03 Mar B2B sales gets an edge with digital engagement
B2B sales is first and foremost about trust, competence and persistence. This difficult work can require its fair measure of patience, but B2B sales representatives also need systems that support the digital relationships customers now seek. Just as engagement tools, calls-to-action and more can increase conversion on local business’ websites and other consumer-facing channels (like search engines or social media pages), implementing the right tools in a B2B environment can add to the number of clients your digital presence accrues.
However, beyond the simple benefit of gaining more clients than was otherwise possible, the right engagement tools also permit B2B sales representatives to streamline their entire sales process. They can add critical efficiencies that help them better understand their customers while also giving them the peace-of-mind needed to focus entirely on executing the best sales calls possible. In an environment where the internet has allowed customers to jump out ahead of their sales reps, digital engagement tools give the latter an opportunity to take back control and guide their clients to the best purchases possible.
B2B buyers ahead of consumers in internet use
The proliferation of online information has given buyers the ability to reach out and be more proactive in their purchasing process, a role that it was once incumbent on sellers to fulfill. Approximately 70% of B2B revenues now come from customers using digital channels, and nearly 65% of buyers report an increase in total online spending for their work purchases. Though so much revenue reportedly comes through digital channels it may still not be enough to keep up with how B2B buyers are actually examining the offerings they purchase.
B2B clients may be using the internet for their purchasing seemingly far more prodigiously than their consumer counterparts. A study by Acquity Group shows that 94% of business buyers do some form of online research, while 77% use Google Search, 84.3% check business websites, 34% visit 3rd party websites and 41% read user reviews. This is a natural audience that engagement tools can tap into to increase conversion and streamline the sales process, however it may first be better to understand the thought process behind the most successful practices in this new digital era.
Restructuring in store for B2B sales
No firm is alone in meeting these transitions, and top consultants have already begun to consider what works best for B2B companies in responding to their customers’ new habits. According to Bain & Company, sales and marketing need to have an integrated approach, while roles within a salesforce will become more specialized and “business marketers will operate with continuous, near-real time management of the pipeline”. On top of this, advanced data analytics will reduce customer segmentation, leading to so-called “segments of one” that enable a personalized approach to each client.
Though these trends will take over the B2B marketplace, Bain & Company says that there is little preparedness for the transition. While nearly half of the 370 marketing and sales executives that they interviewed in 2015 said that digital capabilities have significantly changes their customers’ behaviour, “only 12%… feel well prepared for the new realities brought about by digitally enabled customers.” That’s a paltry segment of the market, and perhaps the magnitude of the shift is to blame for executives feeling unprepared, however there are answers – some of them even quick and easy – that enable B2B sales teams to get ahead on their customers’ digital habits.
Crafting experience for B2B is key
Shift though the paradigm may, Bain & Company states that many B2B companies “have already made strides in responding to shifts in customer behaviour”. In their eyes, B2B companies must (1) create insightful content that illustrates how their offerings address customer priorities, (2) build a comprehensive view of their customers’ behaviour and (3) offer them “tailored, dynamic experience(s) throughout the buying process.” However, in considering these multiple codependent strategies, B2B businesses must evaluate the most efficient means to implement improved measures that meet their buyers in their favorite channels
Of these priorities, crafting content is clearly the one which requires the most long-term effort and investment, while building a comprehensive view of customers’ often dynamic behaviour can take its own fair share of time and energy. Ultimately, improving experience is the first way in which B2B firms can quickly and easily add value to their buying process. They can take a step ahead of their customers by supplementing the essential information they offer their online customers with digital engagement tools. These allow them to reach out when they need support or are ready discuss a purchase, both increasing conversion and decreasing the likelihood they’ll seek particular offerings from a competitor.
Digital Engagement shows how B2B can meet the transition
In enhancing customer experience, engagement tools are a quick and easy way to get started. Initiatives like Online Scheduling, Click-to-Call, Live Chat, Custom Forms and more allow a B2B business to offer their customers multiple means to reach out. Flexible and easily integrated, these solutions also offer additional features that prevent abuse and business’ reactivity to its clients.
For instance, Online Scheduling permits bookings to take place 24/7 with real-time availabilities. Compounded with personal calendar synchronizations, double-bookings can be effectively eliminated, while also updating sales representatives on their calls as they’re booked. Automated notifications and reminders also notify clients via email or SMS about changes in their appointment, or provide reminders in the days and hours leading up to it.
Additionally, Click-to-Call enables a free call back for website browsers – all recorded and even transcribed for better understanding of performance. Live Chat enables customers to reach out both directly and passively, while advanced features like file sharing enable buyers and sellers to exchange specifications, documents and other crucial resources they need to communicate. Adding in custom forms, digital engagement tools can provide a full suit to enhance a B2B customer’s online experience, however their first-order benefits aren’t the only positive effect they have on B2B sales efforts.
With the right integrations, B2B can again take the lead
When integrated with a native CRM, or synchronized with a 3rd party CRM like Salesforce, Zoho and more, Online Scheduling and other tools can make a crucial impact on collecting and consolidating information about B2B buyers. Since the work takes persistence and consistency on the part of salespeople, and though the use of CRM may be ubiquitous, integrating additional applications that automatically record interactions and integrate with advanced information about a customer’s habits and needs can be crucial to converting customers. This is particularly necessary in an environment where customers approach B2B salespeople with more information – and skepticism – than ever before.
Additionally, whether integrated through 3rd parties or functioning within a native CRM, these tools also enable customizable email remarketing and more that enhance customer loyalty and encourage purchases according to targeted special offers. Whether there’s quarterly expectations to meet or an opportunity to evangelize new products and services, digital engagement tools build new norms for B2B sales relationships with customers. While their various integrations also add to organizational efficiency, their benefits in capitalizing on customers’ online browsing is essentially for any B2B business looking for future success.