Spend more than a few minutes at a B2B marketing event and someone will bring up the statistic that 69% of the buyer journey happens before the sales person is even contacted.
To those of a critical (or cynical) frame of mind, 69% seems like an untruthfully precise number, ie 'a lie', so I prefer the example in the image below: in 1994 (the year before the Internet became mainstream) if you wanted to buy a complex product that you didn't fully understand, your best bet was to use the Yellow Pages to find a salesperson who you could call up and talk to.
Famously, Acorn computers (once the forefront of a world-leading UK computer market with the BBC Micro amongst others) was so named because Acorn came before Apple in the Yellow Pages. Now, of course, if you wanted to buy a complex product you would go on-line and research the issue. Sales people are called in later and later to the party.
In the case of a product, this is fairly straight-forward but for services it is not - very often it is understanding the problem that is most difficult. If you can engage with your clients at this point then you can define the problem, and consequently the solution. And as the research shows, the firms which do this will win more business, at a greater velocity with an surge in deal size as well. Compelling stuff!
The best response is to embrace the new environment. Sellers who are ready to meet customers at different points on their journeys will exploit digital tools more fully, allocate sales and marketing resources more successfully, and stimulate collaboration between these two functions, thereby helping to win over reluctant buyers. Our experience with upward of 100 B2B sales organizations suggests that while the change required is significant, so are the benefits: an up to 20 percent increase in customer leads, 10 percent growth in first-time customers, and a speedup of as much as 20 percent in the time that elapses between qualifying a lead and closing a deal.