B2B organisations need to integrate in-person communication with online communication and create and deliver a consistent message to buyers across marketing and sales. If the company is not providing this seamless experience across functions to their buyers, it is going to inevitably hurt revenue by slowing down the buyer journey if not even make it come to a full stop. That seamless experience requires quite an accomplished marketing and sales function and a strong collaboration between the two.

B2C and the unicorn
Most of us working within the commercial B2B space is aware that the way buyers are behaving is evolving quite dramatically and that it is having significant importance in terms of how we organise the sales and marketing function and execute our go-to-market strategies.

Multi-channel buying, that came along with the Internet, has been a reality in B2C for decades and have had severe impact on how retailer organisations have set up their commercial functions to meet B2C consumers demand. Commercial leaders in B2C have spent a lot of effort and resources on learning and slowly adjusting their ways to align their strategies and tactics to multi-channel dynamics. The ultimate goal of many retailers has consequently been to create the unicorn of an omni-channel experience for the consumers that would ideally do away with the experience of organisational silos that all consumers hate passionately. Interestingly, it now seems that the multi-channel buying era is coming to an end paving the way for a new version of single channel buying with a vengeance in B2C that delivers exactly that omni-channel experience: The AI assistant. But that´s for another blog post.

The B2B learning journey
The 2018 fact in B2B according to CEB, is that the average customer now spends 45% of the buyer journey researching, learning about needs, product and solutions etc. through a wealth of different channels. The fact that buyers use several channels to learn is not exactly new to B2B but there is a significant increase in the proportion of time spent learning via online channels to research and learn during the buyer journey. And it does not seem like we are just talking about the “Millennials”, many of whom yet lacks access to company funds or the seniority to create budgets, that spend a great deal of the buying journey researching online. According to the findings of a global IDC study, B2B buyers most active in using social media to support the buying process were more senior and had 84% bigger budgets, made 61% more purchase decisions, and had influence over a greater span of purchase decisions than those buyers who did not use social media to support their purchase process.

“Very little of the B2B buying/learning journey is spent in person with sales people. In fact, only 17% of time is spent with suppliers which is less than ever before. And as if this was not enough, the number actually covers time spent with ALL involved suppliers. These are really dramatic figures”

Essentially this means that the buying journey across all involved stakeholders has really become a learning journey where much, if not most, of the time is spent educating one self on why change needs to happen, what it will entail, who needs to be involved and how vendors stack up against each other. Very little of the B2B buying/learning journey is spent in person with sales people. In fact, only 17% of time is spent with suppliers which is less than ever before. And as if this was not enough, the number actually covers time spent with ALL involved suppliers. These are really dramatic figures.

What does this mean to B2B sales and marketing? The picture described above in conjunction with the fact that 1% of cold calls converts in to an appointment and that 9 out 10 top level B2B decision makers do simply not respond to cold outreach suggests that B2Bs need to engage massively and consistently in online conversations. Old school lead generation will become almost completely obsolete and B2B companies needs to up their game in terms of engaging and educating buyers via online channels to keep generating qualified leads. To do this effectively B2B companies will have to engage wholeheartedly in creating relevant content and place it in front of the right buyers through multiple channels proactively engage in online conversations with prospective buyers.

Online engagement does not end
What exacerbates and complicates this picture even further is that recent research shows that 83% of buyers say they are actively engaged in digital channels even at the very end of their buying processes. And they do this even though they very likely are simultaneously talking to a sales reps in person. Apparently, even though in-person conversations starts, online engagement does not end. Buyers are now using digital early, middle and late.

Organisations need to integrate in-person communication with online communication and above all create and deliver a consistent message and a smooth buyer interaction across marketing and sales. It´s basically what you could call omni-channel for B2B. If the company is not providing this seamless experience across their functions, it is going to inevitably slow down the buyer journey if not even make it come to a full stop.

Pulling this of requires quite an accomplished marketing and sales function and an unprecedented strong alignment and collaboration between the two. In a small series of blog posts we will share our view on a few of the things we have found important in order to enable the functions respectively and have them collaborate in a more integrated and effective way. The topics we will cover during the next weeks are:
  1. How to create or adjust your content marketing strategy and content operating model so that it become fit for the “omni-channel” B2B buying environment and more digital buyers/learners
  2. How to re-design your sales approach so that your sales organisations is enabled to have the right conversations with the right people both on-line and in-person and with a consistent message aligned with what goes on in other channels
  3. How to create a more integrated sales and marketing function with focus on shared goals, aligned processes, account-focus that cuts across functions and a specific rhythm between marketing and sales

I hope above have sparked you interest in digging deeper into our next blog posts on how you can get started or continue the enabling and integrating of your sales and marketing functions to meet the ever evolving buyer demands.

Thomas Børve, kvadrant.dk, +45 40410043