A new sales imperative: B2B selling in the Age of the Informed Consumer
Today’s B2B marketers face a new market reality. Looking for the right partner, the B2B decision-maker is exposed to overwhelming amounts of information, which makes it harder to navigate in the flood of opportunities. While most B2B communication focuses on providing the customer with all considerable options – the assumption being more information helps make a decision – it is, in fact, decreasing purchase ease. So how do we create impactful communication for the B2B segment?
Too many cooks spoil the broth
Information overload is not the only factor that gets in the way when it comes to decision-making. The amount of people involved is higher than ever before. In fact, new research suggests that:
The number of people involved in B2B solution purchases has increased from an average of 5,4 to 6,8
The solution purchase process has become twice as long, as it takes longer to evaluate all options
Decision-makers' purchase ease has decreased by 18%
This means that over 40% of B2B buyers second-guess their choice. And on top of that, we can assume that the number of different suppliers also fills the market with information, confusing our customers even more.
A common, but crucial, trap in B2B communication
Within B2B, prospects are always looking for solutions that can improve their business performance. They are not looking for the product with the most features, but the solution that will benefit them the most.
All too often, I see B2B communication that focuses on a product's features rather than its benefits. In my opinion, the tendency of confusing the two can be fatal, as impersonal feature communication will negatively impact your sales. Features are just statements about the product, often describing what it can do. Benefits, on the other hand, are the results of what the product does. It answers the question: How will the customer benefit from this feature? As an example, Home delivery is only a feature, while not having to interrupt your schedule to go to the store is a benefit.
Understanding the customer's perspective is vital. Think of how you act as a consumer. In a buying situation, we almost always think: “What do I get out of it?”.
The top 5 purchase drivers for B2B
Given that information overload harms the consumer's ability to make a decision, combined with the number of stakeholders involved in the decision itself, more is demanded from our communication. Our focal point should be the value we can bring to the consumer and the actual benefits they get out of using our product. So where should you start?
We know that it should be executed across the elements that are important for our ability to make a sale. The Global Web Index asked more than 8.000 B2B buyers, and their research suggests that the top factors that influence decision-making are:
1. A relevant industry website
This one comes as no surprise. Your business website is a core part of your online marketing, so consider this:
Can they find it in the first place? An important insight about the B2B decision-maker is that they research potential options online before buying. Therefore, it is crucial that your offering can be found online. With Search Engine Optimization (SEO) you can work with boosting your website ranking on search engines in order to be found.
Is it easy to navigate? Make sure that the user experience (UX) is right for your target audience. Is the content presented in a way that allows the visitor to easily navigate and find the right information? In 2018, 52% of all website traffic worldwide was generated through mobile phones, so optimize your site for mobile browsing.
Are your pages loading fast enough? The modern consumer is impatient when browsing online, so your page's loading speed is important for them to stay and not bounce. Use speed optimization tools to measure and improve the speed of your site.
2. News story
Although a bit contradictive to my point about information overload, sharing news is a key influencer. Obviously, you have to be out there to create the top-of-mind awareness that will ultimately generate leads, but I must stress that quality beats quantity. You can read more about lead-generating content strategies in this blog post.
3. Advertisement in traditional media
In a digital world, we tend to forget the power of traditional media, so this makes a lot of sense too. With the proper campaign or brand platform, we can position ourselves rightfully in the minds of our consumers - creating positive associations with our products or driving the emotion that generates thorough interest. When taking traditional vs digital media into consideration, don't see them as separate disciplines - it is the combination of the two that creates powerful integrated communication.
4. Conversations with people from the organization on a social network
In a B2B environment, we must always make sure to use our most effective brand ambassadors: Our employees. LinkedIn is a great medium for networking and finding new prospects. Just remember not being too pushy and sales-like. Instead, think of social selling, and giving value to your network. This will, in turn, help you to generate authentic leads.
5. Sales presentations
This is very interesting. How are you supporting your sales team? What materials are most compelling? A common challenge in working with sales presentations is that there is no alignment between the stories different sellers tell about our company. You can help this along by finding a clear value proposition to communicate and building the right framework around it. For instance, a clear presentation template for your sales personnel to use will create consistency in your story and make the employees more productive, as they do not have to make every presentation from scratch.
In summary, you can use these recommendations to focus your efforts on the key drivers of B2B decision-making. Remember that the new sales imperative is one that guides the consumer through the decision-making process instead of bombarding them with all the considerable options you have available.