Navigating the Common Challenges in Buyer-Seller Relationships [Research]

Elen Udovichenko
June 27, 2024
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In 2024, the rise of AI and automatic personalization imposes some serious challenges on salespeople. To stand out in the noise of automated interactions, they need to steer away from the old-school, aggressive tactics like "sell me this pen" and connect with the buyers on a personal, human level.

But before you try to fix anything, you need to spot the problems first. So a couple of months ago, we reached out to around 200 B2B buyers and sellers, delving into their typical experiences, challenges, priorities, and the nuances of buyer-seller relationships.

In this post, we will explore the key insights from our research to transform your approach and engage with buyers in a way that truly resonates.

The role of buyer-seller alignment in B2B

In the realm of relationship-based B2B sales, buyer-seller alignment is crucial for long-term success and strong relationships. This ensures both parties are on the same wavelength, not just about the deal specifics, but also regarding shared goals, values, and expectations. 

When buyers and sellers are in sync, the sales process becomes smoother enhancing the overall customer experience. By truly understanding the buyer's needs, preferences, and challenges, sellers can offer more tailored solutions, increasing the chances of closing deals and ensuring customer satisfaction.

The benefits of buyer-seller alignment:

  1. Increased deal closure rates: Tailored solutions that align with buyer needs lead to higher chances of closing deals.
  2. Enhanced customer experience: A smoother sales process with less friction improves the overall experience for the customer.
  3. Stronger relationships: Understanding and meeting buyer expectations fosters trust and long-term partnerships.
  4. Greater customer loyalty: Consistently delivering value and adapting to needs cultivates loyalty and turns customers into advocates.
  5. Competitive differentiation: Companies that align well with their buyers can stand out in the market, attracting more business.
  6. Reduced sales cycle length: Clear communication and understanding can shorten the time it takes to move from initial contact to closing a deal.
  7. Higher lifetime customer value: Satisfied customers are more likely to engage in repeat business and explore additional services or products.

Common challenges in buyer-seller relationships

Navigating buyer-seller relationships in today's B2B landscape comes with its share of hurdles. Understanding these challenges and adopting tactics to address each one of them can significantly improve outcomes and foster stronger partnerships.

Bridging the Buyer-Seller Gap
Discover data-backed insights into buyer-seller relationships to build an effective B2B sales strategy.

Let’s take a look at the most common struggles buyers and sellers face in their relationships and how you can address them.

Buyer’s challenges

  1. Complex buying process

With 86.3% of purchases taking up to six months, buyers often struggle to maintain momentum over an extended period. At the same time, involving around 5 stakeholders complicates the buying process, requiring alignment among diverse interests. Managing differing priorities and objections from multiple stakeholders can further delay decisions and create friction within the buyer’s organization.

screenshot from the research demonstrating the data

Solution: To maintain momentum and manage diverse stakeholder interests, sellers should implement a structured approach with clear milestones and regular check-ins. This keeps the process on track and ensures all stakeholders are aligned. Additionally, providing tailored updates and addressing objections promptly can help mitigate delays and reduce friction within the buying committee.

  1. Information overload or scarcity

According to our research, 28.6% of buyers struggle with either being inundated with too much information or facing gaps in critical details. This is the most common challenge in B2B buying right now, even more significant than vendor choice and getting internal buy-in. It seems that having all the means to share the information with each other, sellers still fail to do so effectively, either overloading buyers with too many unnecessary details or missing some crucial points.

Solution: To address this, sellers should prioritize clarity and relevance in their communications. Tailor information to the buyer's specific needs and stage in the purchasing journey. Use digital sales room software like Flowla to deliver the right information at the right time and make it easy to navigate and collaborate on internally.

  1. Poor experience

A (no so) shocking discovery: The majority of buyers (65%) had a negative buying experience in the past 3 months, where salespeople were not helpful and the process was unclear or not transparent. The quality of seller interactions can make or break a deal for 36.4% B2B buyers, often weighing as heavily as cost considerations. 

screenshot from the research shoring data

Solution: Sellers must focus on enhancing the buyer experience through proactive communication, responsiveness, and empathy. Personalize interactions based on buyer preferences and pain points to build trust and credibility.

  1. Balancing autonomy and assistance

While 89% of buyers prefer to gather necessary information independently, 44% still believe that the main job of a seller is to share the right information at the right time. This creates a dual expectation where buyers want autonomy but also expect sellers to fill in the gaps and provide critical insights when needed.

Solution: To address this, sellers must adopt a hybrid approach. They should empower buyers by providing easy access to comprehensive, high-quality resources such as whitepapers, case studies, and detailed product information. Simultaneously, sellers should be highly responsive and ready to step in with personalized, context-specific information during key decision-making moments.

Seller’s challenges

  1. Difficulty in connecting with buyers

Based on our survey, 39.3% of sellers face challenges in reaching buyers. This comes as no surprise if you think about the sheer number of salespeople and businesses trying to connect with potential buyers. The market is more crowded than ever, so breaking through the noise takes an extra effort these days.

Solution: To overcome this hurdle, leverage a multi-channel approach, mixing personalized emails, social media engagement, and personal interactions, e.g., at networking or industry-specific events. Another way to build relationships and maintain consistent communication is through multithreading — building relationships with a few people at the target organization simultaneously.

  1. Uncertainty due to poor discovery

Another interesting finding is that 71.8% of sellers felt in the dark about a deal in the last 3 months. Despite a pretty low deal slippage rate (less than 30% for the majority of respondents), sellers still face uncertainty about deal outcomes and cite a lack of internal consensus or champion at the buyer’s organization as a primary issue leading to lost deals. 

screenshot from the research showing data

Solution: Invest time in thorough discovery conversations to uncover each stakeholder’s true needs, challenges, and decision-making criteria. Use structured questioning techniques and active listening to gather comprehensive insights and tailor solutions effectively. Based on that, tailor your offer to align with their expectations and priorities.

  1. Internal buy-in and decision-making

The majority of the surveyed sellers recognize that buyers struggle with securing internal support and navigating complex decision-making processes within their organization. This is getting even more complex as the number of stakeholders increases (currently, 86.4% of buyers have up to 5 stakeholders involved in the deal).

Solution: As a seller, you should prioritize any means that help your buyers “sell” your product internally and offer clear and transparent text steps. Having a mutual action plan can help with all of that. Use it to offer educational resources and case studies that address common objections and facilitate informed decision-making. Position yourself as a trusted advisor by providing personal guidance at every step of the buying process.

Bridging the Buyer-Seller Gap
Discover data-backed insights into buyer-seller relationships to build an effective B2B sales strategy.
  1. Aligning with buyer expectations

While buyers tend to evaluate 5 different vendors on average, sellers often struggle to meet their expectations. As a result, 61% of buyers report that salespeople either didn't provide the necessary information or didn't understand their business enough to offer relevant solutions to meet their needs. 

Solution: To address this, sellers must focus on proactive listening and thorough research. Initiating detailed discovery conversations to uncover the buyer’s specific needs and investing time in understanding their industry and business context are crucial. Sellers should avoid generic pitches and ensure the information shared is relevant to the buyer's current stage in the decision-making process. 

  1. Maintaining buyer engagement

For 65.6% of the sellers, the main indicator that a deal is likely to close is buyer engagement. Personal relationships with the buyers come second and is just as important as having internal champions within the buyer’s organization. This means sellers need to focus on maintaining personal and ongoing communication with potential buyers. 

Solution: Building personal relationships and identifying internal champions within the buyer's organization can significantly improve engagement. Ensure consistent follow-ups, provide valuable insights, and demonstrate a genuine interest in solving the buyer's problems to keep the momentum going.

Leveraging technology for better buyer-seller relationships

Fostering strong buyer-seller relationships is crucial for navigating B2B sales with lengthy decision-making processes involving multiple stakeholders. Tools like Flowla play a crucial role by facilitating effective collaboration and communication between buyers and sellers.

Flowla combines mutual action plans and digital sales room capabilities, serving as a centralized platform where both parties can interact in real time, facilitating transparency and efficiency. 

Mutual action plans in Flowla enable sellers to co-create clear objectives, milestones, and timelines with buyers. This structured approach helps mitigate misunderstandings, builds consensus among stakeholders, and fosters trust by ensuring everyone is on the same page.

Moreover, you can use Flowla’s digital sales room as an organized repository for essential sales materials. This accessibility streamlines information sharing, reduces the risk of information overload, and ensures that buyers have access to relevant information when making critical decisions.

By fostering open communication, transparency, and collaboration, Flowla turns the sales process into a partnership. Buyers feel supported and informed, while sellers can manage the process more effectively. It’s a win-win, leading to stronger relationships and more successful outcomes.

Keep your deals flowing with Flowla

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