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Buyer First Sounds Good, But Is it Really Happening?

By Tom Pisello | August 5, 2021

LinkedIn has been successfully promoting the concept of Buyer First, a selling method which considers the buyer’s individual condition, especially the economic, emotional, and other challenges faced through this crisis, and helps the buyer solve key issues and challenges through the engagement process.

With Buyer First, sales reps are better listeners, sharers of relevant information, problem solvers versus product pitchers, delivering value and earning trust as a result. As opposed to being a traditional seller, think of the Buyer First sales rep more like a Sherpa, Facilitator and Concierge, and you get the picture.

There aren’t too many who would disagree …. Putting the buyer first, well that just makes sense. Who wouldn’t?

In fact, 60% of LinkedIn interviewed sellers said they “always” put the buyer first. And moreover, 67% of top performers, (sellers who met quota by 125% or higher) are more likely to say they always put the buyer first.

That’s the good news. Sellers totally agree with a Buyer First mentality. However, all the news wasn’t good.

When LinkedIn asked buyers how often they think sellers placed them first, a meager 24% of buyers agreed that sellers “always” put the buyer first. That’s a 60% engagement gap people!

When it comes to Buyer First, both buyers and sellers were surveyed as to what behaviors were most important, and between the two groups there was great alignment on these six defining Buyer First characteristics:

1. Being completely transparent about pricing – no one wants to overpay, or be surprised by hidden fees or costly options and add-ons
2. Staying actively engaged after the sale to ensure value delivery – no one wants to be sold to and then left to others to deliver, or not
3. Offering product tests, training, and trials – assuring that the solution will meet needs in an open “try before you buy” environment
4. Providing free and easy access to product reviews and other content – freely sharing important content to help assure that the decision and solution are best fit and low risk.
5. Sharing thought leadership about industry trends – sharing unique insights and new ideas to help the buyer gain a competitive edge and stay ahead of the curve
6. Aligning with the buyer’s success metrics related to the purchase – assuring that the solution delivers the right outcomes and business value impacts.

Unfortunately, across these six defining behaviors, buyers indicated a distinct seller shortfall, highlighting three distinct Buyer First engagement gaps:

1. Transparent Pricing – As one of the most important decision criteria, sellers are not being perceived as being transparent with pricing, with less than 1 in 3 successful in this dimension. Today’s buyer is risk averse and overloaded with uncertainty, making it essential to be extremely forthcoming on pricing, keeping pricing proposals straightforward and as simple as possible (to avoid overload), and assuring there are no hidden “gotchas” to trip up the buyer later.

Our Advice: To deliver more transparent pricing, arm your sellers with solution configurators and pricing tools, to guide seller solution recommendations and configure the right solution. The configurator and pricing tools can assure that all components are identified and included, and price out the solution in shareable form to achieve price transparency.

2. Content Sharing – Content is the fuel of digital decision making, especially in today’s decision-by-committee environment. Your content will do the speaking for you long after you leave the room, with decision makers you may never meet. Buyers say that only 29% of sellers are sharing the thought leadership about industry trends needed to inspire new ideas, and only 1 in 3 sellers are consistently sharing the product reviews and other content needed to facilitate the decision.

Our Advice: To assure better content sharing, sellers can leverage a sales enablement platform to create “buying hubs” for each opportunity. The “buying hub” portal portal can be shared with virtual meetings recordings, content shown in each meeting, proposals, success stories and additional deal support and facilitation content. With the buying hub leveraged by the decision makers, all important content is in one location for the buying committee to review and share, while your sellers and team get full visibility into what content the buying committee are viewing and sharing.

3. Value Alignment – Your buyer organization’s financial leaders and executives are more involved in decision making and more risk averse and frugal than ever before. Financial justification is absolutely required: early to prioritize the consideration, and later for committee consensus building and approval. Making sure the business outcomes from proposed solutions are understood, quantified, and aligned is key to achieving “Yes”, however, only 29% of sellers deliver.

Our Advice: To help overcome the value alignment shortfall you can:

a. Arm sellers with the right value messaging and storytelling, to guide discussions around challenges, the cost of “do nothing”, and the savings / business value of addressing the issues with your solutions

b. Empower sellers with value assessment tools, helping to discover opportunities, quantify potential savings and business value improvements, and deliver CFO-credible financial justification business case reports.

The Bottom-Line

When it comes to B2B selling success, putting the Buyer First makes sense, and most sales reps say they do indeed aspire to out the buyer first in every engagement. Unfortunately, most buyers disagree, and “if you’re not first, your last”.

To bridge this Buyer First engagement gap, it is important for sellers to exceed buyer expectations about putting them first. This means sellers enabled to overcome perceived extreme gaps in transparent pricing, content sharing and value alignment. To accomplish this, you can leverage sales, content and value enablement to help guide, elevate and deliver Buyer First conversations and engagements.

A few companies have implemented new sales, content and value enablement practices to help overcome these Buyer First engagement challenges, and you can check out what they had to say about it here:

Source: LinkedIn State of Sales Global Report – 2021 –

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