It used to be so easy: generate sales leads, work the pipeline, overcome objections and close sales. Now, everything is different. It’s much harder for your salespeople to get face-to-face appointments. Prospects want to do their own research and product comparisons. They don’t want to talk to you until just before the sale. As a result, sales are stagnant.
Research from CEB's Marketing Leadership Council and Google
shows that business buyers do not contact suppliers directly until 57 percent of the purchase decision is made. That means for nearly two-thirds of the buying process, your potential customers are forming opinions, gathering technical specifications, building requirement lists and narrowing down their vendor options – with little or no influence from you.
Why is this a problem? By the time a prospect makes contact with your company, “They’re learning on their own, and there’s no room to teach them why what they’ve taught themselves is wrong. It’s marketing’s job to influence the 57 percent of the sale that occurs mostly on the web, before sales contact,”
the report adds.
As a result, research conducted by Forrester Consulting
suggests that the traditional role of the sales representative is declining. Only 20 percent of buyers purchase directly from a sales representative more than half of the time, and phone or email customer service is lagging at 17 percent, too.
During the past two years, the B2B research process has changed, according to a study Google conducted with Millward Brown Digital
: “While 64 percent of the C-suite have final sign off, so do almost a quarter (24 percent) of the non-C-suite. What's more, it's the latter that has the most influence; 81 percent of non-C-suiters have a say in purchase decisions. Clearly, if you're marketing only to the highest level, you're overlooking the people who need to notice you,”
the report cautions.
It also reveals that Millennials are taking a lead role in B2B purchase research: In 2012, the age of researchers was more or less evenly spread out across age groups. In 2014, however, 18- to 34-year-olds accounted for almost half of all researchers, a remarkable increase of 70 percent. While they may not be the decision-makers yet, they’re starting to take a stronger role in the B2B purchasing process. Remember – they’re digital natives, with high expectations for online experiences!
CEB and Google’s analysis of traditional marketing, still practiced by many B2B firms, is especially damning:
“Most marketing leaders still treat digital as an unwanted appendage on the traditional marketing campaign cycle, which goes roughly like this: Create a new product, design a campaign touting its features and benefits, figure out a place to stick digital channels within that campaign architecture, execute, measure, repeat...
“(But) customer learning is happening all the time, and doesn’t coincide with your campaign calendar. Marketing organizations have largely been designed from the ground up to support and optimize campaigns, not maintain the continuous presence that the digital channel requires. Marketing management must adjust; if the customer is always learning, then marketing must always be teaching.”
The key, it points out, is customer education, which most B2B marketers appear to be ill-equipped to do:
“It’s not enough to teach; you have to teach well. And the dirty little secret of most content marketing is that it does neither. All of that leads us to the biggest problem with current B2B digital approaches: They rely on content that is not at all useful for customers in the midst of a learning journey. Most content is low value; it may be interesting or get a lot of ‘engagement,’ but it doesn’t help buyers make commercial decisions.”
Digital agencies like Cultivate Communications can help your team make the transition to more effective B2B sales. Learn more about current best practices in digital marketing by accessing our learning resource library.