Can you recall how you used to get from one location to the next prior to GPS? I mean beyond relying on the help of clunky maps, gas station attendants and pay phones, do you remember the specific experiences you had and journeys you took? Rarely were they the most efficient, or even worse, the most accurate of potential paths. Thankfully, today’s technology creates a more efficient journey and because of it, our experience is vastly different.
It’s the same with today’s B2B buyer. Technology and easily accessible information has enabled the new B2B buyer to interact with brands differently and take a different journey to their purchases. When we talk about the new B2B buyer, we’re really talking about one group that is spearheading this new phenomenon.
You guessed it. Millennials.
The old B2B buyer, the Boomer, picks up the phone and calls the company. The company sends out a sales rep. They throw down a brochure, bring a box of donuts and chat about the wants and needs of the buyer. In this scenario, the buyer is moved through the purchase cycle on the seller’s terms.
The new B2B buyer does not raise their hand. The Millennial goes online, reads reviews and comprehensively researches everything about the product he or she wants to buy. They connect with the company much later in their journey, at the point when they are ready to buy. The level of interaction is much more about delivery, price and performance attributes. In this scenario, the buyer is moved through the purchase cycle on their terms.
For B2B marketers and salespeople, it’s not about donuts or going golfing. It is about helping the buyer comprehend what the brand is going to deliver, why the product is different and responding to how the buyer wants to transact. It is much more about building a relationship through the buyer-controlled path-to-purchase and the transaction than an out-of-date sales process.
We synthesize all of this as the B2B Buyer Revolution. And make no mistake, it’s here to stay. And the behaviors of Millennials are now affecting Xers and even Boomers.
Why? Because starting this year, Millennials have displaced Boomers as the largest U.S. demographic, and by 2025, they will comprise 75 percent of the global workforce.
There are three imperative truths that are driving this B2B Buyer Revolution:
- Buyers are stealthy. Many studies have shown that B2B buyers are anywhere from 57 to 90 percent of their way through the purchase decision-making process before engaging with a sales rep. These individuals are stealth buyers because, without you knowing it, they’re already armed with detailed information about specific products that may surpass the insights available to many salespeople. It means that they are forming opinions and narrowing down their options earlier in the buying cycle, all with little influence from you. As a B2B marketer, it requires a command of the digital space and a steady stream of relevant content in order to engage the buyer throughout their due diligence phase.
- Technology is unrelenting. Empowering the behavior of the stealth buyer is the everyday use of technology. Technology is ubiquitous. It allows buyers instantaneous access to information through whatever context and device that they choose. It means that not only does a brand’s message need to resonate, it also needs to be accessed through a friction-free experience by whatever means the buyer chooses to engage. Otherwise, the buyer will find the information elsewhere. It’s essential for a brand’s content to be discoverable at each location in the most appropriate format for each stage of the buying process.
- Marketing, sales and customer service are fusing. Because of first two truths, the lines between company departments are becoming blurred and the stages at which each interacts with the buyer is more fluid. Unfortunately, many brands have failed to respond to this reality and are often disconnected in their messaging from one department to the next. Through all the ideas of technology and change, everything still focuses on the idea of relationships. It is critical that companies realize that with the Revolution and speed of which we are working, the bedrock is still the ability to have conversations with people.
As a B2B customer engagement agency, we believe the only way to recognize buying-pattern changes is by staying in-touch with buyers and customers. They tell us. Regardless of the market category, you start to see how people’s information gathering process changes, and as a result, the sales process is required to evolve.
The new B2B buyer lives at the intersection of marketing and technology, and marketers that own that vital space will be able to move their buyers to yes. The ones that don’t will be left holding the pay phone.
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