If you are a marketer (or any professional in a company that is non-sales oriented), how do you get informed of your buying cycle in a B2B sale and map your buying process to make sure your tools and messages fit with their needs?
At a recent Sales2.0 conference in San Francisco that I attended, there were a number of interesting trends mentioned in b2b selling cycles:
- 70% of buyers already have information about your product prior to contacting a sales person
- The sales profession in 2020 is estimated to be a profession of 3 million, down from 18 million today.
- Inside sales as a profession is growing at a 20% annual rate while outside sales is stagnant (and likely trending downward).
Here are some suggested approaches on how to best start mapping your buyers process – these are techniques that I’ve used in the past with great success.
1. Go on face to face calls (after getting permission from sales of course): If you look at some of these trends, it is becoming more challenging to participate on external sales calls in hopes of learning what a sales professional faces. I highly recommend going on external sales calls if possible, I’m still amazed at the number of marketing professionals that seldomly or never participate on calls to get sharper at their own knowledge!
2. Go on calls – internally with inside sales: With the growth of inside sales occurring, there is a very cost effective way to get smarter about how your buyer sees your value first hand. Usually there is low cost for a sales person to involve an external entity on a call if one participates quietly. Listen to the language your buyer uses (and where they are getting their data from).
3. Run surveys: either through regular customer advisory boards or SurveyMonkey, figure out how your customers are getting so smart so quickly. If you have established communities (LinkedIn, Twitter), regular surveying is easy to do. The survey can be of your existing direct sales channel, your indirect channel, your prospects (if run over your home page website) or of your customers. Get the data to make informed decisions!
4. Be active monitoring social media: in a B2B environment, Quora and Focus.com provide a prospect a forum to learn what others are saying about your product in long form (more than 140 characters). LinkedIn questions also have a similar structure to Quora and provide visibility to what your customers are saying. An active monitoring at a minimum augmented with a strategy to be responsive to customer service or product issues within these forums is a must. The other social media outlets (Twitter, Facebook) are also valuable, though the longer form of LinkedIn and Quora give someone the opportunity to vent at length. Also, I’m finding very few businesses relying on Facebook for their B2B purchase!
There are other processes to map along the buyers journey including all customer touch points. We’ll save that for another post!
What do you use to make sure you are understanding how your buyer thinks?