28th Aug, 2020
Marcom, , Designation
While B2B selling has never been a cakewalk, this whole ‘convincing them to bet their money’ game has gone a notch up with all the changes that have remodelled the world of sales lately.
More than the product or its features/ benefits, it is a good narrative of how the product will impact the outcome, what matters today. The more customised that narrative and the elements of the product are, more are the chances of it getting the right attention. In short, wooing the ‘hard-to-get’ B2B buyer has become tougher.
A plethora of B2B buyer surveys, demand generation reports, sellers’ insights have been done and their outcomes prove the same. The changed persona of the B2B buyer has impacted the whole buying process. In turn, the selling cycle has got modified, thus, demanding redefined selling tactics.
With all this sea change which the B2B buying is undergoing, what does it take to sell to the new B2B buyer?
Firstly, a thorough understanding of the changed dynamics is crucial to be able to adjust the selling strategies correctly. Once the understanding is clear, it all boils down to the flawless execution which involves a balanced leverage of technology and human intelligence.
Reminiscing the Erstwhile Buying Journey
A buyer’s journey used to be a simple loop of gathering awareness about the vendors and their expertise, considering the potential prospects on various parameters, making a decision and in most cases, repeating the purchase in order to avoid the hassle of going through the loop all over again.
And that’s why the seller’s journey or the marketing process also followed a simple pattern –
Providing Awareness – Generating Interest – Creating Desire – Enabling Action
This journey was supported by traditional marketing elements like trade shows, cold-calls, brochures, canned pitches etc. at different stages of the sales cycle.
It looked something like this.
Stepping into the New World
With close to 60% B2B buyers progressing through the buying journey without interacting with a salesperson, it can be corroborated that some significant changes are required at the sellers’ end.
Since they are not interacting with the seller directly, they are moving ahead in their buying journey based on the available information (i.e. content) – be it in terms of information shared on platforms like website, social media etc. by seller or reviews from industry peers.
Over 80% of B2B buyers view at least 5 pieces of content during the purchase process. 62% of B2B buyers say they can make a purchase selection solely based on digital content. This certainly makes content the king, however, without lessening criticality quotient which conduct of the seller holds.
Another important factor which is shaping this entire buyer journey transformation is the fact that now over 50% buyers are millennials. Their typical traits such as being impatient and ambitious are exerting a growing influence on the entire buying process.
Couple of more characteristics of this new breed of buyers:
- Fairly Informed: 41% of buyers conduct anonymous research on potential solutions.
- Social Media Savvy: 92% of buyers confirmed social media influence on their purchase decision.
- Quality-Content Buff: 76% of B2B buyers prefer to receive content unique to their buying stage.
- Experience-Driven: Buyers ready to pay 30% more for superior buying experience.
- Referral-Led: Over 90% of buying decisions are impacted by peer recommendations.
- Tech-Enthusiast: 70% of B2B search queries are expected to be done through smartphone by 2020.
- Ardent Collaborator: 79% buyers seek advisor than a sales rep.
New B2B Buyer Journey
It can be divided into two stages for the ease of understanding –
Research & Discovery Loop
As the name suggests, the first loop comprises of all the activities which comes into picture right after the buyer identifies a need for a solution – researching the vendor space and then narrowing down to a preferred list of service providers to find ‘the one’ who maps well onto all the criterions.
Dissecting it further, the journey looks somewhat like this –
Awareness: Buyer today sets out to research on the prospective vendors (majorly through digital and peer review means).
Multiparty Consideration: Instead of comparison between a limited number of vendors, multiple level of shortlisting happens upon a large universe of vendors.
Preference: A new addition in the journey, this step includes drawing up a likeability matrix for the potential sellers.
After doing all this, the buyer FINALLY reaches out to the potential seller.
The second loop begins once the purchase is done because it may be the culmination of one long journey for the buyer, but it bears the possibilities of having a longer or much shorter relationship then intended, for the seller.
Exploring the loop further, it comprises of the following –
Purchase: Based on factors like cost, ease of assistance, post-deployment management etc. deal closure happens with the finalised seller and the adoption takes place.
(While cost plays a major role here, the overall buyer experience throughout the journey till now holds a ‘make or break deal’ veto)
Post Purchase: Post the deployment, seller continues to be engaged with the buyer to hand-hold him through any aberration. The relationship at this stage sets the tone for re-association (or lack of it).
Rise of the New Seller
With the whole process becoming buyer-driven, seller today have no choice but to align their marketing strategies as per the buyer experience cycle in order to drive sales. Every pitstop in the buyer’s journey is a unique touchpoint window to interact with and influence the buyer.
Earning the new buyers’ trust, creating resonating content in line with customer expectation and letting them be in-charge of the sales interaction etc. are few of the elements which defines the new selling approach.
Let’s visit every aspect of the transformed seller’s journey and how the metamorphosis in both these characters of the sales process – buyer and seller, have led to the evolved sales funnel, in the part 2 of this blog.