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The past 18 months have been extremely disruptive to say the least, and the business-to-business (B2B) world is no exception. The needs of business customers have changed significantly. As a result, the strategies and tactics that you relied on 12 months ago may no longer apply.
Nevertheless, there are significant growth opportunities in the B2B area for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as companies in many industries want to expand their business activities and move up to the next level. To take advantage of such opportunities, however, you need to understand the five “secrets” that underpin the “playing field” of B2B.
WHO IS AT THE WHEEL?
When selling solutions to another company, you need to know who is really making the purchase decision.
According to corporate management, the average number of people needed to make a B2B purchase decision has increased from five to seven. It also solicits input from various functional departments across the company, including finance, risk, and compliance, as buyers seek security and confidence, especially in times of volatility and uncertainty.
In terms of a specific purchase decision, the decision-makers are usually only a few members of the management team. In some small and medium-sized businesses, it can only be the business owners.
When decision makers seek clarity and confidence in how to move their business forward, they will hear and value the recommendations of their “inner circle”.
WHO IS THE BUYER IN THE INNER CIRCLE?
B2B buyers often rely on numerous people to help them with their purchasing decisions. These can include:
People within the organization who are very knowledgeable and generally well respected. They often evaluate and provide input on which solution and which supplier the company should use.
A key internal influencer that you want to identify is the change agent.
The key characteristics of change agents include:
- They are very effective in building consensus among their peers and decision makers
- They drive change across the company and are very knowledgeable
- They understand the informal organization, that is, the policies within the company and how things are really done, including who the buyers really are and how they really buy.
Identifying a change agent is not easy. You are rarely C-level or a senior executive. You need to research how you leverage your business contacts to find suitable people who could serve as effective change agents.
Some of the signals you’ve identified as a change agent include:
- They talk about needs and challenges in terms of the larger group, department, or the entire company, rather than just talking about individual needs
- They engage with and may even question insights on topics such as industry and market trends
- You obey and successfully complete requests such as B. setting up a meeting with certain participants
B2B buyers are increasingly looking for the “GO TOs” in their industry who are very knowledgeable and respected, such as industry associations, publications and subject matter experts, to get their input and perspectives on product and service providers. So it is important that you identify these “GO TOs” for your particular industry or niche and find ways in which you can work with them, e.g. buyers.
Buyers want “AIR” … not just more content !!
Over the past 18 months, many B2B buyers have complained that they were inundated with too much content. Research by Gartner Research found that 89% of customers found the information they received during the purchase process to be valuable, but many struggled to understand the information, which was sometimes contradicting or confusing.
B2B decision-makers are now really looking for “AIR” – Advice, insights and recommendations, This will help them understand their current environment and provide the roadmap to make the appropriate decisions and take action to meet their goals.
Your company’s job is to provide decision-makers with the tools and resources they prefer to use to aid them in this “making sense” and roadmapping. These can include:
- Case studies
- Customer references
- Recommendations – from colleagues, colleagues, micro-influencers
As a general rule in B2B buying decisions, internal influencers often use 5-7 sources as part of their “shopping” (i.e., buying decision).
MODE OPERANDI. THE BUYER
You must have an in-depth and up-to-date understanding of business buyers (decision makers) regarding their:
- Business of the company
- Important business issues
- Key priorities and objectives that should be considered in relation to:
- Company priorities such as achieving strategic, financial, operational or technical goals
- Individual stakeholder goals such as promotion, obtaining bonuses, recognition among industry colleagues
The needs and priorities of business buyers are constantly changing. Therefore, it is imperative that your company has mechanisms (such as workshops, forums) in place to “listen”, to stay up to date and to understand the issues, goals and challenges from the BUYER’s perspective. These priorities must be at the center of any marketing content you provide or discussions with these stakeholders.
SILVER FLOORS TO BUY BUSINESS BUYERS
It is important that you understand the specific criteria that buyers and influencers use to search for your product or service offering:
This can include:
- Specific performance statistics
- Achieve specific business results and goals
- Certifications and / or Accreditations
- Expertise and specialization in certain industries and / or skills
- Service level guarantees (e.g. answering inquiries, fulfilling service requests)
Knowing what these five secrets are to your B2B target buyers can answer three key questions to help drive sales and business growth
- What should be delivered? (such as products, customer service / support, advice)
- How to deliver (e.g. opening times, preferred channels, e.g. self-service, telephone)
- How to advertise and involve with your business customers
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