Whether you’re selling to a business or an individual, there’s one thing that B2C and B2B markets will always have in common – the decision maker is a human. Sorry if that revelation has caused you to spill your coffee, but it’s a fact.
As humans we have common values, emotions and expectations when it comes to the act of buying, which we don’t simply disregard the moment we step into our place of work.
Sales and marketing theorists have always considered there to be a gulf of difference in the B2B vs B2C marketing approach. But in this modern world, where opportunities for customer interaction are so vast, and technology is changing the way humans buy, isn’t it time that B2B sales tactics started to reflect the B2C selling process? We certainly think so.
The Factors Influencing B2B Sales Tactics
The fact that the terms “B2B” and “B2C” exist proves there has always been a perceived difference in sales approach for the two consumer types, and rightly so. You can’t just tear up all the theories of B2B selling and take a full B2C stance. But our argument is that the differences in approach don’t have to be so vast and shouldn’t be considered as barriers to any crossover.
Here are three factors which prevent businesses from deviating from standard B2B tactics:
- The B2B buying process is more complex and therefore takes much longer
- In B2B there are multiple decision makers to try and engage with
- In B2B sales, the windows for engagement are narrower
But don’t the majority of B2B marketing plans actually create these characteristics, rather than do anything to cater to them? Here’s what we mean:
The buying process takes longer because for many businesses, the selling process they encounter is slow.
Most methods of B2B lead generation are cold. We want the business to enter the sales funnel the way we want them to. Following receipt of an email, online advert or online search, business customers are lead to your website, where most commonly they are met with a request to take the next step of requesting more information or contacting a sales rep. How quickly your business responds to this request has a big say in the speed of the process, or whether the process continues at all.
Once the business customer has then gathered more information, they may decide to request a demo or set up a meeting – more time required, as they have to discuss this with the key decision makers too and get them in the room. Again, we have placed the onus on the business to organize this and drive the sale forward.
We acknowledge that windows for engagement are narrower in the B2B world, but most standard B2B customer journeys don’t do anything to make the process shorter or answer the customer’s needs sooner. Instead, B2B businesses often expect customers to ‘fall in line’ with their funnel, rather than putting them first.
So, should we accept that this is just the way B2B selling is different to B2C? Or should we consider changing the selling process to eliminate, or at least reduce some of these differences, and embrace the consumerization of B2B? If you want to keep up with, or steal a march on your competitors, you should definitely consider the latter!
How to Sell to Businesses More Efficiently
Using the above established methods, B2B sales people typically don’t engage with leads fast enough, or warmly enough, to keep them interested, and that’s a big mistake. As human consumers we want a smoother, faster sales process. What does the B2C world teach us about customer engagement?
Most Importantly: Meet your Business Customers Where They Are
The key to a warmer selling process is to offer one-to-one contact right from the very start. Eradicate any delays in response, take control of the process rather than hand the initiative to your customer. There are multiple ways to do this:
- Offer instant messaging on your website to answer customer queries immediately. Chatbots are one of the best B2B lead generation ideas, as they alert you when a prospect is on your site and you can strike up or further conversation.
- Offer demo videos which can be watched and shared with other stakeholders.
- Send personalized emails from a real person in your team, not an automated inbox.
- Set up and monitor social media pages, with sales reps able to provide immediate answers even out of hours.
Our affinity to brands and stores in the B2C world is driven by how we are treated from the moment we begin a customer journey. This is a key learning that B2B companies should take.
Present Detailed Service / Product Information
If you want to buy something in your personal life, you don’t expect to have to make further contact with a store before you can get detailed insight into the product or service on offer. You get given access to detailed information that is presented up front, that gives you options and informs your buying decision faster. A detailed product overview like ours ensures business customers see the value in buying from you.
It’s About Being Customer-centric
It’s not rocket science to say that any selling process is about meeting your customer’s needs. Yet in B2B we are often guilty of delivering a standard message that is impersonal in calls, mails and online. Many B2C businesses place huge significance on buyer behavior and tailor messages / product suggestions to it. They also provide examples of their product and service being used by other customers who are like their prospects – think of fashion brands which show information on sizing and guides for certain body shapes. If you offer a service or product that serves multiple sectors, present information that is sector specific – just like we do in the sectors we serve section of our website.
New Customers Want to Know What Existing Customers Think
Reviews and case studies are more important then ever when customers are purchasing high value items or entering a long term contract. Hotels, internet providers etc. will all present customer reviews up front knowing that these build trust – business deals are often high value and trust is a key factor in any buying decision. Access to case studies should feature in any B2B customer journey.
Take a B2C Stance with Your B2B Marketing Plan
B2B selling has to change. As customers expectations are developing, a traditional B2B approach will soon be rejected by business customers who expect a more personal and interactive customer journey.
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