One of the top Account Executives at a high-growth tech company, Mike did everything he could as the deal progressed from prospect to close. He identified the customer’s problem and made all the key presentations, phone calls, and meetings, yet failed to convert the commit into a closed sale in the defined timelines like many times he had done in the past.
What was lacking in Mike's sales approach?
Today’s modern buyers are consumers first, and their experience as consumers influences their buying behavior. B2B buyers increasingly demand the same easy buying experience they enjoy in their private life.
Gartner's research shows that the experience-first approach works — companies that deliver great buying experiences grow 2x as fast as companies that deliver average experiences.
By now, we all know that in B2B, the buying experience is a bit dated; Formalities, long processes, and impersonal selling. We know that B2B buying is tiring and complex, but does it have to be? The emergence of modern buyers may necessitate a change in selling strategies. Businesses no longer compete based on products and services alone. To stand apart, you need to create unforgettable experiences.
The ability of the buying experience to deliver more traffic, higher conversion rates, larger average deal sizes, shorter sales cycles are some of the reasons for the faster growth. It is all about providing buyers with a great experience and then watching their revenue metrics improve.
So how do you go about creating an amazing buying experience? Well, let's start with understanding what buying experience is.
Buying Experience is the entire journey a prospective customer engages in from initial awareness to purchase, whereas customer experience primarily deals with existing customers. You can think of buying experience as a superset of customer experience, in that a successful buying experience leads to the buyer making the purchase decision - and customer experience is what follows.
The buying experience includes multiple steps in the process buyers go through as they progress from the status quo (before embarking on the buying experience) to making a purchase (the final step towards becoming a customer).
Why is the buyer experience so crucial in sales?
Traditional sales methods are no longer viable. Today, sellers win B2B deals by providing exceptional buyer experiences. Here are two reasons why there is a need to shift the focus on buying experience:
1. Buyers expect customized buyer experiences.
Buyers today have access to an unprecedented amount of data. They're more knowledgeable and have more options than ever before. As a seller, you must showcase value at every step of the buying journey and influence your buyer to buy from you.
2. Buyer journeys are more complex than ever before
Buying used to be simple. Earlier, buyers purchased from physical stores, catalogs, or online. They attended trade exhibitions, planned demos, and listened to pitches.
Today buyers have a lot of touchpoints: chatbots, email, mobile apps, social media platforms, G2 reviews, branded websites, and more.
According to Gartner, a typical complex B2B sale includes 6 to 10 decision-makers at the buyer’s end‚ each armed with four or five pieces of information gathered independently that must be deconflicted within the group.
Because today's buyer journey has become so complicated, providing an excellent and seamless buyer experience is more vital than ever. You must personalize the buying experience to your buyer's demands at every stage of the buying journey.
Here are three key areas where buying experience differs from customer experience:
The goal of delivering a successful buyer experience relies on making the buying cycle shorter, increasing your conversion rates, and making it easier for your buyer to make their purchase decision. Customer experience, on the other hand, focuses mainly on driving customer satisfaction.
Since buying experience is geared towards prospective buyers, it is challenging to control the outcome as it is likely that the buyer hasn't heard about you before. Imagine your buyer is looking for a specific product or service. Their buying decision will likely be influenced by everything from the ads they see to the online reviews they come across. It is easier to track customer satisfaction where the ambiguity for determining success is comparatively less.
Current benchmarks for measuring success in delivering a compelling buying experience are ambiguous as compared to b2b customer experience. Customer experience metrics like Net Promoter Scores (NPS) help understand what works and what can be improved while existing buying experience measurement tactics involve continuous monitoring and, at the same time, don’t guarantee results.
According to the 2020 B2B Buyer Behavior Study from Demand Gen Report, Post COVID, 84% of B2B buyers changed their purchasing plans and behavior, including engagement with potential service providers.
In the face of changing client behaviors and challenging economic conditions, sales leaders must also alter how their companies sell. The shifts in buying behavior are a result of digital developments that were well underway before the outbreak. We feel we have reached a digital tipping point, where B2B sales operations will no longer be the same as they were before the pandemic.
Here are three areas where this shift in B2B buyer behavior is the most apparent:
Buying behavior reflects an increase in the importance of digital interactions. B2B buyers' preference for digitally-enabled sales interactions has substantially increased when researching items online before making a decision. Digital connections are more essential than ever to B2B firms' clients than traditional sales interactions.
While some skepticism persists, the majority of sales have now shifted to a video conferencing(VC)/phone/web sales model, and more sales leaders feel it is equally or more effective than sales models employed before COVID-19. The rapid and huge shift to remote working caused by the pandemic and the ongoing "consumerization" of B2B buying have far-reaching consequences for how businesses sell to and purchase from one another. Sales leaders need to work hard to adapt to this new reality.
While most businesses are cutting down on spending, a significant proportion are increasing or sustaining it, with rates varying by firm size, industry, and—perhaps most importantly—location in the globe. However, a substantial proportion is keeping it or even increasing it, at least for the time being. This is especially true for major B2B firms, where the rate of change in spending—either up or down—is greater than the rate of change in revenue.
A great buying experience can have several benefits for both the buyer and the seller. Here are some of the benefits of providing a great buying experience:
Overall, providing a great buying experience can lead to increased sales, improved customer loyalty and satisfaction, reduced costs, and a competitive advantage. By prioritizing the needs of their customers, businesses can build a strong reputation, increase customer retention, and ultimately drive growth and success.
There is no better example of great buyer experience than the Nordstrom legendary tire return story - In 1975, a miner came into Nordstrom, a high-end department shop, with a pair of worn-out, filthy tires and demanded his money back. He bought the tires from a shop that has since been replaced by Nordstrom several years ago. What's more, guess what? Even though Nordstrom didn't sell tires, the Nordstrom salesperson accepted the tires and gave him a full refund.
The buying experience is the most crucial element in sales, and the changing paradigm of buyer preferences presents an abundance of pitfalls.
Let's take a look at some of the factors as to why your existing buyer experience strategy needs to change:
Prospects are more inclined to make a purchase decision if they know it has been approved by professionals such as industry analysts, reputable magazines, and other firms. According to a G2 Crowd and Heinz Marketing survey, 92 percent of B2B buyers are more inclined to buy after reading a credible review.
How are you making it easy for your buyers to find the right customer review that most aligns with their needs?
B2B buyers are more educated and informed about their alternatives than ever before because of the availability of online material and the rise of social media. Information is not only widely available, but it is also readily available. Prospects are spending more time conducting their research and gathering information from peers and other third parties. Sales teams have an opportunity to help the buyer make sense of the plethora of information available.
Your buyers have several places to consume information - your website, review sites, gated content, emails from your sellers etc. How are you making it easy for your buyers to find the right content?
Reason and logic may provide the groundwork for purchase, but emotions, intuitions, and trust close the deal. It's critical to take a buyer-centric approach at each stage of the buyer experience. People who do discovery calls in a B2B selling, for example, must ask smart inquiries to identify the prospect's pain points.
Is your enablement program equipping your salespeople to have the requisite skills they need to be more empathetic to your buyers?
From a procedural standpoint, it's critical to recognize that the buyer might not complete the transaction. Alternatively, they could opt for a competitor's product instead. That doesn't imply they didn't have a buying experience; it just means they didn't achieve your goal. That seems like a situation ideal for examination and improvement.
What are you doing to make the buying experience stand out? Especially considering 83% of the buying process happens without any of the vendors that the buyers are looking at
Consider all of the ways buyers may learn about you and your competitors: websites, online reviews, social media platforms, industry magazines, blogs, and a plethora of other sources exacerbate the competitive climate. Modern B2B buyers are conditioned to anticipate experiences that are personalized to their specific requirements and varied interests. When you're up against a lot of competition, meeting—or exceeding—buyer expectations may make all the difference.
What are you doing to stand out against the competition?
Everyone has heard the cliché that finding a new client costs five times more than keeping an existing one. As a result, a buyer-centric sales process should focus on knowing prospects’ expectations and satisfying their requirements even after the sale is completed.
B2B buyers are increasingly concerned about risk and are afraid about making the incorrect selection. As a result, as buyers strive to distribute risk across the organization, the purchasing process is becoming increasingly complicated and collaborative among divisions.
The majority of B2B buyers include more individuals in their decision-making process than in previous years. In addition, 71% now have official purchasing committees in place to examine proposed acquisitions. More internal stakeholders are slowing down the process and even muddling purchasing choices.
The risk of post-purchase discontent rises, as buyers want to know they made the best selection possible. Ironically, the same technology that makes buyers more educated fuels and intensifies this worry over opportunity cost and mitigating risk concerns such as loss of professional credibility, job security, failure of the software to operate as promised technically, and monetary losses.
From investigation to a conclusion, B2B buyers are increasingly dependent on information to help them through the complex and convoluted buying process.
While your prospects may access information quickly, there is overwhelming information out there in multiple sources. Your ability to help your buyers connect the dots between strategy and execution and the necessary information to support that will play a big role in your ability to win deals.
Most companies do a great job of defining buyer personas, customer journeys etc. But there is very little done to fully understand the buying journey and what they have to do in order to navigate the purchasing complexity. Understanding this is central to your ability to win more customers predictably.
A good starting point is looking at consumer behavior research that has been well tested and inculcating radical transparency with the buyer to understand them better - your ability to be radically transparent, collaborative and delivering the personalized experience is central to your winning buyer’s trust.
Any encounter between a business and its buyer, stakeholders, or prospects is referred to as a touchpoint. This can be done in person, online, or through any other means of contact. While many companies pay attention to the major touchpoints, such as websites and printed materials, few take the time to plan out the everyday encounters thoroughly.
Touchpoints are critical to a successful buying experience because they allow buyers to formalize their past views of the company and create an opinion each time they contact it. Creating value at each stage of the buying experience is imperative as every stakeholder demands immediate value as and when they enter the buying journey.
Pro Tip: With BuyerAssist, empower your buyers with insights into how other buyers evaluate, purchase, and realize value from your offerings to influence their buying priorities.
The buyer's life should be made simpler in B2B transactions. It's also important to streamline and simplify the sales process by making more information available. Today's buyers expect everything to be more transparent so they can trust you to add genuine value to their company.
B2B buying is time-consuming, expensive, and collaborative. Your buyers need to make an informed decision and feel satisfied that they made the best selection possible, which is why they seek advice from peers.
Sales professionals must know how to support a prospect's business case and provide information and material that will assist prospects in moving forward in the buying process. Use key evidence points to assist buyers in developing an internal business case and selling it to decision-makers. Encourage your sales staff to communicate their findings via email, social media, and face-to-face meetings.
Businesses must develop high-quality buyer experiences that set them apart from rivals as selling becomes increasingly digital and prospects have more knowledge at their fingertips.
To assess the end-to-end buying experience from both sides of the table and ultimately emerge victoriously, B2B sellers must first understand what buyers think and desire.
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