In the golden heyday of advertising, art and emotion called the shots. Then the digital wave of internet and informatics rolled in, and now sales and marketing are more scientific than ever: whitewashed in analytics and hightailing it on the sea of precision.
Don’t get us wrong: Numbers are absolutely crucial to tracking marketing ROI and sustaining sales success. But you’ve got to stop letting them dictate your every move. You have to put the person back into your B2B buyer.
Seth Godin tells us that connection is a scarcity in today’s digital economy. And he’s right. There’s an onslaught of information, but a lack of authenticity. That’s why you need to reset the scales and really get to know the person behind those sterile sales analytics: the person keeping your business alive.
This is your buyer. Say hello.
Lift your head up from the numbers for a second (you can get back to laser-focus analytics later) and really see the B2B buyer. You may not recognize him. He’s different than he used to be.
- He knows it all.
Remember that wave of information that capsized the old days of advertising? The B2B buyer got his boat rocked too.
Technology has done wonders for your buyers’ information accessibility – so much so that they’re reaching out to your sales team when they’re already 60% through the sales process. Armed with education, a buyer gets dangerous if you don’t acknowledge his knowledge.
- He hates to wait.
Information often leads to impatience, especially when it comes to the buying process. Think about it: When you’re ahead of the game, you don’t feel like waiting for the game to “catch up.”
You don’t want to make the buyer wait. With all that knowledge of your industry, offerings and competitors, he’s not going to stand around and beg you to compel him. Bore the B2B buyer, and say goodbye.
- He’s emotional.
This may be hard for all the data-mongers out there to hear: Your buyers make most decisions with their subconscious brains. They unknowingly check in with their eyes, ears, noses, taste buds and feeling centers first … before their pre-frontal cortex has a chance to jump in and rationalize. And then once that logic train pulls in, it takes all the credit.
This means that there’s a big difference between 1) what we think and 2) what we think we think. Douglas Van Praet, author of Unconscious Branding, puts it nicely:
“Our conscious minds are designed to think up stories to try to explain and make meaning of the hidden forces and hardwired neural programs that guide our behavior.”
You may be thinking that emotional connections only apply to B2C companies like shoe stores and wineries. It’s true that most of the studies on emotion-laden, sensory-stimulated purchases are focused on consumers, but B2B buyers are people, too. Don’t forget that!
A study conducted by Google and CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council found that B2B buyers are often more emotionally connected to their vendors and service providers than consumers are. Here are some of the findings:
- The connections are there.
Of the hundreds of B2C brands studied, most have emotional connections with just 10-40% of consumers. Of the nine B2B brands studied, seven surpassed the 50% mark.
- The buyer’s just hidden.
B2C companies speak directly to their consumers, but it’s not as cut and dry with B2B sales and marketing. You’re selling to a decision maker who’s subject to a whole slew of opinions and influences, from purchasing committees and third-party buying consultants to corporate procurement processes. This obscures the person in the picture, putting a rational frame around your sales process and edging out emotion.
- It’s all about risk.
“When a personal consumer makes a bad purchase, the stakes are relatively low. Best case, it’s returnable. If not, it might require an explanation to a spouse. Business purchases, on the other hand, can involve huge amounts of risk: Responsibility for a multi-million dollar software acquisition that goes bad can lead to poor business performance and even the loss of a job. The business customer won’t buy unless there is a substantial emotional connection to help overcome this risk.”
- Consensus stirs things up.
“We tend to forget that whenever there are people trying to work together to make a decision, there will be interpersonal and, inevitably, emotional forces at work.” With all the steamy risk and hands in the pot, the B2B buying process fires up more emotions than B2C purchases. It’s just hard to tell because there are so many cooks in the decision-making kitchen.
- The connections are there.
- He wants content before he comes to you.
Again, we’ll use numbers to prove it – but remember that there are people behind these numbers:
- 40% say content helps them identify potential suppliers, partners and solution providers.
- 38% believe content provides strategic insights and shapes purchase specifications.
- 37% say content educated them about industry issues, problems and challenges.
And the kicker: DemandGen reports that 90% of business buyers are saying, “When I’m ready to buy, I’ll find you.” This is after they’ve absorbed enough content to feel comfortable approaching a sales team. So whether this comfort-priming content comes from your marketing department, and whether it’s your sales team the buyer’s approaching, is all up to you.
Your sales success undoubtedly depends on the emotional and educational connections your sales reps and your marketing content make with your buyers.
Improve your reps’ connection to your buyers.
Help your reps be cognizant of new B2B buyer behavior so they’re able to connect with the authenticity of true sales enablement.
- Be aware of their awareness.
Acknowledge that your buyers have done their research (they know their stuff!), but be prepared to offer them something else: more details, more depth, a compelling argument, a challenging perspective, etc.
- Connect on every level.
Know each buyer persona inside and out, but do so by treating them as actual people – not just demographic outlines with a list of “hooks” (pains) for your sales reps to latch onto.
- Use sales enablement tools (e.g., a sales portal) to gain insight into individual buyers and be better prepared to offer hyper-personalized content and precision-targeted solutions for an all-around exceptional B2B buyer experience.
- Provide your buyers with powerful access to all the tailored information and resources they need (your sales assets) – available anywhere and anytime through an easy-to-navigate sales portal.
- Make your sales presentations hit home with power and precision, amping up your already-cogent content with personalized add-ons, voice annotations, textured displays and interactive appeal.
- Satiate with content.
With buyers placing such high value on information to help them make decisions, you need a library full of emotionally engaging and cognitively compelling marketing content. Remember, though: It’s about quality and quantity. A library full of empty content is like a spread of empty calories – your buyers are going to take their plates elsewhere to satisfy those appetites for hearty content.
- Embrace sales and marketing alignment.
Both your marketing and sales teams bring valuable tools to the table. Combine them, and you’ll be more equipped to present your buyer with something truly unique and paradigm-shifting.
- Marketing gets freedom from that night-and-weekend grind on the content-churning machine. Since they’re working with sales, they know what reps already have and exactly what reps need – no time wasted on duplicate, unnecessary or irrelevant content.
- Sales gets flexibility to connect the value dots for their buyers, even those trickier personas with super-specific pain points and preferences. By working with marketing, they’re able to communicate exactly what they want – in terms of both content and prospects.
That number-crunching is crucial to getting results and tracking results. But you mustn’t lose sight of the person behind the numbers: the person visiting your website, downloading your content and buying your products and services.
“Economies are always based on scarcity (hence the term ‘economize’).” There is no market for humming, for example, because everyone has unlimited humming at their disposal at all times. So, in the abundant digital world, what’s scarce? Where is the economy? It’s in connection. Who trusts you? Who wants to hear from you? Who will collaborate and support and engage with you? These are things that don’t scale to infinity. These are precious resources.
In the connection economy, we reward art and innovation and things worth talking about. We seek out transparency and generosity and the long-term. Sure, there are still people who will profit in the short-run by burning the assets they’ve got, but as we get ever more connected, that’s just not going to scale.
Connection and leadership and trust are going to get ever more valuable. Sure, go ahead and shake your head in agreement, but when you get back to work, are you busy working in the scarce universe or trying to build a place for yourself in the new one?”
The takeaway: Don’t let your sales team be limited by a scarcity of authentic connection with your buyers.
Click below to see how the right sales and marketing technology cultivates that critical connection between your reps and your buyers. It’s time to put the person back into the buyer persona with sales enablement tools.
Sales And Marketing Too Sterile? Put The Person Back Into The Buyer