A lot has been written about “Buyer 2.0.” We’ve all seen and experienced a shift in buyer behavior, especially in the IT/high-tech sector. Rather than relying on personal contacts with sales representatives, sophisticated customers are increasingly choosing products and solutions in a much more self-directed manner.
Buyer behavior has evolved and will continue to evolve as our technology allows an ever-increasing hyper-connected world. The more buyers get access to information, the less they need salespeople to educate them. The bottom line is that anything or anyone that does not add value to the transaction will be commoditized or disregarded. Today’s buyers are not going to engage aggressive salespeople who do not add value or truly have the customer’s best interests at heart.
This change in behavior is driven by important changes in the marketplace:
- Access to information is easier than ever and getting more so, meaning that buyers are, and will continue to conduct their own research before contacting vendors or being receptive to being contacted.
- Social technologies that allow buyers to easily use their peers, rather than salespeople, to educate them on products and services.
- Global market reach for an increasing amount of products and services leaves buyers with more buying choices, which means more competition for your business.
Who was the “Buyer 1.0?”
Previously, B2B buyers would go through a strategic planning process roughly like this:
- Identify the critical business issue
- Establish corporate direction and goals
- Determine needs
- Contact possible vendors to learn about solutions
- Evaluate alternatives and risk
- Decide on solution
- Pick a vendor
This process meant that vendors were often part of the process of helping customers understand their business needs, define their “pain” and lead customers to choose their products.
Who is the new “Buyer 2.0?”
In the Sales 1.0 environment, the seller had the advantage of information. In the Sales 2.0 environment, that advantage is mostly gone because the buyer is better equipped to educate themselves.
A typical Buyer 2.0:
- Searches the web for solution providers, product information, product reviews and background information
- Uses social media to learn how other companies have handled similar business challenges
- Controls the communication with solution providers, often determining both time and format
The end result is a buyer that:
- Can find the information they need to better guide their buying and decision-making processes before talking to a salesperson.
- Can self-diagnose their problems and symptoms
- Want to drive the buying process – and can stop and start it whenever they want
- Can narrow down potential solution providers before engaging with vendors (This is why Social Selling/Branding yourself is important – more on that in later blogs).
- Are impatient and want information immediately in a clear, concise manner and want a collaborative partner, not an aggressive salesperson.
Selling to “Buyer 2.0”
In this new and rapidly evolving business environment, sales organizations need to adapt the way they sell and market their products and services.
Consider these sales tips:
Check your customers for Buyer 2.0 behavior
Do you know if your customers are influenced by “Buyer 2.0” behavior? One of the ways to find out is to start to measure it, e.g. by registering how new customers behave in terms of some of the characteristics described above. Depending on the business you are in, the change may be significant.
Check your sales process
Is your sales process only geared towards Buyer 1.0 prospects – or is it also tailored to deal with more informed and self-directed customers? Make sure that your sales organization has the people, processes, methodology, as well as, the tools and techniques they need to communicate differently with this new breed of prospects.
Get to know even more about your customers
Do you really know what you need about your customers? Registering changes in buyer behavior may require that you go beyond the obvious customer data and ask and monitor new things. For instance, you may want to know how many of your customers prefer to discuss product choices with peers rather than vendors – and what tools they use to have that type of discussion.
Become a buying expert
Customer 2.0 is looking for products, services, and information online. You need to be there as well and know what your customers know. Put yourself in their shoes, search for typical phrases from your industry on Google, visit LinkedIn groups, check Twitter for keywords – and receive marketing material from some of your competitors. All of these things will help you better understand and relate to your future customers, see what they’re seeing.
To Achieve Sales Success, Seek Outside Expertise
As a fractional VP of Sales, James Bellew works with small to medium-sized business owners to build or rebuild their sales organizations. That includes sales strategy, processes, building, establishing, and aligning sales teams and their sales tools to achieve solid sales improvement.