B2B marketers and sales reps have been trying to better understand the customer lifecycle for years — the psychology behind purchasing decisions, the motivations that spur the research process, and more than anything, what makes buyers tick. Despite these efforts, there’s still a disconnect between customers, marketers, and sales reps. In fact, a recent IDC study commissioned by Salesforce identified three main factors causing a breakdown in the modern customer journey:
- Buyers have a hard time finding the right information during the research process, and therefore lack the vendor knowledge they need to make a purchasing decision.
- Marketers don’t understand how to reach a buyer that remains anonymous for a majority of the sales cycle.
- Sales reps lack insight into their prospects’ needs.
The responsibility of ensuring a seamless (and for best-in-class companies, enjoyable) sales experience rests in the hands of marketers and sales reps, not the customers’. But buyers certainly aren’t making this easy — according to IDC, 65% of B2B buyers only engage with a vendor sales rep professional after they’ve already made a purchase decision.
So, how can marketing and sales work together to influence and improve the customer experience when the prospect is in the driver’s seat? It all comes down to relevance.
Personalizing the Buying Experience
While buyers may not reach out until a purchase decision has already been made, 83% indicate that they appreciate being approached by a vendor if the interactions are relevant and contextual. For sales reps and marketers looking to succeed in this buyer-controlled age, those are the two key words to keep in mind.
Here are two important ways that companies can ensure they’re taking the necessary steps to customize each prospect’s experience:
1. Do the work for them.
One of the biggest challenges that buyers face is finding the content they need to make informed decisions. By creating content targeted toward every stage of the sales cycle, you’re putting the best practices and product information that buyers need right at their fingertips.
Not only is it important to make this content extremely accessible, it’s also important to find a way to distribute it to prospects at the right points throughout the research process. Lead nurturing is a great way to unobtrusively educate your prospects with minimal effort on the part of sales — and with 75.5% of B2B buyers reporting a purchase decision time between one and six months, it’s also a critical way to stay top of mind during a long sales process.
When deciding on the types of content to create, keep in mind that according to the same IDC study, purchasing decision-makers found peers and colleagues to be the most trustworthy information sources (95%), and independent content to be a close second (86%). Be sure to incorporate case studies, client quotes, video testimonials, analyst reports, research rankings, and any other third-party sources that can improve your credibility.
2. Understand your buyers’ needs.
For 22% of respondents to the IDC survey, the biggest obstacle to making “good” purchase decisions was that vendors didn’t properly understand their needs. This is why it’s so important for today’s B2B marketers and sales reps to leverage modern marketing and selling technologies to gain a deeper understanding of their audience’s pain points, motivations, and interests. The more detailed the data, the better they can engage with prospects in a relevant and ongoing way.
For instance, by combining behavioral and demographic profiling, marketers can get a better idea of which leads are getting ready to make that all-important purchasing decision. Before reaching out, sales reps can see which website pages their prospects have been visiting and which pieces of content are being downloaded most frequently. They can even receive real-time alerts of important activities, like a form submission or a buyer’s guide download. This gives sales reps the intelligence they need to follow up with extremely targeted information even at just the right time. And the good news is, 78% of B2B buyers expect sales representatives to personalize interactions based on information from their online activities, so this behavioral insight is actually welcomed by your buyers!
As B2B marketing and sales continue to evolve, this relevancy is going to become even more critical to success. If you’d like to learn more about the statistics mentioned in this article, you can download the IDC InfoBrief sponsored by Salesforce, Selling to the Information-Driven Business, May 2015, here, or view the recorded webinar with Michael Fauscette, Group Vice President, Software Business Solutions at IDC: Breaking Down the B2B Buyer’s Journey – Selling in the Information-Driven Age.