How to Respond to Recent Changes in Your B2B Customers' Buying Habits
Over recent years, you’ll no doubt have noticed changes in how B2B customers buy.
In this article, you’ll be given actionable advice to help your business adapt to these changes. - And not just adapt, but also thrive.First, let’s acknowledge how much things have changed. As consumers, we’re now connected to a global marketplace. Our options have increased. Products and services have become more complex. And information about our options is widely available, with customers openly sharing their opinions and reviews online.
The flip side to this, is that, as we’ve been lied to and made promises in the past, trust between vendors and consumers matters now, more than ever. Nowadays, customers need to feel they can trust a company before they make a decision to buy from them.
Despite this fundamental shift in the buyer journey, one thing remains constant; buyers still need (and actively seek out) help to move their buying decisions forward. It should be noted though, that the process of gaining the customer’s trust now starts a lot earlier in the buyer journey than ever before.
Marketing Now Plays an Increasingly Important Role in the Buying Process
Because of the changes in buyer behaviour, the role marketing plays in the buying process has had to change. Traditionally, much of the information and value would have been delivered by the sales person in their meetings and follow up activity. Now, up to 57% of the customer’s buying process is completed before s/he even speaks to a sales rep. So, marketing now exerts a far greater influence, and at an earlier stage than ever before.
Since 2010, there has been a major paradigm shift to the ‘Age of the Customer’, where the most successful companies ensure their customers are at the centre of their business in everything they do. In the past, companies had more power to convince and reason with customers in regard to purchases. Now, the purchasing power is firmly in the customer's hands.
Concurrent with this evolution of the customer journey, has been the dawn of marketing’s ‘new golden age’. There has been an exponential increase in the tools marketers can now use. Tools which can improve marketing’s precision, agility and engagement with potential customers.
The marketing technology industry alone has increased 10-fold since 2012 to over 5,300 software providers. This has given rise to tremendous opportunity for those marketers who can adeptly handle these tools to deliver information and value to their customers.
Your Sales & Marketing Teams Need to Work Together
Rewind 10 years, and your average Sales & Marketing teams would be detached from each other, working in isolation, with no idea what the other side was doing. In fact, the Sales team perhaps only ever went over to talk to the Marketing side about a bad lead or two. Fast forward to 2017, and successful, modern marketing teams are often fully integrated with their counterparts in the sales team. There’s now a growing appreciation that, in order to deliver a seamless customer journey, companies must facilitate a combined approach from both their Sales and Marketing teams.
In practice, how easy is it to combine your Sales & Marketing teams? The best and most simple way, is with this simple 2-step approach:
Here’s How to Combine Your Sales & Marketing Teams the Right Way
1. Sharing Common Goals
The first, and most critical, psychological element is to merge your sales and marketing goals, so they become one, cohesive goal or series of collective goals. This is the only way to establish a successful, commercial operation that will stand the test of time. When aiming to create shared goals, consideration of the following 6 areas is vital:
1. Total revenue target
2. Average deal size
3. Number of deals needed
4. % of leads to be generated from Marketing and % generated from Sales
5. Sales Close Rate
6. Qualified Sales and Marketing leads required
Pivotal to success with shared goals, is that teams have a collective understanding and acknowledged responsibility to achieve each goal together.
2. Working Together on Tasks
Once the shared goals have been agreed, the next aim should be to get the Sales & Marketing teams working more closely on a day-to-day basis. You can achieve this by:
a) Scheduling regular performance meetings between the Sales & Marketing teams
The onus is now on the Marketing and Sales managers to meet on a monthly basis to analyse their results. They will also need to evaluate whether they’re heading in the right direction with regard to their goals for lead generation, marketing to qualified leads and the lead-to-customer conversion rate. Progress will only be made with this feedback loop in place.
These meetings can also lead to overlap between the teams, where members of Marketing become involved in elements of the sales process to further understand how they can add value to the customer. For example, having them listening in and contributing to sales calls can make a significant difference to team ‘buy in’ and ultimately, to the success of both teams in achieving their common goal/s.
b) Aligning the content creation process
When sales people are speaking regularly with potential customers, they know which opportunities are getting them excited and understand their pain points, challenges and doubts. Often, this invaluable insight is not formally recorded for the Marketing team to use in their content strategy and plans: creating a simple process to share this information will ensure they can create the most relevant and timely content to assist the prospect along their buying journey.
Additionally, it’s often the case that significant time and effort is spent to ensure the company and product are marketed well, yet, the salesperson has little or no online profile that can be researched by the buyer to add credibility.
Sales people are renowned for being better at talking than writing, so you should consider putting a process in place where your sales person talks through maybe 5-8 points into dictation software (free to download online). The ensuing recording can then be sent to the marketing team to edit and structure into a blog post. This blog post could then be posted on their LinkedIn profile, for example, to showcase the sales person’s expertise.
In our experience, sharing the workload in this way ensures essential content is written and that the salesperson's credibility is enhanced, facilitating customer engagement.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this article and found it useful. We began by observing how much the buying habits of B2B customers have changed over the past few years. We then examined some of the ways your business can respond and adapt to these changes.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the avenues you can follow but, if you only follow the simple advice outlined above, you’ll already be leagues ahead of your competition – You’ll also be able to anticipate and adapt to any future changes in your customers’ behaviour.