Recently I attended a B2B marketing seminar, to stay abreast of the latest trends. While there are no radical game changers, the shifts we’ve seen in the B2B world continue to further differentiate B2B marketing from the consumer-based world. If you sell to businesses, then your approach needs to be aligned with the way your customers do business.
The need for dedicated sales people is diminishing, but business development requirements have increased. It’s time to turn your closers into missionaries. I’ll look at both ends of this dichotomy. Here’s why dedicated sales people are diminishing in value:
1) As much as 90% of the purchasing decision is now made before businesses ever speak to a sales person.
2) Research is easy. Everyone knows how to search on the internet, and product & service decisions are made from the infomation available there. If you’ve been a hold-out, thinking the public needs to speak with your sales team to get all the info – whether you are correct or not, the public doesn’t think so.
3) Within your customer’s company, the culture has shifted so that everyone criticizes bad vendor decisions. Unlike you living with a badly fitting shirt, poor decisions which affect people in your organization, will be held against you – and bring into question your ability to lead, and make these choices.
So the stakes have raised, but the ability to research has removed sales people from being the easiest path to an informed decision.
On the flip side, pro-active business development seems to be the best way to raise awareness.
1) Advertising has been largely ignored by B2B customers for almost a decade now. This is why trade periodicals are vanishing.
2) Awareness that articles & news items are “subsidized” has led to the impression that media and PR is essentially just advertising, and therefore not worth heeding.
3) An active vendor-buyer relationship is one of the best ways to avoid trouble with new purchases. And a vendor who works to help erase issues, becomes a valued partner.
4) Being viewed as active within the community (whether it is geographic or sector based), not only builds awareness , but becomes a prime deciding point in vendor selection.
I can’t stress enough that the shift to business development means moving from transaction based measuring, to activity based measuring of effectiveness. This is not easy – because the need for results is high, and the initial shift leaves the whole sell-cycle duration unknown. You are investing in the long term future, and as a business owner need to shift your own processes and thinking into the new B2B buying process.