Bad news salespeople—just like the teenager/parent relationship, the modern, B2B buyer doesn’t need you...well, at least until they decide they need you. And when that all-important moment occurs, it’s definitely on their terms—so you best be ready to meet them at their time of need.
Unlike stereotypical teens, however, B2B buyers are much more rational beings. They plan ahead. They do their homework. They have initiative. They take notes. They look for solutions. They pick up their rooms.
Let’s take a closer look at how these buyers conduct business and what the subsequent implications are for B2B companies’ marketing and sales initiatives.
While not ultra current (but we can assume current enough), 2015 consumer insights from Google show that 90% of B2B online buyers use search specifically to research business purchases, and they conduct an average of 12 searches BEFORE engaging on any particular brand’s website. About 71% of these folks start on a generic search query, so they're looking for product options and solutions first, not specifically for you. By the time they do get to your site, many are well down the path toward making a decision about what they need and want.
The fact that buyers are taking the lead was acknowledged in a HubSpot research study in which almost 60% of front line sales reps acknowledged buyers are less dependent on sales during the buying process compared to just 2-3 years ago.
The 2016 B2B Buyer's Survey Report shows that buyers continue to carefully and thoroughly research potential purchases, with almost half of those surveyed stating that their purchase cycle is longer than the prior year. One key reason for this is these buyers are spending more time doing research and are reviewing more sources in the process. In addition, buyers are conducting more in-depth ROI analysis, and the number of people involved in the B2B buying process is larger, which means more information is required along with more time to review it.
While you may not immediately think video is a big part of the B2B buying process, it’s actually a vital part of research at both the awareness stage and the consideration stage. The same Google report mentioned above states that 70% of buyers use video in their research process. Most buyers are watching 30 minutes or more of that content, while one in five watch an hour or more. Videos that explain product features are among the top viewed ones, followed by how-to and professional reviews.
Given the amount of time spent doing research, when buyers are ready to talk to a sales rep, they’re really ready to talk. Now. To quote my infamous teenager, “I want what I want when I want it.”
According to the Demand Gen Report, buyers expect speedy, helpful service—almost three-quarters (70%) of those surveyed said “timeliness of a vendor’s response to inquiries” was one of the reasons they selected the winning vendor. Also, when they were asked what their chosen vendor could have done better to improve the buying process, better follow up and response time and a better sense of urgency were among the top responses.
Because buyers are entering the sales funnel much later, due to the volume of research they’re conducting, salespeople need to be ready to handle a more well-informed customer. As such, the traditional initial buyer and salesperson interaction becomes obsolete. A recent report from Forrester discussed the skills a successful salesperson needs to have today:
The buyer is in a more powerful position and is driving the conversation to get the information they need. Consequently, sales has to have a different mindset. They must be truly prepared to listen and have much more in-depth knowledge about what they’re selling, and they must be skilled at showing how it aligns with customers’ needs within the industries in which they work. They also may need to get a bit more creative in terms of how they communicate with customers and how they wrangle the information they want out of the buyer—things related to timeline, buying authority, etc., as their needs will need to come second to those of the buyer.
Both sales and marketing need to be prepared to teach and find ways to help buyers decode and process all the information they need to make a decision. This means:
Topics: Inbound Marketing