Dissertation: B2B customers' buying has changed – sales organisations should develop ...

Uutisen oletuskuva
Are salespeople irritating you by calling enthusiastically and suggesting meeting even though you just last week said that the topic is not actual at the moment? If the business to business (B2B) seller is pushing too much – it might be that also the forthcoming future sale will fail.
– If the customers are not treated as their personality type would need, it might destroy even the chances to get deals with the seller or with his or her company, says M. Sc. Pia Hautamäki from the University of Vaasa.
"Yritysmyyjien kanssa ei harjoitella tarpeeksi asiakkaan odotusten täyttämistä ennen varsinaista kohtaamista saatikka että harjoiteltaisiin kohtaamaan asiakas digiympäristöissä", sanoo Pia Hautamäki.

Hautamäki's doctoral dissertation focuses on buying and selling between companies and how the expectations of the customers should to be satisfied in B2B interactions.

The problem is that there is a gap in the understanding what really forms value experience to the B2B customers. If the training available in sales organisations still focus on increasing the seller’s product knowledge or just to get the deals closed, it may be that even the whole investment on training is a waste of time.

– Interaction skills create value to the customers, but they have not been developed enough and often the development of interactional skills is postponed for a better moment. Hautamäki says that it is not a good decision to wait for a better moment.

Change in buyers' buying behavior challenges salespeople

This new and challenging situation for the B2B sales companies can be seen both globally and in Finland.

There is a new phase in B2B buying, because often the customer is the first one who takes the contact for example by leaving a signal of his or her buying interest via the sales organisation’s webpage. If the sales organisation’s salespeople are not replying to customers in an appropriate time and so that the personal needs of a B2B customer will be satisfied, it might affect to seller’s opportunity to proceed into a meeting with this initial customer.

According Hautamäki’s study, the sales organisations and their managers have not yet noticed that the buying behavior has changed, and that is why sales departments still concentrate only on achieving their weekly target of meetings.

– Salespeople do not get coaching for sales interactions. They do not train to satisfy their customers’ expectations, neither before the meetings nor in the digital channels.

”B2B customers want to have experiences of value already before the meetings”

Hautamäki noticed in her dissertation that sellers meet their customers without proper preparations, just spontaneously. It is important to remark that a big amount of B2B decision makers are persons who prefer systematic and controlled way of working. They look for well managed buying processes and for example really good preparations already far before the exact meeting.

This is seen from the buyers’ point of view, that for example the sales organisations do not answer systematically to the offers left via internet. Even if they have promised to get back in a certain time, it might be that the B2B customer does not get any answer. In buying organisations there are several decision makers who just would like the sellers to proceed systematically and the way preferred. If an extraverted and spontaneous seller calls by phone to a judging person and suggest a very different way to proceed than agreed, it might make the customer to feel irritated and in the worst scenario even hinder the buying process.

However, Hautamäki reminds that especially on B2B customers side, there are several decision makers with whom it would be really important to arrange a brief encounter or a virtual meeting where both parties could already beforehand tell about their expectations and needs towards forthcoming meeting.

With the help of a psychological indicator

Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which is based on the theories of Jung, explains personal differences with four different dichotomies. Earlier mentioned extraversion/introversion is one of these preferences. MBTI defines different personalities to a 16 different type. The studies by Hautamäki concentrated on to 51 B2B sellers and to 38 B2B buyers and both were profiled by MBTI and additionally all the informants were interviewed.

Hautamäki focused in her dissertation on buyers’ and sellers’ expectations as a part of value creation. The results are clear by her opinion.

– If B2B customers are not managed both before the meeting and during the meetings as their personality types prefers, it is challenging to succeed to form value experiences with business customers, says Hautamäki.

She recommends to manage both the salespeople and B2B customers with the individual consideration in terms of MBTI and additionally by utilizing the theory of transformational leadership. With the help of transformational leadership sellers are able to initiate long-term partnerships for example so that together with the customer the common vision is set up in interactions between buyer and seller and the both parties have a clear understanding how to cooperate in the near future and also in the long term. Moreover, with the help of transformational leadership and MBTI the sales leaders have the possibility to train their seller to meet their customers on an individual level.

B2B selling should be taught in universities

Hautamäki says that there are unfortunately many misunderstandings around the work of a B2B seller. Often it is thought that seller's job is to bring product knowledge to the interactions and to B2B customers, although all the information is in Internet today. Hautamäki found also in her studies that sellers’ and buyers’ expectations towards interactions differ from each other and there is a huge gap between buyers' and sellers' expectations in what should happen in the meetings.

Hautamäki believes that if there would be more sales courses and sales degree programs in the universities in Finland, it would affect positively to the growth of SMEs. Unfortunately the sales work is highly under-appreciated in Finland and in Europe.

– I hope that the universities would take B2B selling in their curriculums, so that the appreciation and the understanding of sales work would increase. It is especially important to teach to students interactional skills which create value to both sellers and customers and gain competitive advantage to both parties beyond the cooperation, says Hautamäki.

Pia Hautamäki ulkona.jpg

Pia Hautamäki

Further information

Pia Hautamäki, tel +358 40 4156827, pia.hautamaki(at)tamk.fi

Pia Hautamäki (2016) Leading with Individual Consideration – Forming Value with Customers in Business Interactions. Acta Wasaensia 365. University of Vaasa.

Publication pdf


Public defense

The public examination of M.Sc. Pia Hautamäki´s doctoral dissertation in the field of Management and organization ” Leading with Individual Consideration – Forming Value with Customers in Business Interactions” will be held on Friday, 9th December 2016  at 12 o’clock in Auditorium Kurtén (University of Vaasa). Professor of Practice Lasse Mitronen (Aalto University) will act as an opponent and associate professor Tiina Brandt (University of Vaasa) as a custos. The defense will be held in Finnish.

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