Changes happening around us in the consumer sales space affect B2B sales, too. Take the omni-channel trend, for instance.
One in three consumers use multiple channels to complete a purchase, Deloitte found in its 2014 report, The Omnichannel Opportunity: Unlocking The Power Of The Connected Customer.
This trend is bleeding into B2B sales, too — business owners now expect that same omni-channel experience from other businesses. In fact, a 2014 Forrester report shows B2B buyers expect to view product information, analyze activities, take delivery and return or exchange across all channels through one source.
A striking 68 percent surveyed noted the importance of being able to see purchasing activities across all channels. Not only that, but this trend affects businesses’ likelihood of returning. Seventy-five percent of international businesses said they would buy again from businesses that offer seamless omni-channel capabilities.
To remain successful in the ever-changing B2B landscape, businesses should take a look at the trends affecting consumer behavior and learn from business that successfully adapt their sales strategies to match.
Here are a few consumer trends that should change the way your team sells B2B.
1. Intense Mobile Use
Mobile is becoming the main driver of consumption and purchasing. The influx of mobile technology has influenced everything from how people search for and find information to how they buy.
In fact, 39 out of 50 news sites get more traffic from mobile devices than desktop computers. Not only that, mobile usage accounts for 60 percent of time users spend consuming digital media, according to comSCORE’s 2014 U.S. Mobile App Report.
It’s clear sales teams that don’t implement a mobile-enabled purchasing and agreement process will be left behind in the near future.
2. They Demand Convenience and Immediacy
The convenience of online tools has made the purchasing process easier than ever before. Customers can often check out with one click, or sign electronically, taking what used to be a multi-step processes down to one. There’s no doubt that ease influences purchasing decisions.
A whopping 70 percent of focused, functional spenders say convenience is important when purchasing, according to a Hammerson report published in January. More than half said they would use “click and collect”—a check-out system that allowed them to pick up the product in store instantly after online purchase—if offered, and 47 percent expect delivery within the same day.
Patrick Dodd, president of Nielsen, forecasts this need to satisfy high consumer expectations for convenience in a survey published in April. He explains:
“The most successful retailers and manufacturers will be at the intersection of the physical and virtual worlds, leveraging technology to satisfy shoppers however, wherever and whenever they want to shop.”
The takeaway? Build convenience into your sales process. Enable buyers to access product information, receive answers to questions, and purchase instantly through digital document sharing and payment processing.
3. Going Paperless
Throughout the last several years, many organizations have adopted “green” initiatives, which resonates with environmentally conscious consumers.
Look at the changes Apple has made, for instance. They’re using renewable energy sources and greener materials, to make “the best products in the world as well as the best products for the world.” And, no doubt consumers appreciate a corporation that values and cares for the world we live in.
In line with this green movement, more and more businesses will adopt environmentally-friendly business practices, like going paperless.
In fact, a new Veeva report, surveying organizations in the life sciences industry, found the use of paper has declined in key areas. Nearly 60 percent of survey respondents are electronically archiving documents, and 25 percent have fully digitized document creation.
Sales leaders should adopt greener, money-saving practices now by creating and storing documents digitally, eliminating extra paper waste.
4. Big Data-Driven Consumer Analytics
It seems sales is forever on the quest to uncover what makes consumers tick. The trick now is to find new ways to ask for feedback that don’t feel invasive to buyers, as well as use predictive analytics to identify buying patterns and learn who the “ideal consumer” is.
Businesses are already using big data methods to predict what their buyers are going to buy and do next. Allied Market Research forecasted in its 2013 report that, in retail, predictive analytics would be responsible for nearly a third of growth of the overall text analytics market.
Sales leaders should realize they’re competing with others to be the best at identifying what makes their B2B buyers tick.
To gain a more complete insight into how your buyer reacts to your B2B proposal, for instance, send the proposal using a smart document platform that tracks what and when recipients open and view — and for how long. This will give you an edge in understanding what your buyers care about most.
5. Increased Trust in Third-Party Referrals
It isn’t all about what a business’s brand message says anymore—brands that tout their own features and benefits will be ignored in the face of what consumers say in reviews.
Decision-makers are more likely to look at online reviews and trust what other people say rather than the company. In fact, 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, according to Bright Local’s 2014 Local Consumer Review Survey.
Sales will need to embrace the fact that reviewers in spaces like Yelp and Google Reviews will have the majority of control over defining what their product or service is.
Sales leaders should be prepared to address B2B buyer feedback, just as a business would consumer feedback, to recover any customers with negative experiences so those customers don’t deter new business.
In the end, B2B buyers are no different from consumers. Like consumers, they want a convenient, positive buying experience from a business that aligns with their values and proves trustworthy. So, sales leaders, take note of what consumers look for and you’ll stay competitive in the B2B space.