Are your customers buying differently?

You bet.

By Michael Leimbach, PhD

New technology is changing the buying process. In the past, customers had little information about providers available to them and it was difficult to make direct product comparisons. Today, customers have multiple resources with which to identify, screen, and select vendors without contacting them and often reject sellers before the seller even knows they have been screened out. In fact, an American Marketing Association report indicates that 80% of customers find sellers before sellers find the customer. This is a significant change in how buyers buy and requires an equally significant change in how sellers sell.

In the past the sales process was the driver of the interaction between the customer and the seller. Salespeople prospected for new customers, led the identification of needs and requirements, proposed solutions, and “closed” the sale. Today, it is the buyers who are in charge of the sales process and they do not follow a linear process:

  • They gather information independently on available solutions and options.
  • Based on this initial scan, they define their basic requirements and often vet providers through their social networks.
  •  They screen potential providers, often without the providers’ knowledge, and then further refine their requirements.
  •  They use decision teams rather than a single decision maker so they can maximize the amount of information they extract from each potential provider and understand the impact on various functions.
  •  Only then does the formal purchasing process begin, and it often involves additional stakeholders such as procurement, executive buy-in, etc.

How does a sales force differentiate itself in an environment like this? Successful ones adapt their sales process to the buyer’s buying process and align with how the customer wants to buy.


Michael Leimbach, PhD

Michael Leimbach, PhD, is a globally recognized expert in instructional design and leadership development. As Vice President of Global Research and Development for Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc., he has worked with numerous Global 1000 organizations in Australia, England, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and throughout the United States. Over more than 30 years, Dr. Leimbach had developed Wilson Learning’s diagnostic, learning, and performance improvement capabilities, published over 100 professional articles, coauthored four books, been Editor-in-Chief for the highly acclaimed ADHR research journal, and is a frequent speaker at national and global conferences. He also serves on the ISO Technical Committee (TC232) on Quality Standards for Learning Service Providers and on the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development Dean’s Advisory Board.