Survey: 70% of B2B Buyers Still Want to Talk to Live Sales Reps


I wrote yesterday about Adam Blake’s presentation at the Tech Adoption Summit, where argued that traditional inside sales no longer works and that companies should adopt a product-qualified lead approach to the SMB market. Underpinning his argument was data showing the cost of customer acquisition has been steadily rising.

Many companies over the last decade have shed sales reps, especially “feet on the street” in favor of a cheaper inside sales approach. And lots of companies are seeking channel partners to effectively outsource their sales effort.

However, another survey from sales automation platform, Showpad, has some interesting things to say about B2B buying patterns and the role of live reps (doesn’t discuss inside vs. outside). The findings are from a survey of “656 B2B buyers based in the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany who made a B2B purchase in the past 12 months.” There’s no discussion of business size, industry segments or revenues.

However the report found the following:

  • 64% of B2B buyers conduct research on vendor websites before they contact a sales rep.
  • 59% consult review sites (e.g., G2Crowd)
  • 49% have conversations with peers

And for deals worth more than 100,000, video plays an important role in the buying decision. Insufficient information was a major friction point slowing or preventing a buying decision.

Showpad B2B

Paradoxically, B2B buyers also said they were often overwhelmed by information: “86% of buyers get overwhelmed anytime there is more than 10 pieces of content to read and 42% are overwhelmed when there are more than five pieces of content.”

Most B2B buyers in the survey also expressed a desire to talk to a human sales rep at some point the process and even preferred information from live reps to information captured from online research. Indeed, the study found that 70% of buyers still wanted to interact with sales reps:

Only 30% of buyers prefer to gather information on their own, meaning the majority of buyers find value in interacting with sales reps. Specifically, 38% of buyers find interacting with sales reps superior to gather information on their own and about a third of respondents (32%) preferred a combination of sales rep interaction and their own research.

The majority US respondents said, “they were most likely to contact a sales rep when they needed more information.”

LSA’s recent report, Meet the New Small Business SaaS Customer, finds some aversion to dealing with sales reps among SMBs, with 37% saying they preferred not to deal with sales reps. Conversely, 63% percent were open to live sales interaction.

Mono SMB SaaS customer

The following were the top five qualities of a sales rep from the Showpad study:

  • Helpful & informative
  • Knowledgeable about industry
  • Ability to prove cost savings
  • Exceeds customer support expectations
  • Professional

During the SMB panel at the Tech Adoption Summit, the business owners complained that the sales reps they encountered lacked knowledge about their businesses and industries.

I suppose the conclusion here is that marketers must meet buyers on their own terms in an increasingly convoluted sales process. However, well-informed and helpful humans would still appear to be a critical part of the process for a majority of buyers.

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