The buying process has changed significantly over the past decade – first led by the B2C space and followed soon after by B2B. Today’s buyers have taken on the bulk of the research and competitive assessment themselves, using online resources and social media. Prospects want to chart their own path and want companies to help them buy – not sell to them.
In fact, 74 percent of B2B buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making a purchase, according to Forrester. What this means for B2B companies is that the key to attracting buyers and building a loyal following is to help prospects do their job by providing useful information (not self-promotional material) and becoming a trusted resource. Companies that ignore this fact will drive buyers elsewhere.
Today’s Typical B2B Buyer Behavior
The B2B buyer’s journey can include a single decision-maker or a large number of people, however, Harvard Business Review recently found that the average B2B purchase involves 5.4 decision-makers. While that may seem like a lot of people to work with for a single sale, there are several key strategies that will help your marketing and sales efforts:
- Know your prospects. (All of them.) This should include knowing their name, job title, and their influence on the buying process. A good CRM tool can really help with this.
- Use technology to help monitor your buyers’ behavior before they engage with your sales team. This should include knowing how often they visit your website, what they read, and what they have downloaded. This data can come from something as simple as a website analytics tool or a more robust automation system like Hubspot.
The primary goal for knowing everything possible about your prospects is to provide them the information that they need when they need it. By tracking buyer behavior, you can be sure that your approach to the B2B buyer’s journey is up-to-date and meeting your prospects’ needs.
Social Media is Integral to Today’s B2B Buyer’s Journey
According to a study from International Data Corportation (IDC), the vast majority of prospects use social media and online research to find out what others say about you (and your competitors). Other peoples’ opinions carry more weight during the buyer decision-making process than any sales or marketing information your business provides. While your sales and marketing function should be to provide useful information to educate your prospects, you should also make sure that your business is well-represented on all of the online platforms that your buyers’ use.
Done well, a smart and well-executed social media strategy will supplement your marketing and sales efforts to lead prospects through the buying cycle. However, social media management isn’t something to hand over to someone who is inexperienced in your business (like an intern or an admin assistant). Smart strategy and in-depth knowledge of your buyers are critical for ensuring that your social media presence succeeds.
How Should Sales Reps Adjust Their Approach for Today’s B2B Buyer?
Think about the last time you made a major purchase. If the sales rep that you spoke to was not only helpful but also added value and insight when it came to your needs, you were probably more inclined to buy from them, right? Industrial B2B buyers feel the same way – in fact, 74% of B2B buyers choose to work with the sales rep who is the first to add value and insight.
So how can you make sure that your sales reps are delivering value and insight? Hire and train reps to do exactly that, and support your sales team with resources that your buyers want and need.