B2B Organizations Must Reinvent To Accomplish Buyer-Aligned Strategies Post-Pandemic
In the lexicon of business, especially B2B, words and phrases can take on so many different meanings. That they, in effect, lose their intended purpose after a while. For instance, you most likely have heard or read something about the buyer-aligned sales process within the past few years. What does that actually mean today? Especially in a world turned upside down. Accompanied by much uncertainty on how the future is shaping up.
The term buyer-aligned will take on a significant new meaning as you enter a new era of B2B and buying. It will take on new shapes, structures, and forms. And let us not forget – new processes.
What is striking is the funnel view has changed very little during the past twenty years. Oh, I know we have the buyer’s journey, curve shapes, non-linear shapes, flywheels, and etc. New names to describe the stages have been introduced as well. But if you and I are being honest, the most significant development is the funnel was flipped from its vertical view to a horizontal view. And, instead of calling it the funnel, we call it the buyer’s journey.
Yes, the buyer’s journey allows us much more opportunities to fill in the blanks on what marketing and sales can do in each stage. This view also helps in gaining a glimpse at how buyers behave. However, the majority of buyer’s journey diagrams still consist of the same labeling convention – Awareness, Consideration, Decision, Use. Or something similar.
In this context, the filling in the blanks for each of these conventional stages became what it meant to be buyer-aligned. To align with what we think the buyer is seeking within the stages. Producing different forms of content at the ready for buyers when they go seeking. Developing sales processes with the intent of speeding up a buyer’s journey through each of the stages.
Recently, we are starting to see movement towards a view labeled as buyer enablement. Gartner analysts have been a proponent of a view of “enabling” buyers’ buying processes. Identifying four stages of buying jobs – Problem Identification, Solution Exploration, Requirements Building, and Supplier Selection. Most definitely a step in the right direction.
In our own examination of this issue, we began to do “deep dives” into the actual buying processes of buyers several years ago, through work with HP and others. Applying the same goal-directed thinking that is essential to understanding buyer personas. In a 5 vertical markets buyer persona engagement for HP, we found that 3 of 5 buying processes were completely different. While 2 were closely the same. More importantly, revealing a misalignment between HP’s defined sales process and the buying processes of their target buyer personas.
Uncovered were specific interaction design opportunities. As well as a deeper understanding of situational buying scenarios. Supplying buyers with needed support in their efforts working with stakeholders. More importantly, helping them navigate their own internal purchasing processes. The efforts led to as much as a 20% increase in professional services engagements for HP within a 2-year period.
Looking ahead to the future and a new era for B2B, you will need to consider this – buying processes will radically transform. On a global scale at least, you will need to factor in that the COVID-19 pandemic will become endemic. A true post-pandemic world may be out of reach for several years. Further impacting how commerce and buying will be conducted globally. However, there is much optimism for booms to occur in the United States and Europe. Booms cause radical changes in buying as well.
In the new era for B2B, organizations must reexamine what exactly does buyer-aligned with your sales processes really mean. To truly be aligned will require getting a much deeper understanding of buyers’ buying processes. Well beyond the buyer enablement view and more like the HP story.
Becoming buyer-aligned will involve creativity and innovation on how to walk alongside buyers as they tackle unmet goals and issues. As opposed to being on the outside looking in with convention-labeled funnels and journeys. A view that is fast becoming outdated.
(For those interested in learning more about how to go beyond the buyer’s journey and connecting with buyers’ processes, consider the Become a Master in Buyer Persona Sales master class.)