Why understanding the nuances of a buyer journey can make all the difference
In a B2B environment the sales process is experiencing a sea change. Buyers are empowered, and the sales process is shifting to digital – from research through the buying process. As the buyer journey continues to evolve it is important to assess the nuances of a virtual environment and build the right solutions to meet the needs of the modern buyer.
How did we get here?
The shift to a more digital sales experience has been years in the making but has accelerated in recent years. The Covid-19 pandemic was one reason to fully embrace digital but there is also the fact that B2B buyers are conditioned to expect the same experiences they have in their consumer lives. B2B buyers have likely purchased from Amazon and experienced the ease of searching, ordering, and receiving a product – and these experiences may leave them yearning for the same experience in a business setting. This demand for simplicity has pushed some B2B businesses out of the comfort zone and caused them to rethink how they engage and interact with customers.
Hands off Can Feel like Hands On
The shift from physical selling to a digital environment can feel disconnected and impersonal. But it does not need to be. With B2B buyers working independently to research and explore products they can navigate the process themselves. This could seem like a less ideal situation, but brands can optimize digital connections and give customers an opportunity to “feel” the product experiences through enhanced product demos or reviews.
Free trials and on-demand demos allow prospects to skip the introductory sales call and explore a product on their own time. Gartner reported in 2020 that B2B buyers spend only 17% of the total purchase journey with sales reps. That means salespeople can become “concierges” by providing personalized information that prospects cannot find online. Sales leaders can embrace this shift and build a team of consultant advisors. A growing shift to digital can have real benefits for brands as they can passively build a presence with potential customers and then showcase value-adds through personalized outreach.
But what does the customer think? In October 2020, McKinsey reported that 70-80% of B2B decision makers preferred digital or remote interactions over face-to-face meetings. The top reasons included safety, savings on travel and ease of scheduling. In fact, Digital interactions were preferred at every stage of the buying cycle from identifying new suppliers to ordering goods and services. The shift to digital selling channels may have been spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic, however successful approaches are likely here to stay for good.
Not all Buyers are Equal- Focus on Agility
Embracing digital tools to guide the sales experience can present a best of both worlds’ scenario. Buyers can lean on digital for self-guided shopping and then consult with a sales executive for more involved consultation.
There are some key rules to live by when embracing a digital sales approach:
1. Diversify digital selling tools and channels: Today sellers need digital tools to build engagement and align on practices. However, there is not one all encompassing solution, which will leave sellers to use a diverse mix of tools to obtain optimal results.
2. Rethink Engagement: To learn how to align selling activity to customers’ preferred engagement channels and purchasing journey, sellers will need entirely new methods of sales enablement. Sales enablement is critical for organizations. The pandemic has accelerated this priority as Chief Sales Officer seek new techniques to reduce the risk of lost sales.
3. Prioritize the seller experience + coaching: To keep sellers engaged, executives will be tasked with providing the right balance of technology and content to help inform sellers and allow them to do their jobs effectively. This will require a renewed focus on truly understanding the buyer’s experience today and adjusting sales processes to meet their needs in the future.
The rise of digital interactions will lead to more interdependence of people, processes and technology that will continue to erode the “traditional” sales model. To stay relevant sales leaders will need to be full adaptive to market evolutions; while also meeting customers where they are and how they expect to interact with companies.
Optimizing the Buyer Journey
With all the market change there are opportunities for sales executives to truly win in this new world. By studying the buyer decision journey, it can be clear what drives their brand choices and the day-to-day processes that lead to an eventual purchase. By fully understating the buyer sales organizations can tailor the right offers and solutions that directly resonate with buyers and appeal to their needs.
 “Five Digital Strategies for Improving the B2B Buying Experience.” Forbes. May 17,2021.  “These eight charts show how COVID-19 has changed B2B sales forever.” McKinsey. October 14, 2020.  “Future of Sales 2025: Why B2B Sales Needs a Digital-First Approach.” Gartner. September 23, 2020.