The huge advances in technology have changed the buying journey beyond all recognition. All the information we need before making a purchase is typically available online and 70% of the buying journey is normally complete before we even speak to a vendor.
When I think about my most recent and significant B2C purchase (a second hand car from Hyundai), the differences between my buying journey in 2018 compared to my last car purchase in 2010 are considerable. From start to finish, they delivered an excellent customer experience, instilling so much confidence that I actually felt comfortable purchasing the car without even having trying it! I would say that my experience was spot-on and really demonstrated the value of true customer centric inbound marketing and sales. My car buying journey looked like this:
- I started my research on Autotrader
- clicked through to their advert
- greeted by a chatbot
- followed up with a call from a sales person (non-pushy)
- received a video of the car
- agreed a price
- delivery to my house organised at the weekend (from over 300 miles away)
At every stage I felt reassured and post-purchase was also a positive experience with follow up calls. Consequently, I felt compelled to write a positive review as a happy customer and would most certainly repeat the experience (previously I wouldn't even have considered buying a car online).
This model of placing the customer at the centre of the sales process and engaging quickly with authentic conversations and valuable content is undoubtably the way forward for business success.
The impact of our vastly improved B2C buying habits is starting to filter across to B2B buyers who are now demanding experiences that feel more and more like B2C.
But how easy is it to actually implement a B2C buying experience into a B2B sales process?
Typical challenges are that the B2B sales process is often lengthier and more complex. Amanda Mercer from Drift makes an excellent point: "In B2B, we’re not listening. Instead, we’re doing things that are the opposite of memorable: gating content with forms, and forcing people to endure endless, impersonal email campaigns."
Another challenge in B2B is the response time to leads, recent research showed that only 42% of marketers responded to a hot lead within a five day timeline - if this had been the case for me buying my car, I would have simply abandoned the vendor and gone elsewhere.
Sales people need to be involved earlier in the funnel, working closely with marketing to deliver content which answers buyer's needs and engaging directly with prospects and customers. In a nutshell, B2B has to become truly customer-centric and ensure that the buyer's needs are always driving every interaction with an organisation.
I would say that this absolutely justifies the investment of reviewing B2B sales processes to ensure they reflect B2C buying habits!
So how can you implement a modern B2B sales process? Meet buyers where they’re at (and then do things that don’t scale). Take a look under the hood of your organization and break down each of your customer segments, charting what each of their buying journeys looks like. Then, meet your customers where they’re at by using real-time conversation to engage with them and answer their questions. Think personalized emails, responses on social, and real-time messaging on your website. Good example: Sometimes people think conversations don’t scale. But here at Drift, our sales reps aren’t only on the phone they’re also on our website, having conversations with visitors about our products and services — without them having to book a demo first. We have 1:1 conversations — and even send personalized videos to our prospects to humanize sales reps.