By Ana Lapter
Several months back, we conducted a comprehensive customer survey trying to uncover changes in B2B buying behavior. By now, you have probably heard me and my MLC colleagues mention the 57% multiple times – this is the degree to which the buying process is completed before customers decide to engage with Sales reps. We interpret this number as both a delay in the sales engagement point and as a big red flag for marketing organizations.
Due to availability of online information, customers are doing more research on their own and can form significant opinions of their purchasing needs without help from vendors. This independent research behavior coupled with the fact that recessionary aftershocks are still haunting buying centers, can lead to: 1) customers adding pressure on vendors to lower price and deal size; 2) “commoditization” of solutions; and, 3) more stalled deals.
Waiting for Sales to address these pain points in one-one conversations is a risky proposition for two reasons: first, the conversation may not happen and second, it’s hard to reverse a fairly advanced customer-decision process.
Therefore, Marketing needs to step in and create a new marketing strategy to engage customers, rather than letting them independently move halfway through their buying journey. This is not an easy thing to do, since customers do not raise their hands to have one-on-one conversations with Marketing. Here at MLC, we believe that engagement with customers requires two things:
Understanding customer purchasing needs. That means going beyond price and product features, and marketing to those needs to drive momentum. As discussed in prior posts, the MLC customer purchasing survey revealed four distinct types of purchasing needs:
- Buyers concerned with getting a full picture of the total cost of ownership and lifetime value of a purchase;
- Buyers valuing customer service and relationships with Sales reps;
- Buyers trying to understand product and supplier risks to determine if those risks are “reasonable” or if investments should be made to mitigate them;
- Buyers looking for innovation and knowledge transfer opportunities.
Using non-sales interaction strategies which resemble conversation enablement to guide customers through the purchasing funnel. The graph below illustrates some ways Marketing can recreate Sales’s commercial conversations:
In our current series of MLC executive meetings, we are presenting further information, as well as supporting case studies and tactics addressing customer purchasing needs and ways of driving customer’s movement into the purchasing funnel. If you haven’t done so, please enroll in an executive meeting addressing customer purchasing decisions in the B2B space.