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From Sales-Led To Buyer-Led: Transforming Your Go-To-Market Strategy

By News Creatives Authors , in Small Business , at July 21, 2021

CEO at Vivun, unlocking the power of PreSales through the industry’s first AI-powered Intel & Ops platform.

Today’s business-to-business (B2B) buyers have become evaluation-first buyers. They expect to get expert support and guidance during their entire customer journey, from trial to pilot to purchase and beyond. They demand a sure thing, or transparency and high confidence in the expected value delivery.

Sales-led models made popular decades ago by companies like Oracle and SAP are no longer as effective. These models are characterized by buyers who are kept at arm’s length from the products under consideration. The sales account executive wields all of the power, and the details of a successful rollout are left to global systems integrators to figure out. The result? Misset expectations, unhappy customers and unrealized value. 

It comes as no surprise that buyers have begun demanding a sure thing, forcing companies to rethink their entire go-to-market strategy.

Introducing Product-Led Growth

Product-led go-to-market strategies have been a hallmark of modern business-to-consumer (B2C) brands like Netflix and Spotify for years. These strategies are characterized by buyers who are in complete control, with the ability to start and stop usage on demand without ever dealing with the vendor. 

As of late, B2B brands are beginning to see the benefits of a product-led model to drive rapid user acquisition. These users often leverage open source or freemium product editions to get started and may remain there in perpetuity. When it comes time to purchase, it’s typically done via self-service credit card for individuals or small teams within companies who can operate with complete autonomy.

While product-led growth offers a fast path to users, the model doesn’t work as a monetization engine in B2B. Vendors hit a wall when the machinery of B2B procurement kicks in to ensure requirements and budgets are satisfied. Decentralized products are hunted down by IT and deprecated. While many possible tools may sprout up within an organization, only one may have a shot to make it over the long haul.

While promising on the surface, product-led growth has a clear ceiling for modern B2B companies. As a result, a third and rapidly expanding strategy has emerged, one in which the buyer remains in control but works in collaboration with the vendor for expert support and guidance throughout their entire customer journey.

The Future Is Buyer-Led Growth

Today’s buyers aren’t only educated with access to transparent online materials, but they’re also likely already using the products under consideration due to an open-source, freemium or trial-based product-led offering. These easy on-ramps have shifted the balance of power even further away from vendors to buyers. 

Entirely new buying experiences must be delivered if vendors are to survive the gauntlet of competitors, differing user opinions and B2B procurement. These experiences begin with the recognition that buyers are hands-on and require expert support every step of the way, from the first touch to initial contract to renewal. 

This is the era of buyer-led growth, and it’s rapidly expanding. Powerpoints and promises from the sales-led era are no longer enough. In my opinion, assuming products will magically sell themselves from a product-led beginning is just naive. 

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Thankfully, companies aren’t forced to pick one model. Product-led strategies are useful to penetrate markets, gobble up users and lay the groundwork for future monetization. Sales-led strategies continue to thrive when dealing with large, Fortune 100 companies whose political processes require an emphasis on the relationship over the product. Buyer-led strategies are where relationships turn from casual month-to-month trials into long-term contractual agreements. Business initiatives are identified and aligned with vendor technologies. Consensus across users is gained and training programs materialized.

Buyer-led growth is the main driving force in today’s market. Rapidly expanding and consuming the resources of successful companies as sales-led models remain only as needed and product-led models have a ceiling as an “on-ramp” to future monetization. For B2B companies to survive and thrive into the future, they must build their buyer-led growth muscle. 

Part of this “muscle” includes B2B companies considering increasing presales investments, recognizing that this team is key to enabling this new buying behavior. So, who are these professionals? Presales team members go by many titles such as “sales engineer,” “solution consultant” or “solution architect.” They’re the team members who sit at the intersection of buyers, product and sales. They’re experts in their respective technologies and tasked with driving revenue, commonly carrying a quota.

In the old world of sales-led growth, presales teams were demo-wielding sales assistants, tasked with showcasing a vision of what is possible, if the global system integrator could get it to work. Today, companies can leverage presales as a strategic asset, using the department to align buyers, products and sales while facilitating unforgettable and transparent buying experiences.


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