Pass on the Studies and Get into the Field
The B2B buying process isn’t changing…said no one ever (or at least no one remotely plugged into today’s B2B world). The B2B buying world is completely different than it was just a few years ago. It is more competitive and the buyers themselves are more social, digitally savvy and have millions of pieces of content in front of them on a daily basis, aiding daily decision making.
And because the B2B profile is changing, what motivates this group is also evolving. Now that’s not to say that factors like price, product performance, experience and quality customer service are passé; however, there are additional considerations that have recently made their way into the mix as well.
So what’s a marketer to do? How are we supposed to get under the hood and really understand what makes our target tick and how he or she really arrives at a final purchase decision? How can we sort through the glut of content we’re currently creating for all channels known to humankind and figure out where we really need to focus? What matters? We could read surveys full of stats and facts, do countless hours of research and then develop content in a vacuum. Or we could roll up our sleeves and jump in with both feet, spending time with people who can easily answer these questions more specifically for each unique industry – the sales team.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to participate in one of my client’s annual sales meetings. More than 12,000 strong, the company’s sales force convened in one location for a three-day dialogue about new products, business planning and selling techniques. The days were full of information and gave me an opportunity to talk and learn from those on the front lines. In talking with a lot of these folks, I was able to learn a lot more about what is motivating their current prospects and customers. Here are some takeaways based on their first-hand experiences in the field:
- Make sure you know me. B2B buyers are sophisticated. They understand every nuance within their respective businesses, and as things become more and more specialized and there are more and more product choices, the bar has been raised for sales teams in terms of knowledge. It’s not enough to know boilerplate information about the industry, customer or a few products. Now buyers are motivated and intrigued by companies who know specifically what challenges they are facing within the context of the greater industry landscape (locally, regionally, nationally and globally) and how to help maximize their strengths through both products and value added services. Open dialogue and partnership between marketing and sales can lead to materials that specifically address important nuances. Just a simple sell sheet is not going to cut it.
- Leave the off-the-shelf solutions at the door. Custom solutions that are quick and easy to implement are the most appealing to B2B buyers. Buyers need to differentiate themselves from the competition, so off-the-shelf isn’t an option. But in the world of just-in-time, there isn’t much room for ramp-up time either, so buyers want to feel confident in a supplier/partner’s ability to deliver new ideas quickly that impact the bottom line. Case studies highlighting previous successes are a great way to share this information.
- Tell me about my competition. It’s a competitive marketplace and though nearly everyone may know who is nipping at their heels, they don’t always know what strategies and tactics they are employing to get ahead. Sales reps that know their customers’ competition, and who can identify ways for them to capitalize on a weakness or other key market opportunity win.
- Help ME sell. Now that more and more people have a say in the official purchase, the sales process takes 22 percent longer than it did 5 years ago, according to Biznology. With this extended timetable, B2B buyers are not only challenged with evaluating and finding the best products for their businesses, but they are also challenged to “sell” in the vendor or service to the rest of the organization before it is ever approved. Arming the sales team with specific tools that the prospect can then use to educate his team can really help advance the deal.
These pieces of feedback helped me put everything in perspective. As marketers, we can play an important role in supporting sales efforts throughout the B2B buyer’s journey (and our impact is more measurable than ever before), but first we must spend enough time with those in the field to really understand what is needed and what is being asked from each individual customer before we can efficiently provide useful information that contributes to the bottom line.
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Image Source- The Blue Diamond Gallery