Sales Tech is Dead. Long Live Buyer Tech.

pavel livshiz photo
pavel livshiz photo

Once upon a time, sales were simpler, and sales tech was the unopposed king. During this “Golden Age of SaaS,” which lasted more or less until the economic downturn of 2022, sales tech startups thrived with their seller-centric approach. Their tools prioritized sales volume and scripted interactions over understanding the buyer’s needs. And this worked just fine.

Back then, sales teams could achieve success through pushing, pitching, spraying and praying. They could get away with hiring junior salespeople sending mass emails – a “do more” mentality that emphasized quantity over quality. Sales engagement platforms that enabled blasting lengthy, generic sales sequences to a wide range of prospects were hot items.

Back then, junior account executives could rely on scripts for demos and discovery calls. These interactions were often one-sided, with the salesperson driving the conversation and pushing their predetermined sales process. Follow-up emails and generic resources finished the cycle.

This seller-centric approach simply worked, and sales tech was h-o-t. The reason? Sales leadership was wholly focused on equipping salespeople with tools and resources – from scripts to sales decks and internal enablement programs designed to hone their selling skills.

The buying landscape, too, played a role in sales tech’s meteoric success. There were fewer software categories to choose from, and the buying decision typically involved fewer stakeholders. Buyers had limited options for researching and evaluating solutions. Talking to a salesperson was often the only way to learn about a product. As a result, salespeople didn’t have to invest much effort in understanding the buyer’s specific needs – they could still hit their quotas through volume and a one-size-fits-all approach.

However, this focus on quantity came at a cost. It prioritized closing deals over building genuine customer relationships and ensuring the product was a good fit. It was an unsustainable system, and the tides began to turn with the economic downturn. Sales tech lost its shine and investors grew wary.

Buyers Rule: The Era of Self-Service Sales

Today, traditional sales tech is an investment graveyard.

Today’s buyers are more informed, have more options, and expect a personalized buying experience. This shift in power necessitates a move away from the seller-centric approach and towards a buyer-centric model that focuses on understanding customer needs and building long-term relationships.

We’ve entered a buyer-led era, where sellers no longer hold the power to close deals. Gone are the days of the charismatic salesperson clinching deals with a handshake. Today, empowered buyers conduct extensive research online and make informed decisions independently.

This shift is driven by a surge in complexity within the buying landscape. The sheer number of software categories has exploded by 20% in just two years, and the buying process now involves twice as many stakeholders than a decade ago. Overwhelmed and frustrated by outdated sales tactics, buyers are wary of traditional sales-centric approaches. And, they no longer work. Mass emails bounce due to stricter spam policies. Reply rates have plummeted. Quota attainment is dismal at 35%. Forrester reports only 34% of buyers find sellers helpful, and Gartner finds 75% now prefer a seller-free buying journey (up from 43% in 2020).

To adapt to this new reality, companies are prioritizing a holistic “buyer-enablement” strategy within their go-to-market engines. This means providing the resources, information and technology that buyers need to make informed decisions at their own pace.

Essentially, we’re now in the era of buyer tech.

Investors Should be Looking for Buyer Tech

Sales technology is evolving to prioritize the buyer’s journey. Buyer tech tools like Warmly and RB2B help identify buyers actively researching your product category. AI-powered email coaching platforms like Lavender improve personalization and engagement in outreach emails. And solutions like Aligned streamline introductions and facilitate smoother buyer-seller connections.

Accounts execs, too, are being empowered with new tools. AI platforms like Revrod monitor buyer intent signals to help AEs land, expand, and retain with more efficiently. Sendspark allows for personalized video introductions and explainer videos. Walnut helps design interactive demo experiences tailored to individual buyer needs.

Another trend to watch in buyer tech is consolidation, but investors should be wary of a “one-size-fits-all” approach, which can backfire. Generalist platforms may not offer the specialized features needed for all products or company sizes. While cost reduction is important, companies risk adding more “shelfware” (unused technology) and worsening the buying experience.

It’s clear that sales tech has undergone a buyer-centric reboot. Once focused on volume and scripts, it has been dethroned by the empowered buyer. The bygone era of mass emails and generic pitches is giving way to a buyer-centric approach. To meet the sales challenges of tomorrow, investors should prioritize solutions that foster genuine connections, and enhance buyer journeys with valuable resources and personalized experiences. It’s time to embrace the era of buyer tech.

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of B2B buyers prefer a rep-free sales experience.

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