Bain & Company’s research on what consumers value shows how people benefit in multiple ways from digital technology. It reduces cost, saves time, integrates sources of information, connects, organizes, informs and provides access to previously hard-to-find data and expertise — all “elements of value” that have direct application to both consumer and B2B purchasing and product usage. (Elements of value are fundamental types value delivered by company’s offering in their most essential and discrete forms, which benefit customers in particular ways.) Digital natives have brought their consumer habits to the B2B world, and we are seeing older buyers adopt their ways, too (see our article related HBR article “The B2B Elements of Value”). This shift has important implications for the way companies go to market.
What’s Driving the Change?
There are several factors driving this change. First, as digital natives move into decision-making positions in companies, they are bringing with them their expectations about what constitutes a good user experience. They grew up with Amazon, Google and Facebook and expect the same level of service from business-to-business companies. Second, the internet has increased transparency around prices and terms, giving buyers more negotiating power. Third, technology has made it easier for small companies to compete against larger ones by providing them with the same tools and access to information. And finally, the millennial generation is now the largest demographic in the workforce, and they are known for being comfortable with change.
What Does This Mean for B2B Sales?
The good news is that these changes present an opportunity for sales organizations to differentiate themselves by providing a better customer experience. The key is to focus on developing long-term relationships instead of just closing one-time deals. With that in mind, here are three things you can do to stay ahead of the curve:
1. Make sure your sales team is properly trained on your products and services and that they understand your target market inside and out. They should be able to speak to your customer’s needs and pain points and address them directly.
2. Use technology to your advantage by automating repetitive tasks and using data analytics to guide your decision making. This will free up your sales team’s time so they can focus on building relationships with customers.
3. Keep an eye on your competition and be prepared to adjust your strategy as needed. The B2B sales landscape is constantly changing, so you need to be flexible and adaptable to stay ahead of the curve.
The changing nature of B2B purchasing
1. Customer Experience: Customer experience is more important than ever in the B2B space. With so many options available, customers are no longer willing to put up with poor service or an inferior product. They want to work with companies that make their lives easier, not harder. To meet this challenge, companies must invest in creating a seamless customer experience at every touchpoint, from initial awareness all the way through to post-purchase support.
2. Sales Force Effectiveness: A well-trained and effective sales force is critical to success in the B2B space. With customers becoming more informed and empowered, it’s no longer enough for salespeople to simply be knowledgeable about their products. They need to be able to understand the needs of their customers and provide solutions that meet those needs. Additionally, they must be able to differentiate their products from the competition and build relationships with customers that last.
3. Marketing Investment: Marketing budgets are under pressure in many companies, but cutting back on marketing investment is a mistake in the B2B space. With the buying process becoming more complex and customers more informed, companies need to invest in marketing initiatives that will reach and engage their target audience. Additionally, they need to track their return on investment so that they can allocate their resources effectively.
Companies need to focus on customer experience, sales force effectiveness and marketing investment in order to stay ahead of the curve in today’s ever-changing business landscape. Digital natives have brought their consumer habits to the B2B world, and we are seeing older buyers adopt their ways as well. This shift has important implications for the way companies go to market and should not be ignored.