Evolving Customer Expectations - 2017 Year in Review

The job of a salesperson is becoming more demanding—and customers are demanding more. These expectations point to the need for training and development programs that promote sales effectiveness, not only from the employer’s point of view, but from the customers.


Here are the buyer expectations we found based on discussions and interviews with 40 top performing salespeople in our customer organizations.


Buyer Expectation #1: “Co-Own My Results”


  • Buyers are expected to make correct purchasing decisions want salespeople who work as partners to help them achieve business results. They are now demanding higher salesperson acumen. They want sellers to understand their business, objective interpretation of their needs, and a more clear translation into implementation actions.

  • Due to evolution of buyer expectations, the knowledge, skills, and attitudes required by successful sales professionals are changing. Whereas, in earlier times, salespeople were valued primarily for their persuasiveness and persistence, their abilities now must tend toward strategic thinking, problem solving, active listening, and so forth.Salespeople are under increased pressure to attain not only the goals of the selling organization, but the goals of the buying organization as well..

  • Increasingly, they must accept responsibility for ensuring success on both sides of the transaction. When we dig into existing sales training, gaps exist in content and delivery. This presents a challenge, as salespeople need to become better problem-solvers rather than pushers of off-the-shelf solutions.

Buyer Expectation #2: “Understand Our Business Better”

  • Salespeople are expected to continue to shift from transaction-based selling to relationship selling, adopting a true partnership mentality. More firms are striving to become trusted advisers to their customers.

  • Salespeople must develop deeper relationships and a personal network within customer companies, while also developing networks and expertise within their specific industry. Salespeople need to probe for problems, needs, and opportunities that are top-of-mind for the buyer”

  • As a result, salespeople should recognize that their products, typically seen as an area of differentiation, may be viewed as commodities by buyers. Key to true differentiation is demonstrating how the product will solve the buyer’s business problems.

Buyer Expectation #3: “Be A Better Team”

  • Historically, the roles of the salesperson and sales manager have focused on monthly or quarterly targets and results. Many sales professionals are forced into a commodity-selling environment that is transactional rather than strategic or consultative.

  • However, in today’s competitive landscape, sales professionals are expected (by their buyers) to focus on maintaining professionalism with buyers who may not have the same time frame in mind or who may have strong negotiating skills.

  • The salesperson must stay focused on delivering value to the buyer based on the buyer’s goals and objectives, and can feel challenged by the need to balance revenue implications with ethical considerations while under pressure to meet short-term goals.

Buyer Expectation #4: “Listen More, Talk Less”

  • To help buyers solve their business problems, salespeople are expected to have a strong understanding of the buyer’s business, industry, customers, competitors, and products. Such skills as listening, analyzing, problem solving, and questioning have overtaken product knowledge in importance for the successful salesperson.

  • These skills are key to a salesperson’s ability to help buyers navigate the complexity of the solution and the volume of available information. While communication skills are essential to success in any occupation, listening skills can help sellers identify root problems and hidden obstacles that could affect the buyer’s business success. Listening also requires skill in building rapport, patience, and timing in order to build the foundation for a trusting relationship.

  • As a result, listening provides the foundation for learning about problems and supplying relevant solutions.

Buyer Expectation #5: “Have More Impact”

  • Traditionally, sales organizations have focused on volume of individual activity—number of calls made, number of presentations given—as an indicator of productivity. Compensation was determined by meeting or exceeding sales quotas.

  • Now, firms are instituting new metrics, such as the profitability and customer satisfaction. Further, the relevance of a salesperson’s activities can be scored and measured in addition to, or instead of, their frequency.

  • These more sophisticated measures are surfacing as organizations attempt to shift or replace direct selling with lower-cost sales channels, such as telemarketing, direct mail, or email marketing. Plus, organizations must ensure that their sales team stays focused on the most appropriate use of time.

CALL TO ACTION: It's Time to Align Training Needs to Buyer Behaviors

Now might be a good time to take a step back to re-evaluate tje approach to this year. Here are some talking points to consider with sales leaders, sales managers, and sales trainers in the organization:

  1. What’s our enablement approach this year? Will our organization a) hire for an already developed competency, b) develop competency internally, c) manage the gaps through outsourcing, or d) blend all three approaches?

  2. How do we feel about talent overall, especially with regard to these buyer expectations?

  3. What baseline measures are we going to ask every sales team member to improve?

  4. How does that translate into 2-3 behaviors they need to focus on?

  5. How will managers be expected to coach and develop their people?

  6. Will they be goaled on that as well?

  7. What are our targets for closing the gap between current competencies and skills of our salespeople and those skills needed to hit quota this year?

  8. How do we more quickly develop skills this year?

  9. How do we make of required resources and time, and how you will measure the effectiveness of our training and development initiatives?

  10. What are our internal communications and change management plans that will accompany our action plan to address any skills gaps?

  11. How will we ensure we include sales managers at critical points in our approach? What’s their role?

About Growth Matters Growth Matters is a international business founded in 2011. This consulting and services organization is focused on the development and practice of sales management and sales enablement, our team of world-renowned experts spans the globe enabling businesses to improve sales conversations through services and solutions aligned to sales strategy. Our Americas operation is headquartered in Charlotte, NC (USA). With dedicated offices in South Africa (EMEA), and Sydney (APAC), we regularly facilitate senior-level workshops in 17+ cities in countries. For more information on equipping sales managers, and aligning to sales leadership, contact the Growth Matters team at http://www.growthmatters.today


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