B2B Buyers Today Shop Like Consumers
By Rieve Lesonsky
B2B buyers are changing, creating new challenges. The sales cycle is lengthening, the number of people involved in purchasing is rising and their expectations for salespeople are increasing.
Use social media, online research and real-world connections to get as much intelligence as you can about the individuals involved in the buying process at each company.
The more you can find out about each individual (age, seniority, job title) and psychology (pain points, goals, attitudes), the better you’ll understand what matters most to them, both during the sales process and in terms of the actual product or service. Once you’ve determined the most influential buyers in the group, you can work to help them make the case for buying your product or service.
B2B sales cycles are longer
Since B2B buyers now do much of their initial research online, without ever consulting a salesperson, you should create content tailored to each type of buyer and each stage of the decision-making process. Employees in different roles will seek different information. For example, a chief financial officer will be most concerned about cost, while a chief information officer will care more about technology. In addition, each person has preferences for the way they consume information. Older buyers may want white papers they can print out and read at leisure, while younger buyers may prefer videos.
But a longer sales cycle doesn’t mean your sales team can sit back and relax. Survey respondents say most of the research, outreach and evaluation involved in making a decision takes place in the first three months of the sales cycle.
Timeliness of a vendor’s response to inquiries is a deciding factor in the purchasing decision. The lesson? No matter what your prospective customers are doing, salespeople need to be quick on their feet with messaging and content tailored to the specific buyer’s needs, industry and challenges.
B2B buyers use social media
B2B buyers are increasingly shopping like consumers. Buyers use social media to learn more about a topic, ask for recommendations from other users, reach out to thought leaders to get their opinions and connect directly with potential vendors.
Being proactive on social media will give your business a competitive edge. Listen to conversations, answer questions, share thought leadership. Offering help will show you’re accessible and create a channel of communication. You should also create social media-specific content by sharing customer reviews or posting online videos of customer success stories.
B2B buyers want to be understood
B2B buyers expect salespeople to be informed about their needs and concerns before ever making contact. These days, there’s no excuse for not knowing what your prospective customers’ pain points, needs and concerns are. Information is widely available online and on social media. Don’t call them and expect them to tell you what they need. Do your homework and find out. Showing that you have a firm grasp of their industries, their competition and the needs of their businesses will position you as a valuable ally, not just someone with something to sell.
Offer information they need
B2B buyers want vendors to share relevant content that speaks directly to their needs. Provide guidance by helping them pinpoint what is important to them and suggesting solutions. Be prepared with case studies about businesses similar to theirs who have successfully chosen your product, as well as demonstrations of ROI.
After the B2B sale
Today’s B2B buyers are looking beyond the purchase. Before they buy, they want to be confident that your business will be there for them after the sale. How easily can they integrate your product or service into their operations? What type of support do you provide? What happens if there are hiccups along the way? Be ready to show how you will work with the customer to ensure they succeed long after they’ve signed the contract.
The author is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a custom content media company based in Lakewood, Calif.
Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.