The new B2B buyer's journey
Buyers’ journeys are being accomplished up to 90% without seeing your sales reps. The old situation in which buyers depended on vendors for information has changed. Buyers are now in control.
Salespeople who still apply old “tried and trusted” sales methods may find that they are now less welcome in accounts. A survey of buyers by management consultancy McKinsey & Co suggests that sales reps should not try to compensate by insisting on more direct contact and more meetings. They may even destroy their revenue prospects altogether.
Likewise, salespeople who only know how to present products and pricing options could find themselves being pushed out. Market analyst Forrester Research found that 1 million B2B jobs will vanish from the US by 2020, a figure likely to include many sales roles with little or no added value. Sales managers, who so far have used metrics like the total leads from the website and the number of sales calls to forecast sales, may also need to rethink their approach.
When Less is More
Although buyers want less, they also want more. They want less interaction with salespeople. However, when the time is right for that interaction, they want sales people with more understanding of the buyer’s industry, deeper knowledge about the products they are selling, and greater ability to help the buyer make a good business case for buying.
Sales teams have an important ally in making this change, the B2B marketing department. The marketing team can help sales colleagues succeed by:
- Sharing information on where buyers are in their “buyer’s journey”. Buyers may now move backwards, reevaluate information, and only then move forwards again.
- Passing properly qualified leads to sales teams to pursue efficiently and effectively. This will be a big change from just dumping the entire, raw contents of last week’s website visits or email campaign on the sales team.
- Helping salespeople act as knowledgeable consultants by providing them with relevant, targeted industry information and solution use cases.
- Help to trigger buyer requests earlier. Relevant, targeted account-based marketing can accelerate a buyer’s information gathering and encourage an earlier contact for an in-depth sales discussion.
Sales and Marketing, Together
More than ever, marketing and sales teams will need to work together, creating one unified interface for customers to engage with, wherever they are in their buying journey. The two teams will likely need to use one database and one system to ensure smooth, productive transitions from targeted campaigns to qualified leads to buyers’ purchasing decisions. Sales can also provide useful feedback to marketing afterwards, to say what worked well and what needs improvement.
Given a choice of adapt or disappear, many B2B sales teams would prefer to adapt. These ideas and actions give them a solid basis for being able to change with their B2B buyers and continue to make a significant contribution to the revenues of their enterprise.