Revolutionizing the B2B Buying Journey: Key Strategies
- B2B buying journey complexity. Involves many decision-makers, causing slow sales and difficulties in remote working environments.
- Vendor shortlisting challenges. B2B buyers journey now includes evaluating more vendors post-pandemic, leading to delays.
- Content strategy shift. Bridging gaps in B2B buying experiences by providing diverse, easily accessible content.
- Sales role evolution. Shifting sales tactics to add value beyond product information in the B2B buying process.
The B2B buying journey is nothing like most consumer purchasing. If you need a new sweatshirt, you’re unlikely to ask the CFO, the head of procurement, Bob who sits on your left, and Cath in the Singapore office for their input.
The sheer number of decision-makers involved in many B2B purchases can slow sales to a never-ending repeat of one-step-forward-two-steps-back. This is made even worse by the fact that more people are remote working than ever. While this may be great for their work-life balance, it’s not so great for snappy purchase decisions.
There’s also the cost and upheaval involved. The B2B buying journey tends to be into five or six figures, and onboarding new systems or machinery has a knock-on effect on operations. This is truly jobs-on-the-line territory. No one is going to rush things.
And then there’s the question of shortlisting suppliers. More than half (55%) of buyers are considering a larger number of potential vendors for each purchase than before the pandemic, according to research. This is likely due to a combination of risk adversity, increased scrutiny by procurement, and wider access to comparative information. The result? More delays as vendors are evaluated across multiple factors.
So what can you do?
Related Article: Product Knowledge: The Unmined Gem in the B2B Buyer’s Journey
4 Ways to Accelerate Sluggish Sales Cycles
1. Rethink How You Create Content
If you’re relying on a handful of out-of-date whitepapers and a clutch of product datasheets, it’s time to think again. Same for that top-of-funnel ebook with its shaky link to what you actually do.
Today, you need to make it easy for B2B buyers at any stage of a sale to get what they need — both for themselves and to help convince other decision makers in their companies.
This means offering multiple content paths to enable buyers to succeed, whether they are at the very initial needs-search stage or comparing vendors for a short list, and whether they’re a purse-string holder or an end user.
Often this will mean plugging gaps between what customers want from the B2B buying journey and what you’re currently offering. Some examples from our research:
- 25% of buyers want to be able to get all the information they need online before contacting a salesperson — yet this is offered by just 9% of marketers.
- 28% of buyers want to be able to view testimonials, case studies and reviews from named businesses — yet only 9% of marketers offer this on their sites.
- 27% of buyers want to be able to access references from existing users that they can contact directly — just 5% of marketers offer this.
- But 42% of marketers do offer pre-recorded demos — shame that less than a quarter (23%) of buyers want these.
- And 40% of marketers ensure customers get easy access to the sales team — just a fifth (21%) of buyers want this (data source).
Related Article: What B2B Buyers Want, and Ways to Align Your Customer Journeys
2. Let Customers Buy the Way They Want to Buy
Buyers want to control the purchase process. They want to understand the issues and get what they need before subjecting themselves to 30 minutes on a Zoom with your sales development representative, or SDR.
Some two thirds (66%) of buyers for medium and large UK businesses say they are now self-serving more information before making any contact with vendors (74% of marketers have noticed this too) and more than half (53%) of them would prefer to buy without any interaction with sales at all, according to research.
Again, this is where having a range of content that can be consumed in a non-linear fashion comes into its own. While we may want customers to progress through a neatly delineated sales funnel, few actually do. They will more likely lurch forward and backward as they make headway with their thinking (and face the need of justifying it to their colleagues).
Related Article: Are You Creating the Best B2B Buyer Customer Experience?
3. Make Content Easy to Access
If you’re producing content designed to make life easier for modern buyers then don’t bury it layers deep on your site or gate it behind a 10-field form and hackle-raising CAPTCHA.
Of course this is a trade-off. But if your content primarily exists to move a prospect along the B2B buying journey, then consumption is more important than gathering the contact details of “leads” of varying quality. This is especially so when so many businesses’ MQLs are set with such a low bar. A single download does not equal a hot lead. Never has.
Building a self-serve content hub could reasonably be a priority. Making your content available in multiple formats is another. And ensuring that every piece has a clear next action (not just book a call) will help prospective customers move through the buying process at a cadence that suits them.
4. Help Sales Add Real Value
If your content’s working hard and doing its job, your sales teams will need to think of other ways to add value. After all, at this point they’ll be doing more than fielding questions about price and product (that’ll all be in your new content hub).
Buyers today want a greater level of insight and advice when they do interact with sales. This is an area that has been well researched (recommended reading: The Challenger Sale). In a nutshell, the most effective salespeople are those that can teach their customers something valuable about their customers’ businesses.
While marketers could step away at this point, it’d be an error to do so. As the members of the business who should have the deepest insights into the market and the challenges faced by customers, they should be able to equip sales with a wide range of assets to help them have more profitable conversations.
Not only will this help the business close more sales, it’ll help sales and marketing align around delivering what the business really needs.
Ultimately, a marketer’s job is this: to make the research-to-purchase B2B buying journey as painless as possible. Because where buyers encounter friction, their first instinct is not to struggle through it, it’s to go elsewhere.
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