I’m sure everyone in B2B sales and marketing has experienced the ‘irrational’ purchaser. B2B buying decisions often seem to defy common sense.
Your prospect accepts that your solution can do things their existing supplier can’t offer; they’re not happy with the customer service they’re currently getting; and your price is competitive. Yet they stick with what, and who, they know.
Have you ever been left scratching your head wondering why this happened?
Rather than rail against the injustice when your red hot prospect opts to stick with your competitor’s inferior solution, ask yourself a few questions:
- Did you really sell a convincing and compelling vision of a better situation? Not just describe it, but help your prospective client feel what it would be like to wake up every morning knowing there would be no problems. Did you help them imagine a future where they were achieving more for their customers?
- Did you prove that what you were offering was real and attainable?
- Did you identify what was motivating your buyer at a personal level to make particular decisions – not just the practical but the emotional too? Did you tap into those factors?
- Did you methodically identify and answer all the potential objections your prospect could use to justify leaving things as they were?
- Above all, did you actively cultivate a conversation? Did you create state of mind where your prospect was open to change and ready to take action?
Getting people to change behaviour is tough
An existing supplier always has an advantage, even if they’re not very good. The present may not be perfect, but it’s a known quantity. There may be problems but the sky isn’t falling in. Business is carrying on in some way.
You need to recognise just how excellent and focused your marketing and sales efforts have to be to overcome the inertia. Here’s the choice you are offering: continue to work with a known supplier to resolve known problems, or trust a new supplier to deliver a completely different reality. Doesn’t sound so irrational when you put it like that, does it!
Trust is difficult to earn when you don’t already have a working relationship.
Solutions, however good, don’t sell themselves. B2B buying decisions, despite what you might think, aren’t made completely rationally. Describing what you do and giving a list of benefits isn’t enough. It won’t pull B2B buyers up and over the hill of inertia. They have to see something compelling in it for them, as an individual.
Ready to change?
Getting into a sales negotiation before a prospect has accepted the need for change is fruitless. And once you are into a procurement process time is limited. Opportunities to shift how problems and solutions are defined just aren’t there. Engagement and discussion has to start much earlier if you want to even up your chances of success.
Whether you use inbound, outbound or a blended marketing approach, content plays a vital role in getting prospects to a point where they are actively looking to change their situation and ready to seriously consider your alternative.
Building trust and creating the conditions where change is not only possible, but desirable, means engaging prospects in a conversation.
Personal relationships are still vital. They have always been the cornerstone of B2B sales. But these days, those relationships may well start online. They might not even be initiated by you.
If potential customers looked at your web pages or your blog (perhaps following a referral) what would they find? Would they see themselves there, or just your business?
Believing in a better situation
The future you are proposing has to look significantly better. They have to trust you to deliver it. And they have to see how the change will be good for them as an individual. That might sound a bit like counselling, and in many ways it is. To change even the most harmful and self-destructive behaviour people first have to want to change.
Think too what this means for prospecting and email marketing. Do your emails aim to open a conversation or try to cut straight to the close? Are you saying: ‘Buy my solution’ , ‘Let’s book a meeting’, or… ‘Tell me about your problem’? Which one of those approaches would you be most likely to respond to?
Funnel, sieve, or sponge?
Linear models and sales funnels don’t apply any more. Your brand isn’t controlling the discovery process. Google and social networks open almost limitless opportunities for your prospects to search for solutions and find out what your customers think of you. To keep them engaged you have to offer value with every touch.
Your funnel has become a sieve with too many opportunities for prospects to leak out as they seek better answers to their problems and questions. Try to make your online presence more like a sponge that soaks up potential sales leads by delivering value and relevance.
The Spiegel Research Center analysed the relationship between engagement levels and customer lifetime value. Not surprisingly more engaged customers spend more money with you. As a result the researchers talk about creating an engagement engine rather than a sales funnel. Their focus was more on B2C but much of it applies naturally to B2B buying decisions.
The marketer as counsellor
Maybe you should think of the content you publish on line like self-help guides. Content will only work for you when your prospective clients can see themselves and their situation in what you publish. It’s particularly powerful when you help them achieve greater self-awareness. It builds trust when they can better understand their problems and discover solutions through your content.
B2B buying decisions are not straightforward, clear-cut and logical – you already know this from your own experience. It isn’t about whose list of benefits is the longest.
Digital marketing offers you new opportunities to cultivate relationships and create the conditions where change can happen – it’s up to you whether you take those opportunities.