiple touchpoints with employees across the vendor company. The top five roles that buyers have high interactions with are:
    • Subject matter experts (68%)
    • Account executives/manager (67%)
    • Outside sales (64%)
    • Inside sales (63%)
    • Coordinators who show demos (62%)
  • Buyers prefer to be contacted by sales via technology. Only 1 of 4 buyers rated salespeople as “always effective” at communicating via virtual means, demonstrating a specific need for salespeople to develop stronger technology-related skills. Buyers prefer sales to contact them through informal channels:
    • Email (81%)
    • Phone/VOIP (63%)
    • Text messaging (38%)
    • Social media (35%)
    • In-person meetings (27%)
    • Industry/networking events (23%)
  • Buyers value communication skills that govern modern business. Less than one-third of buyers rated salespeople as “always effective” in their ability to navigate common virtual communication and presentation technologies:
    • PowerPoint proficiency (28%)
    • Use of screen-sharing/video conferencing (25%)
    • Formal written communication quality such as proposals and contracts (25%
    • Informally written communication quality such as email and social media (26%)
  • The business acumen of the sales function is lacking. Less than one-third of buyers deal with salespeople who are consistently well-informed about the following content areas:
    • 75% of buyers say sales reps do not demonstrate knowledge of their industry structure
    • 74% of buyers believe salespeople don’t demonstrate financial literacy
    • 73% of buyers say salespeople are not able to translate business data into insights
    • 72% of buyers report salespeople do not demonstrate an understanding of core business roles and key organizational stakeholders
  • Sales need to foster skills to better engage buyers. Sales are not consistently effective at engaging with the leaders of buyer companies.
    • Only 1 of 4 sales reps are effective at engaging with influencers within the buyer company
    • Only 37% of buyers say sales reps provide unique industry insights
    • Just 34% of buyers see vendors as “always effective” in sales conversations with executives

The study also shows that overall buyers have a generally positive experience with vendors’ sales representatives. Business leaders tend to look for providers who offer multiple solutions, rather than niche products and want long-term vendor relationships – even if salespeople need to step up to earn these buyers’ trust.