Four Trends that are Shaping B2B Customer Expectations

How many sales and marketing teams spend their days trying to capture customers?

LaVon Koerner Sales 2.0 Conference

LaVon Koerner addresses the audience at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, May 2014

At the recent Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, speaker LaVon Koerner asserted that demand capture is no longer a relevant approach. Instead, B2B sales and marketing organizations need to focus on demand creation.

Koerner, who is president and chief revenue officer of Revenue Storm, said this shift is due to four major disruptions in sales today.

1) Alternative sources of information. Koerner asked audience members if they remember the days of putting account plans together in huge binders. “Those huge binders are gone. Now there are so many ways for customers to get that information,” he said. “Sales teams must accept that there are simply better ways of getting information than talking with salespeople.”

2) Increased commoditization. “The time it takes to bring a new product to market is collapsing,” Koerner said. “The amount of time it takes to lifecycle a product is collapsing. Meanwhile the number of competitors who can emulate you is increasing. That giant sucking sound you hear is lost profitability.”

3) Economic conditions. Koerner pointed out that the American economy grew by just 2.6 percent in the final quarter of 2013. “That’s not enough growth to keep your sales organization healthy and for all your hungry competitors to hit their numbers,” said Koerner.

4) The next generation of tech users. It’s not just new technology that poses a challenge, it’s the way the new generation uses technology. As Koerner said, those currently coming up the career ladder communicate and make decisions by using technology in ways with which the older generations are unfamiliar. “This new generation of buyers will also buy differently,” said Koerner.

When trends are large enough, they cause disruption. Here’s a list of the old expectations customers demanded of sales teams:

“Fulfill my order or RFP.”
“Provide me with the best offering/price.”
“Don’t talk so much and just listen to me.”

Meanwhile, here are the new customer expectations:

“Challenge my thinking about my business challenges.”
“Proactively bring me innovative ideas.”
“Provide thought leadership that can guide my ability to make decisions.”

Koerner stressed that we have to move away from the world of demand capture into the world of demand creation. While sales teams in the past focused on beating the competition and devoted weekends to putting together a world-class proposal, those tactics will no longer give you an edge. “It’s not a product-centric world anymore,” he said. “It’s an opportunity-centric world. Your job is to alert, educate, and get ahead of the proposal.”

Ultimately, Koerner encouraged the hundreds of sales leaders in attendance to focus on doing something different, rather than doing something old in a better way. “The glory days of selling will not return. It’s over. It’s best to take a breath and accept that things will never be the same. It’s time to start working on something new. Don’t go out and find clients. Make clients.”

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