I think we can all agree that the last 2 years have been tumultuous for both individuals and businesses alike. There has been the pandemic, natural disasters, and now, a war. We have watched people lose their lives, businesses close their doors forever, a large portion of humanity develop anxiety and other mental health issues, and we’ve seen a mass exodus of big business from Russia.
While we are all aware of the problems we have experienced, what we seemingly fail to realise is how these societal, environmental, and political events inadvertently shape and change who we are – and how we consume.
For decades, many vendors have stuck to fairly traditional methods of selling. They put together a nice website that meets all the SEO requirements, pay for marketing campaigns, and employ a team of salespeople to seal the deal when a prospect makes contact. There is always merit to the ‘tried and true’, but as those of you in business may know, failing to adapt to changes in the market means your business is unlikely to succeed.
If you look at all the big, successful companies that have been around long term, you can easily see how they have ebbed and flowed with the market – with the consumer – in order to not just stay afloat but to dominate the seas as if they were Titan themselves.
Let’s be clear, though. When I say “market”, I don’t mean the industry market. Your competitors are not buying your services or products. Sure, they may be forever at your heels like a sibling you always want to win against, making you want to do better, sell better, and just be better overall, but they are not the ones making you directly profitable. So, what I really mean is the consumer market.
The people you are selling to are just like you – the ‘consumer’ you, not the ‘business owner’ you. They are people looking for top quality services and products that fit their budget, but what they don’t realise is how the external world shapes the evaluation of their internal needs or desires, and therefore, their behaviour.
If you take the time to understand your target buyer’s behaviour, though, you will gain a significant edge over your competitors.
Old dogs, new tricks
People, and society, have changed immensely over the last 100 years because we are nothing if not resilient. We have gone from making entire meals from scratch to microwaving complete dinners in minutes, waiting months for written correspondence to being unable to wait seconds for a text. World events, and technology, have shaped the fabric of who we are and how we act, and the recent world events have impacted buying behaviour more than businesses realise.
Recently, Gartner released a new report about how the B2B buying journey has changed, and what this means for sales. In true Gartner fashion, it provides an in-depth comparative analysis of B2B consumer behaviour over several years, and the results are astounding.
In short, they have discovered that the buyer has transgressed from the ‘tried and true’ linear model of consumption whereby they progressed through stages until the sale was finally complete. Instead, they take a journey that is chaotic and, according to Gartner, when mapped out, looks more like a “big bowl of spaghetti.”
In the linear model of the buyer’s journey, salespeople were extremely instrumental. They aided and guided the consumer by holding their hand every step of the way, but in this new model, consumers have become more independent. This doesn’t mean that your salespeople are no longer needed but rather we have to reimagine their role in the buying journey. Salespeople are no longer THE channel to customers; they are A channel.
But what does this really mean?
It means that a low sales conversion doesn’t mean your salespeople are at fault; it means there is an information problem.
Don’t sell, guide
B2B buyers in 2022 are overwhelmed. We live in the information age, and while it is wonderful to have so much information at your fingertips, you can easily find yourself drowning in it. With so many different things to consider and so much information to process, the only thing your target B2B buyer in 2022 CAN feel is overwhelmed. This is when your salespeople can help, but to do so, they need to change tactics.
When you find yourself with a surplus of information, the last thing you want is MORE information. Salespeople who continue down the route of throwing more information at an already-drowning potential customer are actually throwing them an anvil as opposed to a life raft. To ensure you are giving them that life raft and helping them to shore, you need to be what Gartner calls an “information connector.” An information connector’s role is to guide – and ONLY guide.
In the traditional sales model, a salesperson had to establish their expertise and authority, and this was often done by demonstrating the depth of their knowledge by sharing what they knew about the service or product – more information. However, an information connector uses their knowledge to provide the consumer with the right frameworks and tools to organise the information they have already sourced. This method improves purchase ease for the customer, which can lead to larger, more valuable, and higher quality deals without the presence of “buyer’s regret.”
The sales and marketing paradigm
For decades, sales and marketing were seen as one and the same. In recent years, though, they have each evolved into singular departments that provide essential value to growing businesses of every size.
In the linear buyer’s behaviour model of old, the marketing department generated interest by targeting your ideal audience and nurturing them through their journey before passing them off to the sales department to seal the deal. However, as stated, the B2B buying behaviour of 2022 is anything but linear, so there can’t be a “pass off” anymore. Gartner’s research suggests that both the sales and marketing endeavours must run parallel.
It has been concluded by Gartner that buyers are just as likely to close a deal online as they are to close one with a sales rep. This means that in order to support prospects effectively and close the maximum number of deals, you have to ensure you have a solid alignment of information across both channels and give them the option to close as much of their deal as possible online for those who wish to do so.
In the digital marketing sector IT companies, we have a tendency to still follow the traditional linear model, with the marketing team generating interest and nurturing the prospect through their journey with the required detailed information and CTAs that guide them through the initial stages before handing them over to the salespeople. This method can still be considered effective in some way because deals are still being closed, but because the model doesn’t take into account the recent changes in B2B buying behaviour, it is not as fruitful for B2B suppliers.
To rectify this, sales and marketing need to work together to ensure they are on the same trajectory to materially simplify the buying process at every stage of the journey. This does not mean that sales and marketing should again be lumped into the same department but rather there needs to be more communication between the two to discuss approach and alignment of information because the individual intervention of a salesperson to try and close a deal is no longer enough.
If we can systematically achieve a more comprehensive understanding of the way our target audiences gather information and make decisions, we will effectively be able to fill the gaps in our information in a way that is consistent and provides maximum support to the buyer. In turn, this will help your buyer reach a more adequate purchase decision faster that has a higher return for the B2B supplier and is free of purchase regret for the consumer.
Whether you outsource your digital marketing or not, it is still possible to achieve the desired result. The key to ensuring it is successful, though, depends on your level of communication with the people that need to be in the loop – your salespeople and your marketing strategists. Clearly define your business goals and your sales strategy. Reimagine the role of your salespeople when interacting with potential clients. And, lastly, ensure that your marketing team is able to provide you with a strategy that aligns with the information and guidance your salespeople are giving to prospects.
If you’d like to know more about how a specialist digital marketer can improve your IT company’s success, get in touch with the team at LeftLeads. We can help use our marketing expertise and B2B buying behaviour knowledge to ensure your business is positioned for maximum success.
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