The huge advances in technology have changed the buying journey beyond all recognition. All the information we need before making a purchase is typically available online and 70% of the buying journey is normally complete before we even speak to a vendor.
The New Buyer Journey
When I think about my most recent and significant B2C purchase (a second hand car from Hyundai), the differences between my buying journey in 2018 compared to my last car purchase in 2010 are considerable. From start to finish, they delivered an excellent customer experience, instilling so much confidence that I actually felt comfortable purchasing the car without even having tried it! I would say that my experience was spot-on and really demonstrated the value of true customer centric inbound marketing and sales. My car buying journey looked like this:
- I started my research on Autotrader
- clicked through to their advert
- greeted by a chatbot
- followed up with a call from a sales person (non-pushy)
- received a video of the car
- agreed a price
- delivery to my house organised at the weekend (from over 300 miles away)
At every stage of the buyers journey I felt reassured and post-purchase was also a positive experience with follow up calls. Consequently, I felt compelled to write a positive review as a happy customer and would most certainly repeat the experience (previously I wouldn't even have considered buying a car online).
Developing a Customer-Centric Approach
This model of placing the customer at the centre of the sales process and engaging quickly with authentic conversations and valuable content is undoubtedly the way forward for business success.
The impact of our vastly improved B2C buying habits is starting to filter across to B2B buyers who are now demanding experiences that feel more and more like B2C.
Can B2B Sales Follow The Same Model as B2C?
But how easy is it to actually implement a B2C buying experience into a B2B sales process?
Typical challenges are that the B2B sales process is often lengthier and more complex. Amanda Mercer from Drift makes an excellent point: "In B2B, we’re not listening. Instead, we’re doing things that are the opposite of memorable: gating content with forms, and forcing people to endure endless, impersonal email campaigns."
Sales People Need to Answer Buyer's Needs and Engaging Directly with Prospects
Another challenge in B2B is the response time to leads, recent research showed that only 42% of marketers responded to a hot lead within a five day timeline - if this had been the case for me buying my car, I would have simply abandoned the vendor and gone elsewhere.
Sales people need to be involved earlier in the sales funnel, working closely with marketing to deliver content which answers buyer's needs and engaging directly with prospects and customers through social selling. In a nutshell, B2B has to become truly customer-centric and ensure that the buyer's needs are always driving every interaction with an organisation.
In fact, a report by McKinsey showed that businesses that did this saw a 20% increase in customer leads and a 10% growth in first-time customers.
I would say that this absolutely justifies the investment of reviewing B2B sales processes to ensure they reflect B2C buying habits! Essentially, we need to ensure our inbound marketing and sales approach mirrors the way our prospects buy, here are 5 simple techniques sales teams' can use to start social selling.