The world of B2B sales is changing, and the B2B buying journey is quickly evolving. This means many businesses struggle to keep up. The pandemic has accelerated the pace of change even more, as all sales processes have been forced to go digital-first.
However, the digital trend in B2B sales was strong even before Covid-19, and it seems safe to say that this is a shift in behavior that will not be reversed after the pandemic.
Digital B2B sales are here to stay, and now the question is how businesses can best leverage it.
Transparency and Access to Online Information has Changed the Game
The availability of online information has created a new situation for B2B brands, where digital channels have made it much easier for buyers to do research and collect information on their own. This means vendors have less access to prospects and less opportunity to influence customer decisions.
According to research by Gartner, when B2B buyers are considering buying something, they only spend 17% of their time in meetings with suppliers. The rest of the time is spent doing independent research. When comparing multiple suppliers, the amount of time a B2B buyer spends with a sales rep is only around 5-6%.
Gartner proposes that the following three steps are necessary for B2B companies to stay ahead in this new landscape. To not be left behind, you need to:
- Navigate the evolution of the B2B buying journey
- Position your unique value-add selling proposition to help guide customers decide with confidence
- Accelerate beyond foundational data analytics towards AI-powered insights
Most B2B companies are aware that they need to change to keep growing in today's customer-driven economy. But change can be challenging, especially in B2B sales, where ways of working and doing business often are less agile than in B2C. On the bright side, there's a huge opportunity to surpass the competition for the companies who are willing to embrace digital.
In this article, we'll look at 5 key trends forming the reality of digital B2B sales today. We'll also look at 5 tips that will help you create a competitive buying experience that makes your prospects choose you over your competitors.
5 Key Trends in Digital B2B Sales
Content Has Become a Key Differentiator
One of the essential things for B2B companies to invest in moving forward will be competitive content. According to Forrester, 62% of B2B buyers today develop a finalized vendor list based solely on digital content. This means that the companies with the strongest content, rather than the most potent product, are the ones who will make it onto that list.
The B2B Buying Journey Takes Place Online
B2B buyers today prefer to do as much research as possible on their own so that once they reach out to vendors, they're well prepared. The days when buyers were guided through the process by a sales rep are long gone; today, sales reps have only around 5% of a B2B customer's time during their buying journey. This restricted time, coupled with shifting buying dynamics, is reshaping the strategic focus of B2B marketing and sales organizations.
Related reading: The B2B Ecommerce Marketplace Opportunity
B2B Buyers Expect The Convenience of B2C Experiences
As B2C buying journeys have become more efficient and personalized, customers have come to expect the same from all their ecommerce experiences. This means B2B companies from all industries now face the same challenge: to make B2B shopping as easy as B2C – or buyers will take their business elsewhere.
You Need a Digital B2B Sales Strategy
Gone are the days when B2B companies could get away with copying the digital playbooks of B2C brands. The buying groups are big, sales processes are complex, and you need a comprehensive digital strategy that can contain that. Without a strategic map and clear goals, you will not be able to control the course of your business.
Related reading: Ecommerce Strategy 101: How to Build a Workable Budget
Big Data Is Key to Strategic Decisions
While B2C brands have long been highly aware of the potential of data, many B2B brands are only just beginning to explore what's possible. Most B2B companies use only a tiny percentage of the data they already own, leaving money and opportunity on the table. Moving forward, B2B companies will be highly motivated to explore the potential of their customer data to be able to make data-driven strategic decisions.
Want more advice on this topic?
5 Tips for Delivering a Differentiated B2B Buying Experience
Get To Know Your Customers With Thorough Research
A surprising number of B2B companies are not consistently talking to their customers. How will you know if you don’t ask your customers and prospects what they want and need? Doing so should be considered sales and marketing 101 since qualitative interviews are the best way to get to know and understand your target audience, their aspirations, and their needs. Creating a focus group with some of your best customers can be a smart move to make sure you're always able to get their input on new product ideas as well as marketing messaging.
Develop B2B Buyer Personas Specific to Your Industry
With 60% of B2B tech buyers in 2021 being millennials – an inherently digitally native cohort – personalization is no longer optional. This target group is growing, and they not only value personalization; they expect it. Buyer personas are unique to every business and are essential in understanding how to acquire more customers. Make sure to include all personas in the buying group, which in B2B sales usually will involve more than one person and role.
Don't Let Your Business Process Dictate the Customer Experience
Make sure to adopt an "outside-in" mindset instead of working the other way around. It's easy to start from your product and processes, but doing so will usually not create the best buying experience. Instead, start with your prospect’s first experience with your company and design the customer experience to best cater to your customers' needs.
Related reading: B2B Ecommerce Design & Development Trends 2021
Train Your Sales Team in Consultative Selling
Whether in B2C or B2B, nobody likes being "sold to." A salesy approach immediately undermines credibility, and especially in B2B where trust is perhaps the most critical factor when purchase decisions are made. Train your sales team to take the role of proactive and consultative experts rather than product mongers, and you'll set them up for success. Teach them to alert customers of value-add products and solutions and arm them with data, content, and tools to contextualize the buying experience and build relationships.
Think Mobile-First For Both Sales Teams and Buyers
By 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions are expected to occur through digital channels, and the percentage that takes place on mobile phones is quickly increasing. Especially with the rise in mobility and remote working the past year, it's a wise strategy to make sure your customer experience is just as optimized for mobile as for desktop.
In today's rapidly evolving ecommerce landscape, B2B marketing teams need to shift their priorities and strategies to ensure B2B buyers get the same level of service and personalization they've grown accustomed to receiving in B2C purchasing experiences.
Some of the most prominent trends in digital B2B ecommerce include:
- Content has become a key differentiator
- The B2B buying journey takes place online
- B2B buyers expect the convenience of B2C buying experiences
- You need a digital B2B sales strategy
- Big data is key to strategic decisions
The following 5 tips will help you deliver a personalized and enjoyable B2B buying experience:
- Get to know your customers with thorough research
- Develop B2B buyer personas specific to your industry
- Don't let your business process dictate the customer experience
- Train your sales team in consultative selling
- Think mobile-first for both sales teams and buyers
How Vaimo Can Help
At Vaimo, we help B2B companies navigate the different aspects of digital transformation, to create outstanding customer experiences that help drive growth.
If you're looking for a partner to guide you through the digital transformation journey and help you understand how to make the most of the new ecommerce landscape, we're here for you. We're happy to help you build and finetune your ecommerce strategy, implement technical changes, and improve the digital customer experience and buying journey. Get in touch with our team of experts to learn how we can help you take your ecommerce business to the next level.