Wednesday, June 16, 2010

This isn’t your Dad’s B2B Sales and Marketing

Back in the day, in the 1970s and 80s, companies like Xerox and IBM established the best practices on how B2B, and especially technology, was successfully marketed and sold. But according to Jefre Ogden, President of Find New Customers, the way your Dad sold back in the day is over. Done. Kaput.


The catalyst for this change has been the Internet, which has clearly made more information and tools available to decision makers, and put the buyer in control, and Frugalnomics, the age of austerity which drives buyer focus on value and the bottom-line vs. innovation.

As a result, B2B sales and marketing will never be the same, evidenced by “how so many things we did when we sold to businesses in the past — things that actually worked well — no longer work.” According to Mr. Ogden.

And what used to work but doesn’t now? Here’s a list of how the B2B selling cycle has dramatically changed:

Out with the Old: Get to the Decision Maker to get the sale

In with the New: Today, B2B buying decisions have more stakeholders than ever.  To be successful, you often have to engage executives, finance, business leaders, purchasing, operations and technologists, and provide compelling value messages to each stakeholder. The challenge, how do you market with what matters to each stakeholder personally, and empower sales professionals with the right content, knowledge and value metrics to be compelling to this diverse group?

Out with the Old: A nice website will get people's attention Unfortunately, most everyone has a nice website.

In with the New:  In the new world where buyers are in control, content is king. Studies indicate that 9 out of 10 buyers consumed and relied on content on their way to purchase decision: especially white papers, eBooks, webinars, interactive analysis tools, podcasts, and video clips. And the content that worked best was content personalized to the buyer: their industry, their title, their stage of the buying process.

In the age of Frugalnomics, where value and savings reigns supreme, engaging buyers with personalized tools to help them diagnose their issues, identify savings opportunities and prove savings / value are more important than ever.

Out with the Old:  With enough leads and we will find more sales opportunities Buyers are inundated with cold-calls, e-mails and sales pitches, making qualified leads harder than ever to generate, and making “cold calling” a thing of the past.

In with the New: According to Mr. Ogden, “9 out of 10 of buyers say, when they are ready to buy, they find you.” And when they find you do you have the right tools to engage them? The marketing mix needs to change, investing in the right tools and content to engage the buyer, rather than cold calling.

And if you do reach out to buyers, adding personalized value to every outreach is required. Valuable research and interactive tools are required.

Out with the Old:  If we optimize our website for search, we'll attract prospective buyers

In with the New:  Unfortunately, most buyers rely on vendor relationships and recommendations and not search. According Mr Ogden, “7 out of 10 buyers say they start their buying process at vendor sites, not Google.”

This is emphasized in recent buyer surveys from SiriusDecisions, analysts and peers are the most trusted buyer resources earlier in the sales cycle. Analyst case studies and validation, and peer social network recommendations are key to early engagement success.

Later in the sales cycle, personalized value-added content, tools and advice via the corporate web site or micro-sites is required. Don’t have the information buyers are looking for as they do their research, and don’t have the content validated by analyst and peers for credibility, and you can lose the deal.

Out with the Old: Follow a strict sales methodology, including qualification on budget, access to power, needs and timeframe (BANT). Then walk them through the sales cycle — with a demo, proposal, etc.

In with the New: Today, buyers engage with you at different stages, some earlier than others. As well, with more decision makers and more information available, neatly moving though a sales cycle is a thing of the past.

Formal budgets have been replaced with austerity, ad-hoc decisions and more discretionary spending. To win, you have to proactively diagnose customer issues and provide business cases to prove better value than other investment opportunities in order to be in line to grab the discretionary budget when its available.

Formal routines such as Answering Requests for Proposals (RFPs) are a thing of the past.

The Bottom Line

“The reality is that buyers move back and forth though a buying process and come up with budgets in an ad hoc approach. The nice and neat process of the past is dead,” concludes Mr Ogden.

The buyer is now in control in the age of Internet fueled decision making and Frugalnomics. The successful B2B marketer and seller recognize that the old ways to success are dead. Today the roadmap to success is a proactive facilitator in the buying lifecycle, providing personalized content and analysis to help diverse group of decision makers value the correct purchase decision.

The original SandHill.com article by Jefre Ogden can be viewed at: http://www.sandhill.com/opinion/daily_blog.php?id=51

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