Being a sales rep, you may think that customer is the king and they are one in control. Most of the sales rep in the B2B industry see our customer as empowered, armed with information and tools, and so clear about their needs that they don’t bother to engage with a sales rep until their last moment when their buying decision is almost complete.
The reality is that the modern B2B buyers don’t see it that way. Buying complex solutions, like an enterprise software, marketing data, manufacturing equipment, has never been so easy. But with the abundance of data on any solution, a raft of stakeholders involved in each purchase, and an ever-expanding array of options, many deals enters the bog or even stops completely. Customers are increasingly becoming overwhelmed and usually are more paralyzed than empowered.
Decision makers are getting cornered into unproductive, open-ended information loops by the avalanche of data. With each new process, they put in more work to make sure they fully understand the needs and available options. More data brings more queries and concerns, along with the result a customer take longer and longer to make a buying decision- in the event that they ever do make the decision. In the meantime, the total number of individuals involved in the b2b buying has gone up from an average of 5.4 from two years ago to an average of 6.8 as of today, and these stakeholders come from broader roles, functions, and geographies. This difference in personal and business makes it hard for buying committee to agree on anything rather than avoid risk, save money, and move carefully.
At long last, the extending scope of alternatives that B2B clients confront needs growing amount time required for assessment as stakeholders over the trade-offs. Research demonstrates that for individual customers better choice isn’t necessarily good, and a similar rule applies to major b2b purchases. Regardless of the available options, some stakeholders will always find parts of an alternative more appealing. Besides slowing down the buying cycle, having too many options leads to post-purchase anxiety.
The fact that many customers have to struggle to complete a b2b purchase comes as a surprise to many businesses. According to a CEB survey, when thousands of senior executives at companies around the world were asked to describe the b2b solution purchase in one word. Their responses included hard, awful, painful, frustrating, and a minefield. A common solution purchase takes twice time form what they had expected. On top of that, 65% of the customers say that they spent as much time as they’d expected to complete the buying process just to speak to a sales rep. Obviously, considering much of what makes the b2b buying process so complex has got nothing to with the suppliers but everything with the customer themselves.
The solution? Be the hero to your customers and make their buying experience easier.
According to a research, the majority of sales rep strongly believe that providing their customers with more information helps them to make a better decision; that must flexibly respond to a customer’s instruction, even when they in a disagreement. According to them, it is very important to help their customers consider all possible options. Sellers are trying to be more responsive than ever. Following the customer’s lead giving them whatever support is asked. They ensure that their customers have all the data, case studies, and customer testimonials they may need to make an informed decision, by proving a wide range of alternatives by modifying the offerings as customer requirement evolves over time. This approach may seem like the good one as it is the desire of the supplier to be more customer-centric. Yet it decreases 18% customer ease, according to a survey done on 600 b2b customers. Adding more and more information and alternatives just make things harder.
Simplicity is Powerful:
As per CEB, 65% of B2B purchasers invest as much time and resource as they’d expected for the whole buying process simply preparing to talk with a business rep. In order to make the buying process simple for the customer. Instead of adding to the problem, become part of the solution. Since one of the greatest purchasing issues is feeling covered with data, focus on simplifying your outreach and pitches. It begins with research and finishes with bits of knowledge that gets the attention of empowered yet overwhelmed customers and simplify their buying journey. Suppliers who make their buying process easy are 62% more likely to win rather than those who don’t. Purchase ease is by far the strongest driver bigger and quality deals that were found among three vast research. On top of that, customers who complete a prescriptive, simple sales process reduces the likelihood of regret for their purchase or speaking negatively about the supplier and therefore are more likely to repurchase.
A proactive, prescriptive approach that guides customers through the decision-making process increases the chances of purchase ease and reduces the chances of purchase regret. Consider the following;
Majority of the sales rep wrongly believe that supporting customers’ every request for information and support makes the buying process simpler.
86% of sales rep believes that assisting the customer to consider all alternatives and options is important.
79% of the sales rep agree with the statement “I stay very flexible to customer requirement and opinions throughout a sale, even when I don’t agree with them.”
68% of the sales rep agree that “more information generally help customers to make a better decision.”
The organizations that have aced the craft of prescription utilize similar practices: They work in order to deeply understand the customer’s buying journey. They find the most critical buyers challenge at each buying stage. They equip their sales rep with the latest tools to help them overcome each and every challenge. They track the customer’s progress in the sales pipeline and are ready to jump in at any moment to keep the sales process on the right track.
Let’s discuss all these steps one-by-one;
1. Map customers’ buying journeys
Conventional journey maps have four main steps- awareness, consideration, preference, and purchase. These are also frequently portrayed as a funnel closing-in on the sale of supplier’s solution. Consider a typical buyer journey as spreading over three stages: early, middle, and late.
During the early stage, customers are just identifying if they have a problem that needs immediate attention. For instance, whether their CRM tool needs to be replaced or just an upgrade would be enough. This first stage may include finding, estimating, and organizing competing business challenges. In the middle stage, clients evaluate different ways to deal with the most critical problems. They may investigate build-versus-buy options, innovation versus-individuals solutions and the ramifications of incorporating different solution with existing frameworks. During the late stage, after agreeing on a suitable solution the buyers consider suppliers and engages, usually for the first time with a sales rep. Each stage may have some land mines. A thorough understanding from the analysis of the customers’ activities during these three stages, regardless of who finally bags the contract, is therefore very important.
Marketing teams are usually responsible for creating journey maps. However, the best commercial teams work jointly across all functions along with customers to build a thorough map laid down in a language which is easily understood in the entire organization. Best-performing sales rep are very important in tuning the maps, as they usually have better insight their customers’ processes.
Collecting customer data shouldn’t be difficult: Anyone who is a supplier can conduct interviews, focus groups, or even surveys to ask direct questions about their past purchase(s), like “What information was least or most helpful? ” “Which sources did you turn to for the information” “Who was associated with the buy?” There are many variations on the theme as organizations usually tailor the process to their specific conditions.
2. Uncover the Barriers
As providers collect data, the may be easily tempted to act on input from a single customer. However, it is better to from many customers and to search for a pattern that uncovers a few bigger obstacles which causes unbalanced size if buying difficulty. Along with helping the suppliers focus its prescription on very high ROI targets, dealing with a small number of bigger problems reduces the trouble for the sales rep who is already submerged with latest tools, systems, and regulations. There are regular themes among the difficulties customers frequently experience. In the early stages, as the customer engages in learning and research, they are most likely to have difficulties information based challenges. In the middle stages, since more stakeholders discover their way to the table, communication breakdown usually is the biggest challenge. At last, in the late stages, a customer usually get stuck when thinking about the alternatives and choosing a plan of action. Difficulties here might cover a lack of agreement on a definite course of application or a contradiction about the ROI of different solutions or setups.
3. Start Designing Prescriptions
Prescriptive methodologies differ to a large extent and are conveyed through a scope of channels: content created and shared by marketing; live customer discussions; workshops led by reps, specialists, or executives; customer diagnostics; and self-assessment activities. Anyway, they’re conveyed, prescriptive efforts must meet three basic requirements. To begin with, they should be unbiased and credible. If they are primarily promotional, they won’t just fail to help their buyers but will be regarded with suspicion. A client’s common response to effective prescription is never, they should decrease indecision and compel action. Hence, an effort must deliberately concentrate customers on a reasonable arrangement and make solid proof-based suggestions. Without explicitly advertising the supplier’s solutions, prescriptions should facilitate growth along with a purchase path resulting in a solution that the provider is uniquely able to provide.
Data-backed “what if” situations help customers rapidly achieve agreement by demonstrating the financial impact they may anticipate from doing specific activities (or no activities) ) over a range of situations—from totally updating their estimation and assessment frameworks with the most recent technology to making various upgrades to making no changes at all.
4. Track Progress of Customer
In order to eliminate obstacles from a purchase, you should know precisely where your customers are on their purchase journey. With this data, providers can spot issues before clients experience them and figure out which interventions will maintain the momentum and maximize purchase ease.
To this end, providers depend on “customer verifiers”— clear indicators that a customer has progressed from one purchase stage to next stage. Great verifiers share three characteristics:
They require active interest—a customer must take clear steps confirming that they’ve committed to advancing the purchase process.
They are binary and objective, limiting the potential for confusion– the client either did or didn’t take part in a diagnostic, commit resources, or approve the next steps in writing.
The signal at each stage a customer’s making a deep commitment to drifting away from the status quo. Verifiers extend from the fairly general, for example, recognizing the requirement for change, to the explicit, for example, marking an agreement.
A more organized approach, frequently utilized by IT providers in the mid to late phases of a purchase, includes making a staged plan of required provider and customer activities. This report is created in close collaboration with customer stakeholders and distinguishes each step required to propel the buying process, with dates and suppliers indicated for everything and opportunities for the customer to leave the agreement at predetermined stages. Steps may include “agree on “fundamental success criteria”, “current cost estimate”, ”start legal review”, “review draft proposition”, etc. The document is very detailed and customer-specific expansion of the journey map.
When the plan is set, the customer commits in writing, setting up an exact position halfway in the purchasing journey. The completion of each consecutive step act as a robust verifier of progress.
Today’s best providers not just help customer consider what to buy, but how to buy. We’ve portrayed the key strategies they utilize: mapping the journey, recognizing obstructions, designing prescriptions, and tracking progress. But they also share two critical two overarching organizational characteristics: First, they avoid concentrating on making customers purchase from them and instead focus on how a customer makes their purchase choices. This may appear to be a minor distinction, yet in reality, it’s a significant one, and fundamental to the best practitioners’ success. Second, they strongly align their marketing and sales teams to support the buyer’s journey, right from the start to the finish line- breaking down the historical barriers between those functions in the process. Therefore, these organizations make consistent and relevant tools, messaging, and guidance to shape and simplify the buyer’s journey, drive sales, and finally boost customer loyalty.