Thursday, June 11, 2015

What do Myth Busters, B2B Sales Reps and Real Estate Agents Have in Common?

Shy the pyrotechnics and crazy stunts, but still to the delight of the 2,000+ on hand, SiriusDecisions played the role of “Myth Busters” at their latest Summit in Nashville.

Analysts Marisa Kopec and Jennifer Ross retold the “tall tales” of Gartner, Forrester and CEB, about the Death of a Salesman. The myths? That B2B buyers were thought to be anywhere from 57% to 85% complete in their decision making process before contacting sales. That much of the buying will not need sales reps anymore, and that over 1 million B2B salespeople would go the way of the dodo.

So will 1 in 5 reps really be looking for a new career over the next 5 years?

SiriusDecisions pointed to comprehensive research of over 1,000 sales and marketing leaders, clearly indicating that these findings were just not true.

In discussions with the analysts, I suggested looking at B2C world, which has been ahead of B2B on its leverage of online resources and ecommerce, for evidence of how the B2B sales reps. Indeed, several commodity sales reps’ careers were completely rocked by the explosion of on-line resources, apps and ecommerce. Amazon continues to contribute heavily to the death of retail sales. Expedia and Orbitz have definitely had an impact on the general travel agent (although specialty travel consultants are thriving).

But these impacts are not similar to most B2B sales. Perhaps we could look at a more complex sale, that of real estate. Many predicted the demise of the real estate agent 15 years ago, but the evidence shows that these reps are still going strong despite a much more empowered customer.

Back in the day, the real estate agent held all the cards. Information and pricing about available properties and comparable was kept close to their vest, and obfuscated by cryptic MLS listings.

Today, there truly has been a revolution, enabling both buyers and sellers with a wealth of information and resources. As a buyer, you can use Zillow, Trulia , and other resources to learn more than ever before about available properties, pricing, value estimates and more. As a seller, you can research comparable properties, and even list your house for sale with little effort or stress. In fact so many tools are available that many ask, why use a real estate agent, and why do agents even still exist?

Despite these advances, not only does the real estate agent exist, but they appear to be more engaged than ever, with 89 percent of buyers retaining an agent, up from 69 percent in 2001. It's the same on the seller side, where only 9 percent sold a home without an agent, down from a high of 20 percent in 1987. 

So why are real estate agents still relevant?
  • A significant purchase decision – Your home represents one of the most significant investments you can make. There is high risk if you make the wrong decision (wrong schools, hidden costs or overpay), sell to early / late (as we learned during the bubble), and high reward if you get it right (great capital gains, no worries and awesome lifestyle). Agents are much better today at explaining the risk adjusted ROI, helping to ease the emotional strain and providing financial justification.
  • Unique insights – Agents today are much better at knowing the market, especially culling information that is not publicly or easily available. The most successful use these unique insights to teach the buyer, guide the decision making process and provide an edge (eg. Segmented pricing analyses, pocket listings)
  • Diagnostic advice – almost like a doctor, today’s better agents are assessing buyer / seller needs: asking the right questions to guide the buy or sell decision making process and generate better outcomes.
  • Consensus required – Most real estate transactions involve multiple decision makers on both the buy and sell side. Perhaps the most important role of the agent today is working with couples to gain consensus – easier said than done with so much money and emotion at play. The agent has to get couples on either side of the table on the same page, and then gain agreement quickly between buyers and sellers are the most successful.
  • Complex buying process – there are many steps to manage in the listing, search and purchase process. The agent helps shepherd the stakeholders through each step to make sure they are prepared and the transaction goes smoothly through each step of the process.

Clearly, the transactional agents of the 80s are not the agents of today.  Today’s best agents are more diagnostic, more consultative, and despite a plethora of online information, have found a way to leverage these tools to productivity, while at the same time uniquely valuable through the purchase journey.

So did SiriusDecisions find similarities in regards to B2B reps? Indeed, the predicted demise of the B2B sales rep like the real estate agent has been greatly exaggerated. However, like tagents evolved, there are several similarities and significant changes on the horizon that you need to be prepared for:
  • Facilitating a complex journey - The buyer’s journey has become so non-linear and complex that it cannot be generalized, and is hard to guide with just on-line content and tools. It's a highly personalized experience, unique to each company and stakeholder, and requires careful and skilled facilitation.
  • Frugalnomics - Buyers are indeed more empowered, but they are also more skeptical and frugal, more risk averse and require more proof points to get to “Yes” (Frugalnomics). And although buyers are doing more online research and they are more knowledgeable, the #1 piece of content requested by buyers today is still a sales presentation, according to SiriusDecisions. And rising in importance, an economic focus on ROI and the business case.
  • Consensus - With more stakeholders involved in each purchase decision, some 43% more than just 2 years ago, each deal becomes an exercise in consensus building amongst all the stakeholders. 
So what are you doing to help #SavetheB2BSalesRep?

Join us on July 23rd to learn more in our live SiriusDecisions Interview: Death of the B2B Sales Rep? with Jim Ninivaggi, SiriusDecisions’ Practice Director for Sales Enablement. We’ll discuss this new research and discuss the impacts / what to do at length.

Click here for more information about this event:

Learn more about what to do: The Frugalnomics Survival Guide - How to Use Your Unique Value to Market Better, Stand Out and Sell More -


Why do real estate agents still exist? -

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