Looking into the competitive environment of b2b sales, I began to notice both subtle and major changes in the way our b2b buyers function and treat us. These changes will have an impact upon our b2b sales success in the future.
Have you noticed some of the changes happening in the way your b2b buyers are using your services as a b2b sales person. I know the boomer b2b sales people have seen the changes occurring during the past decade as I have. And, our success has been hampered by these changes – usually in the form of losing old customers and constantly being hammered on price comparisons.
How and Why are these changes happening in our marketplace. How and Why are these changes happening to you? And, more importantly, do you have a sales strategy to change the game?
Here are the Big Seven Changes in Tactics and Methods used by our B2B Buyers…
- Knows More About Product
In the pre-internet days, the sales person was the one who actually informed and shared vital details about your product. Today, the internet allows your customer to search not only your product or solution, they can open their search and learn about all the options currently available to them. They do not require your visits as they now feel confident they have the solutions at hand. Your first goal to offset this is stop actively selling your product and begin asking business related questions to uncover their issues, problems and concerns. Remember, they no longer need your information. Ouch!
- Makes Product and Price Comparisons Without You
Once again, the b2b buyer no longer has to meet with all the b2b sales people to handle technical and price comparisons. The internet can provide this information quite easily – especially since most marketing departments are still producing more product information pdf brochures AND placing them on the internet. Then the B2B Buyer just prints them out and lines them up on a desk or conference table to compare – often making a decision without any b2b sales person involved.
- Demanding Price Reductions
With the internet and search engines your b2b buyers can find all the pricing quotes they want. Now they take action to demand in most cases for you to match or go lower than the internet quotes they have on a spreadsheet. Therefore, you need to do some counter research of your own to learn as much as you can about your competition. You can never not have enough information about your competitors – including the differences between their written claims and praises to whether they actually deliver the results stated. This is important for many reasons – from knowing the competitor cannot deliver and walking away based upon integrity (they always come back after they get burned a couple of times due to lack of performance.) or using a testimonial or getting the buyer in touch with one of your customers who switched from that competitor. I just spend a half day being briefed on all my competitors strengths and weaknesses by a staff member. Research is simple the issue is complex and needs attention.
- Functional and Unexpected Changes in Decision Makers and Buyers
Some of our customers are actually learning how to purchase and negotiation the Walmart Way. Which means rotating buyers so personal relationships can not be developed to influence the decisions. Also, when your Champion leaves the organization or is promoted to another position away from your normal decision process – then you have a potential issue. And, the facts show the Gen Y group is less than patient and will go after promotions or leave for new jobs in a heartbeat! So, your b2b buyers are changing more often creating a challenge for you unless you are planning for it. Networking within the buyer groups as well as the people who actually control budgets can give you a competitive advantage. Take steps today to make contacts with as many people as you can within the target company.
- Financial Budgets are Restricted
Since 2008, the game has changed as the recession took over and the bean counters took over. The guidelines for financial authorities changed overnight and are not changing back it appears until the economy is roaring again. So, in the mean time, you will need to get higher in the organization to win accounts, you will need to learn how to influence the individuals within a committee (with all their separate and counter agendas) and most importantly, you will need to learn how to show real ROI to customers while doing more homework with your targeted accounts to show how a no decision or a slow decision is costing them a huge amount of money – thus they are losing productivity and performance.
- B2B Sales People have to Work Smarter to Win
No longer will b2b Sales People be able to “wing it” as a strategy. Today, you will need to out think, out work and be more prepared than ever before. The past is gone, the good old boy network is almost gone – today it is all about knowing your customer better than anyone else. Take charge, learn how to learn more about your customers, industry, trends, and their customer needs. The application results of your offerings can help you with your business acumen to win more accounts.
- More Complexity Has Entered the Game
Your role is to take all the complexity – buying committees, multiple decision makers, pilot program requests, building the actual specs for their products – are all in play today. Your Goal is to simplify what and how you get things done, communicate your roles clearly and most importantly is help create an ease of buying approach with you and your company. Take out the complexity whenever you can. Again, your natural creativity is one of your biggest advantages. Write down the things you find that are complex and then mind-storm the issues to create simple solutions.
There you have the Big Seven Changes made by B2B Buyers and Decision Makers. So, what is your plan to counter these tactics? The advantage you have now is your are aware of what is part of the new norm. Use your creativity to offset their impact upon your results.
I would suggest you get together with your sales team peers and your sales manager or executive and dialogue the different ways your sales team can deal with these new game changers. Your future success will depend upon your taking action now.