The ongoing global pandemic is affecting businesses in various ways across all industries. The event is activating sales changes in the B2B sector, which are forcing marketers to re-imagine the old buyer persona for the new normal. The flu-like epidemic is also altering the interactive dynamics between the buyer and the seller.
Like a selective extinction event, some businesses are facing a steep decline in demand. Some businesses are in sharp contrast, handling acquisition processes that will accelerate profits and revenues at a time when growth seems elusive.
As an illustration, data by McKinsey reveals that close to half of B2B businesses in the US are lessening their budgets. COVID-19 is also creating new trends and realities and the emerging new B2B customer habits have brought a multitude of changes to the sales process.
The savvy marketer knows that they need to adapt for survival. Social distancing measures for instance are escalating the use of digital communication technology leading to two times more digital sales growth. Mobile app orders are now over 250% higher with remote selling becoming the new norm. Below are the emerging expectations of the B2B buyer persona in the new normal.
They Have Gone Digital
Most businesses are right now investing in robust digital capabilities and tools to handle virtual sales, sales effectiveness and acceleration, and predictive analytics. Why? Governments all over the world are instituting various social distancing guidelines that will change the way business is done way into the near future.
Consequently, 73.9% of B2B businesses in a survey say that their sales opportunities have shrunk due to the intense lockdown measures. Some of the reasons given for the decline in sales are as follows;
- 50 % of marketers blame the drop in sales to postponed purchase decisions
- 25% of them claim that a diminished ability to meet the customer face-to-face has hampered their ability to close the deal
- 7% of B2B marketers point out that an inability to meet their teams and colleagues as the reason for the contracting sales
Despite the doom and gloom, 26.1% of B2B marketers have enjoyed increased sales. This statistic implies that there are B2B businesses that are excelling during the ongoing tectonic shift. What does this percentage of marketers know about the new B2B customer, that others do not?
The savvy marketer understands that the recession prone customer or those that are in the non-essential sector will have challenges and new expectations. They have grasped that the B2B customer;
- Expects the marketer to sell to them without a face-to-face meeting
- Will have an increased difficulty for in-person sales meetings for months to come
- Has little or no opportunities at all for conferences, large gatherings or trade shows this year and perhaps in 2021
- Has limited entertainment spots for meeting salespeople and other prospects
- Is undergoing changes in buyer contacts as furloughs and layoffs take effect and change the dynamics of B2B purchase teams
- Has very fluid budgets that call for thoroughly vetted purchase decisions
Consequently, smart B2B marketers are boosting their virtual team’s effectiveness by redesigning the customer’s sales journey. They are also in the process of streamlining their approach to sales to ensure that their strategies are visible and convenient to customer interactions. This is the reason why a large number of SMBs are now investing in virtual or contactless infrastructure such as virtual tools that maintain the continuity of business.
These intelligent B2B businesses have also exponentially expanded their virtual interactions with the customer. There is therefore an ongoing industry-wide shift to the digital fueling massive tech-savvy interest in B2B marketing teams. Fewer marketers are now utilizing filed or in-person sales teams. Before the pandemic close to 57% of all sales were sold in these traditional formats.
Data shows that in-person sales have dropped to the 20% mark. The use of inside sales has also lessened to 39% while 50% of all B2B firms utilized this channel before COVID-19. Web or online customer support via mobile, video, or website channels has risen. The use of direct sales without sales representative action has also increased. E commerce is, therefore, bringing in the lion’s share of the revenue for businesses that sell online.
They Want An Efficient Self-Service Model
The self-service app or portal eases the consumer’s day-to-day business process and gives B2B businesses more control in company purchases. There are predictions that by 2023, the B2B e-commerce sector in the US will be worth over 1.8 trillion or 17% of all sales. At the time of these predictions, most B2B purchase interactions were person to person.
The study, therefore, notes an increasing need for self-service options that could efficiently handle complex B2B orders and sales. As an illustration, there is a great need for efficient self-service platforms that handle the ordering processes of machines in the manufacturing sector.
While there has not been a shortage of self-service technology, few businesses have made innovations that offer beneficial variants of self-service apps or portals. Simple online proposal request interfaces and configure price quote systems could for instance go a long way in managing the new shift towards digital use.
Unfortunately, many businesses tend to offer the least alternatives to dodge the inefficiencies and errors that these systems are prone to. While in the past B2B businesses have taken baby steps in this area, they now need to find a balance between the complexity of self-service platforms and the need to increase sales.
The ongoing shift to the digital means that B2B customers expect improved self-service options that feed them easy to access information, options comparisons, ordering processes, and service provision in the absence of live sales reps in the case of less complicated challenges.
The new B2B buyer persona is not ready to deal with buggy mobile apps and websites, so B2B businesses need to resolve all technical problems as they appear. A smooth self-service platform will increase your digital experience promoting loyalty and revenue collection.
If you offer platforms that are ill-equipped for the new normal, your competition will steal your revenue and you might lose your customers after the pandemic’s recovery phase. Remember, that most B2B decision-makers say that most changes made to their market approach will last long after the pandemic.
They Expect a Personal Touch
The road warrior marketer that would hunt and close deals in trade conferences and events is now facing extreme travel and physical distancing restrictions. This B2B marketer has a deep appreciation of the old school conference and events model of selling because of the value that these events hold for lead generation and sales.
The bustling four-day trade event would guarantee higher success than other digital marketing channels would. Infuse these events with digital technology and utilize interactivity to attract, retain, and engage high quality leads as well as stand out to the digital native younger audience.
These events were not only high in value but allowed more measurability. Over 52% of marketers say that event marketing brought in more business value than other strategies. These B2B marketers say that business conferences not only build brand awareness, or generate leads but also strengthen relationships with customers.
They would utilize them to accommodate the needs of the buyer, getting valuable face-to-face interactions that lead to loyal customer bases. The thing is, while interactions with customers are going virtual, the customer more than ever craves that human touch especially during complex buyer dealings.
They, therefore, expect more than convenient self-service options from you. Remember that over 77% of all B2B customers view the B2B purchase process as overly complex. The new B2B buyer therefore wants a better professional experience that tops what is available in the B2C sector. According to McKinsey data, the B2B business that provides excellent digital experiences will stand a higher chance of becoming a primary supplier, than one that does not do so.
You, therefore, need to get it right when infusing your virtual interactions with a personal touch. You need to factor in expertise, transparency, and speed. You can apply these virtues in live chat sessions, rated by 33% of buyers as a top requirement for a top-notch B2B supplier. Use the highly values personal touch to address any buyer frustrations or pain points such as ordering challenges, or technical glitches
While close to half of all B2B businesses are cutting their short term spend, leading to a decline in demand, some businesses will emerge from the downturn as market leaders. The B2B buyer persona and their needs are evolving, and the marketer has to anticipate their pains, needs, opportunities, and challenges beforehand for success.
The shift towards remote work has had massive implications on the buyer and the B2B business model and these effects could last long into the future. It is paramount therefore that businesses embrace digital interaction and to infuse it with a personal touch to enhance customer interaction and engagement.
Digital tools will also keep teams in collaboration by increasing the sharing of insights and intelligence. The new normal needs B2B marketers that are willing to embrace it and shape the future.