The B2B Sales Cycle Continues Its Transformation
The convergence of Covid and improved digital selling tools has accelerated and amplified existing B2B sales cycle trends. The B2B buying experience, as it would have evolved over the next three or five years, is here now.
The Tipping Point is Here: B2B e-Commerce is the Norm
For years now, B2B buyers have been researching online. They've been moving themselves far into their journey before welcoming human contact with a seller. The Covid-necessitated shift to work-from-home (WFH) forced the entire selling process online.
WFH didn't remove human contact from the sales cycle, but it did raise B2B e-commerce's profile. According to McKinsey's B2B Pulse survey (March 2021), 41% of B2B sellers ranked e-commerce as their most effective sales channel, beating both in-person and videoconference.
We all got used to working remotely and videoconferencing. But we also learned which changes we like, and which aren't sustainable alternatives. In-person sales is never returning to pre-Covid levels, but videoconferencing isn’t the inevitable replacement. In the McKinsey survey, videoconferencing came in last as the most effective way for B2B salespeople to reach their market.
A true online buying experience empowers the buyers and benefits the seller. Who doesn't want buyers who can make a sale happen anywhere, at any time, on any device?
B2B Buyers Want the Digital B2C Experience
Every B2B buyer you want to reach is also a B2C buyer. The pandemic pushed nearly all personal shopping online. Pre-pandemic, older Millennials, already well into senior positions, have been taking the reins on buying committees and commanding budgets. They expect the frictionless B2C buying experience even when wearing their B2B hat.
That means providing them with B2C e-commerce staples, like multiple touch points and digital shopping tools. Comparison and education tools should work as well on mobile as on laptop or tablet. Chatbots and live chat should be on-hand to answer questions and help researchers navigate product options.
B2C buying is easy. It's convenient. It provides resources that lower the risk of buying. B2B vendors need to provide the same quality user experience.
Personalization Drives Retention and Lifetime Value
Another hallmark of the B2C buying process that B2B vendors need to replicate is personalization. There's rich ground between the generic segmentation of industry and geography, and the granularity of account-based marketing. E-commerce provides the means to capture that ground.
Through online selling, vendors capture detailed shopping and purchasing data about buyers. B2C digital shops are expert at serving up contextually relevant repurchase, upsell and cross-sell offers from their product catalogs. They generate custom price lists based on a buyer's order history. Every B2C buyer can find their previous orders and quickly initiate their own re-orders.
B2B vendors with focus on retention and growing customer lifetime value copy these B2C personalized selling techniques.
It's a Buying Cycle Now
The traditional, digital B2B sales cycle is over. B2B buyers want to maintain control over how they buy and they're pushing as much of the process online as possible. Fortunately, online selling provides B2B vendors with the digital tools they need influence buyers at every stage.