Sales | 11 minutes Read

Buyers don't trust salespeople

We stand by our claim: B2B sales is broken. A recent HBR study with hundreds of technology buyers found that only 18% of salespeople are trusted during the sales process.

Why don’t buyers trust salespeople? We believe there are three reasons:

  1. Historical Perception
  2. Misaligned Incentives
  3. Abuse of Technology

Reason 1: Historical Perception

“Drives like a friggin’ Lambo! Last one on the lot!”

In your head, take a moment to imagine a salesperson. What comes to mind? Do you think of someone who is courteous, knowledgeable, and trustworthy? Someone with your best interests in mind? Or instead, do you conjure someone sleazy, aggressive, and pushy? Someone who is trying to swindle you. While perhaps unfair, it is clear that most buyers envision the latter.

Most professionals and departments are celebrated and revered at technology companies. (See: Engineers, Product leaders, and of course, the mythical Designer) Sales is the outlier. After speaking to thousands of salespeople over the past year, we found that most sellers are worried to even be called a “salesperson.” Which may explain why you see these frilly titles on LinkedIn that try to distance sellers from the word “sales”.

Perhaps this all has to do with the archetypal used car salesman, bamboozling an innocent old lady into overpaying for a lemon that will break down. Perhaps it’s even older than that, as expressions such as snake-oil salesman permeate throughout our society. As it stands, salespeople have had a bad rap for ages and it’s going to take some work to change that.

Reason 2: Misaligned Incentives

It’s 2017. Should salespeople “always be closing” still?

Short-term compensation structures (i.e. quotas) are a huge part of the problem of why buyers don’t trust salespeople.

Compensated on monthly/quarterly revenue goals - a self-serving timeline - and encouraged to "Always Be Closing," salespeople’s incentives are completely misaligned with their buyers. A buyer’s sole concern is making the right decision on the product that will best solve their company’s need. That means signing on the dotted line at the end of the quarter is not on the priority list.

Why don’t salespeople stay in touch after the deal’s closed? One word: specialization. Most SaaS companies split the responsibility of a selling a product vs. managing clients post-sale. This creates a world in which a salesperson is compensated based just on closing the deal, even with a customer who might not be happy with the product. Long-term success ends up being a nice byproduct, instead of a must-have, for sellers who pass their clients off to Customer Success while moving on to closing the next deal.

Imagine if a salesperson was compensated solely based on how happy the customer was with the product, 6 months after signing the agreement.

A critical step in overcoming these negative perceptions is to improve the processes. A better compensation scheme would bring buyers and sellers to the same side of the table by aligning incentives to focus on customer satisfaction versus the signature of the contract.

Reason 3: Abuse of TechnologyWouldn’t it be nice if this was the type of Spam that salespeople sent?

Sales automation has swept B2B sales and is making salespeople more efficient than ever. But is it making them more effective? If we agree that trust is critical to closing a deal, how do impersonal emails and blind dialer tools build trust?

Buyers are all too aware now of the tactics used to faux-personalize emails. If a buyer smells something fake, they may lose trust in you and your company. On the flip side, according to a study from Influitiveword-of-mouth recommendations from peers influence over 90% of all B2B buying decisions. People trust people. So even with technology meant to scale companies and reduce CPAs, the real way business gets done is still human connections.

According to an Accenture study, 94% of B2B buyers conduct online research during the buying process. With platforms like G2Crowd, TrustRadius and others allowing in depth, side by side comparisons of products, buyers no longer need a salesperson for basic product information. So when they get in a room with a salesperson, the last thing they want is a scripted pitch filled with buzzwords and glossy mock demos. They want authenticity. Buyers want to know how the product can help solve their specific business problems. They need to know they can trust this salesperson (and by proxy, this vendor) to be a partner for long-term success.

Establishing trust and credibility in sales has always been a problem, but now more than ever, it is imperative that salespeople market their trustworthiness as much or more than their product or service.

Time to build a customer-centric sales process

It’s clear that things need to change, fast. Distrusted salespeople armed with email spam cannons are cold calling their way into becoming obsolete. Why? Buyers don’t want to be sold to in this manner.

Buyers want consultation and information on new technologies from trusted advisors. They want access to white papers and research without filling out lead forms or being pestered by chatbots.

Picture a world that is powered by warm intros, referrals, and mutual connections. Where buyers meet with sellers who come endorsed and recommended by their peers. A world with no cold calls or cold emails. People doing business with people they trust.

That’s what we are building here at Bravado