Subscribe to Inc. magazine

The Future of Selling B2B Online

The Internet is not making salespeople obsolete; it's making them even more important.

For the past two decades, numberless pundits have predicted that the Internet would make salespeople obsolete. The theory was simple: customers would use the "wealth of information" online to do their own product research and then order online.

The pundits claimed that this "information rich" online environment would make salespeople obsolete, useless distractions that customers did not value and would prefer to avoid.

Turns out that the pundits had it exactly backwards.

The digital marketing company, the Acquity Group, recent surveyed over 200 corporate buyers with annual budgets in excess of $100,000 on their purchasing habits and preferences. Here's what the survey showed:

  • 27.1 percent preferred to "speak with someone directly to discuss purchase options and walk me through the entire process."
  • 27.1 percent were willing to do some research, but wanted "to talk through purchasing on the phone with a salesperson."
  • 33.8 percent wanted to do their own research and purchase online, but also wanted "to have the support of someone on the phone to discuss any issues."
  • 7.7 percent wanted to do their own research and purchase online but was okay with "the support of live chat to discuss any issues."
  • 4.3 percent wanted "to do my own research and purchase my own product online--no sales person involvement."

As you can see, more than 95 percent of all corporate buyers want a salesperson to be involved in the sales process and the majority of these buyers also expect a live salesperson to answer the phone when they call.

Thus, consumers are willing to buy consumer products online without talking to a salesperson (e.g., corporate buyers are more picky. They want a real human being involved. They want to work with salespeople.

However--and this is important--corporate buyers do NOT want to work with salespeople who give sales pitches. What corporate buyers want is salespeople who help them make better decisions and make buying online even more convenient.

Like this post? If so, sign up for the free Sales Source newsletter.

Last updated: Jun 14, 2013


Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for, is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed more than a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free weekly Sales Source newsletter.

Register on today to get full access to:
All articles  |  Magazine archives | Livestream events | Comments

Or sign up using: