The business buying process has changed. Today's salespeople need social media selling and digital engagement skills.
Guest Article - December 2010
The digital world is bringing great change to how buyers wish to interact with B2B sales teams.
Buyers who are at ease in researching, communicating, collaborating and buying on the internet are choosing to do business differently.
And I am not referring to the ‘Lost Generation’: those dying breed of executives who ask their executive assistants to print out their emails.
In a recent blog post, Steve Woods notes that:
As the emphasis on face-to-face interaction as a way to build trust decreases in lieu of other ways of building trust, the need to be “in the field” also decreases.
With the recession, corporations are pressured to cut sales costs. Steve Woods cites a stellar blog post from David Skok that compares the relative efficiency of different B2B selling models.
But if B2B sales teams reduce the amount of face-to-face selling time in favor of more efficient sales models using the web and telephone, will B2B buyers be receptive?
In fact, B2B buyers have been driving this change for some time and the pace is accelerating:
- The buying process starts online and so do sales meetings - Given that most buying is initiated with online search, buyers are naturally becoming more accepting of interactions with sales via web conference, email and online chat. These buyers expect a fast response from an informed sales rep and will not wait for the time it takes to schedule an in-person meeting.
- The digital buyer prefers data to voice - The social B2B buyer is more than likely on Facebook at home and at work, on email and LinkedIn. The buyer favors producing content that is written (data) and not spoken (voice). This week Facebook announced that it has reached 500 million users. LinkedIn has over 70 million members worldwide. Not only is this communication data-driven but it is now mostly mobile: mobile data eclipsed voice traffic in December 2009.
- The buyer is not at the office – How you can you meet face-to-face when your prospect is not at the office?The B2B buyer’s office is often in motion (e.g. plane, trains & automobiles) or a home office. The door to your customer is opened through their mobile device and not a fixed position PC.
- The buyer is time-starved – Buyers face inordinate demands on their time. Meeting face-to-face is becoming less frequent due to jam-packed schedules. The Corporate Leadership Council found that the “average ‘job footprint’ (what a worker is expected to do) has increased by a third since the beginning of the recession” (see the Economist for more details). In the new book “Snap Selling“, Jill Konrath diagnoses the buyer as suffering from: Frazzled Customer Syndrome, a debilitating condition brought on by excessive workloads, 24/7 availability, information overload, lack of sleep, and job-related stress.
- The World (of Buyers) is Flat – Evaluation teams are dispersed across the country and even around the world. Meeting face-to-face with all team members is not a possibility given the dispersed nature of buying teams.
Article by Robert Lesser, founder of Direct Impact Marketing
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