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Buying/Selling vs. Buyer/Seller

work presentation

By David Brock


Recently, I’ve been trying to shift my own thinking and vocabulary about buying and selling. Several people have asked me about it. I thought I’d spend a little time on it.

I believe shifting our vocabularies from Buyer/Seller to Buying/Selling is much more than wordsmithing. It forces us to change our perspectives about how our customers buy—or drive their problem solving/change initiatives.

And it forces us to rethink how we engage these customers in selling.

The problem with the terms Buyers/Sellers is we focus on certain roles or people of our and our customer’s organizations. By doing this, we potentially miss the change in the activities being undertaken in the buying process and how we align our engagement strategies with how our customers buy.

The big thing that we discover when we start looking at buying/selling is that we realize Sellers are no longer the only people engaged in the process. Buying dynamics are changing dramatically. As a result, it changes our selling dynamics.

As an example, in Rethinking Sales Enablement, I presented data from Gartner research that showed how buyers are spending their time. Total time spent with salespeople from all the vendors they are considering is 17%!

So if we focus on Sellers and Seller activities, then we are limiting engagement strategies to that portion of the 17% of their time that we can engage them.

But if we look at the other 83% of our time and start thinking of buying and selling, we identify many more opportunities to engage them.

For example, we are forced to start looking at their online and offline research (45%) of their time. We are forced to think about, “How do we engage customers in these parts of their buying journey?” We begin to see that we have to look at selling differently–perhaps how we might redirect some seller activity, or how other functions contribute to selling.

For example, marketing, customer experience, even product management start playing critical roles in the buying/selling processes. We have to start thinking of our digital engagement strategies/experiences. We have to start thinking about offline engagement strategies.

If we constrain our thinking to buyers/sellers, we might be blind to those parts of the buying journey/process. We might find ourselves failing to meet customers where they are at, in the manner they best learn.

Changing our mindset to buying and selling changes the way we look at the customer problem solving/change management process.

Changing our mindset to buying and selling forces us to reassess our entire engagement process.

Changing our mindset to buying and selling forces us to reassess roles, responsibilities, and activities—who, how, where we engage customers in their buying process. We recognize the selling isn’t just the job of Sellers.

Changing our mindset to buying and selling forces us to reassess this engagement process through their entire buying journey. No longer will we think “Marketing catches them, sales skins them,” but rather our customers will be using multiple channels in their buying journey, and we have to be aligned/consistent with how we engage them through this process.

We no longer live in a world of buyers and sellers. Rather, we live in a world of buying and selling. We have to understand this, and we have to change to adapt to this.


David Brock is the Author of “Sales Manager Survival Guide,” CEO of Partners in EXCELLENCE and is a ruthless pragmatist. View David’s original post and read more of his work on his blog, Partners in EXCELLENCE, here.