The landscape for modern buyers has drastically changed over the years. Today the average buyer is highly educated before a conversation is even made. That means we have to adapt how we sell our products to meet the wants and needs of these knowledgeable consumers. In today’s episode, you’ll learn what the modern buyer looks like and how you can change your approach to sales and marketing to address the changes in their behavior.
INTRO: Building a great company is a marathon not a sprint. Each week Krista Ankenman and the team at TANK New Media take on growth challenges, explore technology, and interview business leaders that are always upping their game. If you're ready to build scalable systems to drive your business forward, this podcast is for you.
KRISTA: Hey everyone, today we're gonna have Thad Ankenman on the show. He is the co-founder of TANK New Media, he's been working with B2B companies for 10 plus years and has a lot of experience working with B2B buyers and moving them through the overall buyers journey — and that's a little bit about what we're gonna be talking about today is really looking a little bit deeper at the modern B2B buyer how they operate, what makes them tick. How expectations have changed over the past few years. So with that welcome Thad.
THAD: Hey thanks for having me.
KRISTA: Yeah so we can kind of start out talking about why things have changed, like overall why has B2B buying behavior changed over the last maybe 5-10 years or whatever that is. So what kind of changes are driving buyer behaviors? What do you see in the marketplace that's really changed over the last five years as far as buying goes?
THAD: So much of it is just technology enabling a better customer experience and constantly changing the expectation. Shortening people's patience for the old way things like Amazon, Netflix, just all the services people started using day to day, set that expectation for user experience. It's almost instant gratification, and then with things like Amazon Prime, you know I go into Best Buy, they know I'm gonna be looking at all these prices everywhere else. You know you've got your price match guarantees, you've got all this stuff going on to try to combat that — and there's still some value to going into a store, but if I know that I can click a button on my phone and order a TV or whatever it is and it's going to show up in less than two days, just makes it simple. It sort of trains me to do that because I know I'm not gonna have any issues. Streamlines it.
KRISTA: So what do you feel like is the big difference between like the old way and the new way? So talk to me a little bit about like what the old way was and then how the new way has changed?
THAD:: Well I mean the old way you would you would talk to a salesperson you might go to the store. If it's a B2B purchase, you might call the company talk to a sales rep earlier in the process. Now you might watch 20 YouTube videos, and do a bunch of online research, read articles, read reviews, pretty much know what you want before you even talk to sales. Yeah, so it's really valuable from a sales perspective to be able to know what someone's done prior, what videos have they watched, what things did they learn about before they actually contacted you, so you can pick up that conversation where it's already been had like 80% of the way before you ever join the conversation.
KRISTA: So you feel like a lot of that is really taken over with the educational content that's out there now. So many companies are putting out so much more educational content around their products that people can really just take the time to research it.
THAD: It's just not as closed office. It used to be you don't have to access it through sales, through automation, and lots of other ways to put content out, companies are helping people understand their products and services prior to needing to have a sales conversation. I mean these days if you're not already to the pricing or customization conversation by the time you get contacted then there's something wrong with your education content. People should pretty much know what they're getting into before they have to talk to you.
KRISTA: I mean I would encourage pretty much any B2B company to to put out educational content around their products for that exact reason?
THAD: I mean I know some things are proprietary and there's reasons for not putting everything out there, but for the most part the more you share early in the process the better off you're gonna be.
THAD: Just by giving people the background you're helping them make the decision instead of trying to sell them something.
KRISTA: I mean we have a stat from HubSpot here that forty-seven percent of buyers viewed three to five pieces of content before engaging a sales rep even. So I mean people are spending time out there looking at content, looking at, you know, what's out there, comparing all before talking to anybody which is just, I mean, it surprises me but at the same time it's like, well that's how I buy, you know.
THAD: It is how you buy if you think about a lot of the stuff, it's just, this is how we buy things and this is how it's changed over time. Even our parents are starting to buy things this way so it's not just the younger demographic that's doing this. It's spread now and kind of hit critical mass to where it's really shifting buyer behavior across the board.
KRISTA: And it's all kinds of different content isn't it? It's you know it could be video it could be written you know it could be all kinds of different things do you feel like videos really kind of open the door for a lot of these things?
THAD: Me personally, yes, and I think that probably relates to a lot of other people that are buying in the B2B space whether it's, you know, we looked for a PEO for instances last year. I didn’t even know what that was a year ago so it was a little bit of an education curve, but the companies that win are the ones that helped us understand it. And, not only that but the companies that advertise on the content that I'm looking at when I'm doing research so it may be a company I'm not necessarily reading their content but I'm seeing their promotional materials come up on the internet. They're showing interest, they know I'm in the market for their products or services and they're getting in front of me. And then they're providing content for me to watch to understand.
KRISTA: They captured your interest? Yeah, spending time you know where you're already at, makes sense. So talk to me just a little bit about the Amazon effect. You kind of alluded to it earlier about how Amazon has sort of changed expectations.
THAD: Amazon has just had such a relentless focus on that experience and the technology behind making it possible they really set the bar. For everyone else, even in the B2B space, we have clients that want that same experience. They know it's very difficult to get there, but they're willing to constantly keep improving to try and make their experience as good.
KRISTA: So what do you feel like makes that experience so good?
THAD: A lot of it is kind of predicting the next step and you can learn this from data from previous customers or prospects and their interactions on the website or through your sales team or in chat conversations. There are lots of ways to do this but it's actually just paying attention to what's happening so that you can then use that data to predict what to deliver a delightful experience the next step.
KRISTA: Sure and it, you know, we even are seeing stats now and this is from commerce platforms that B2B e-commerce sales are expected to actually outgrow B2C e-commerce sales by 2020, which is really crazy to me. Do you have any kind of insight or thoughts around, you know, that growth around B2B and e-com?
THAD: I mean obviously there's a lot of volume there and there's a lot going on, I think the main takeaway there is that B2B buyers are people and they also are consumer buyers, so those patterns of behavior crossover. It may have lagged a little bit in the B2B space but a lot of it's getting really up to speed, and really rivaling some of those B2C experiences in commerce too.
KRISTA: Sure so we talked just a little bit about kind of traditionally how things used to work and that maybe it's not working as well as it as it used to. As far as, you know, cold calling and you know having a gatekeeper on the information and things like that do you have any additional insight until why that stuff might not be working anymore? You know, from a sales standpoint so, you know, I'm a salesman and, you know, I'm going out and I'm actually out reaching to people. Why is that falling short these days?
THAD: It's not working because people don't want to buy that way; because they have all the power in their pocket to look up anything that they want to — power shift. Yeah, it really is with the consumer now and if you think about it you can just ask Siri or your other voice assistant about anything you want and you have access to most information in the world right there. It's just different and it's interruptive people don't want to be interrupted, you know, if I'm on a site and I download something that's, you know, at a part of a sales cycle that would require some interaction or follow-up question or something hitting me with a phone call at that time is seen as helpful but if someone just calls me out of the blue and I'm in a meeting, I don't really want to talk to them. It gives me a bad experience and I may or may not respond to their emails or calls in the future. You know you just want to get with people when they're ready.
KRISTA: Yeah that's really on your timetable as opposed to theirs.
THAD: Yeah well you need to nurture them and know when they are ready yeah so you're not just going down a list calling people not knowing what they're doing on the other end.
KRISTA: Well and you know again we have another HubSpot stack here that says 29% of people want to talk to a salesperson to learn more about a product when actually 62% actually want to consult their search engine first. So, they're wanting to go and look up all of these things not necessarily just cold called and, you know, talk to right then and there you know they want to be able to kind of do some of that due diligence on their own first. Definitely, so let's talk a little bit about what the modern buyer looks like. So tell me a little bit about what you would see oh it's kind of the modern buyer these days.
THAD: Well I think obviously that depends on the niche that you're in and, you know, who your target audience is; but, for the most part, everyone is smartphone-enabled these days. Which services they're gonna use depends, but they're all using technology to get information quickly.
KRISTA: Yeah and they're probably a little bit more influenced like we've been talking about from online could be multiple channels, you know, website social referrals. You know, all of those different pieces.
THAD: And it is more fragmented I mean with all the social media tools out there people kind of navigate to their own space with people that agree with them a lot of the time. So it's finding where those spaces are that you can actually communicate your message and find people that are on the same page with your product or service.
KRISTA: Do you feel like there's more stakeholders than there used to be?
THAD: I think that that varies, you know, if you're selling a product that just an individual can purchase and use. If you're selling a B2B product, especially a larger ticket item, and we have clients that sometimes we're selling six-figure B2B products — there's gonna be more stakeholders. There's no process internally you have to influence people around those decision-makers because you're not gonna get direct access to them.
KRISTA: So what are customers doing when they're ready to make a purchase like, what kind of activities are they are they usually doing, they're spending a lot more time probably doing research I would guess?
THAD: You know, some various form of research some people like to watch videos some people like to read blog articles some people like to ask their friends on social media. It really varies.
KRISTA: Sure, so from like a promotional standpoint as a company do you feel like it's important to be able to make sure you're kind of showing up on all those different mediums?
THAD: Definitely, there should always be some cross channel strategy.
KRISTA: So we've kind of talked a little bit about how people are you know doing more research online but do you still feel like at some point there's probably some value to having a salesperson engaged in that conversation?
THAD: Definitely, I don't think there's less value in having salespeople I think what sales people do is different.
THAD: Than what they used to do, you're not gonna have somebody as much going out hunting down new sales, the old, you know, the old type sheriff sale aggressive sales approach. Okay. They're gonna be more helpers there they're gonna be almost like customer service people that are gonna close the best sales. Especially if they're enabled by marketing and they have a lot of sales enablement material to go from because they're really just helping someone make a decision they're not trying to influence them to buy something they don't need. They're not trying necessarily to get them to switch if they've done their inbound content the right way, people are already educated, they understand them, they want to do business with them, and they just need to help them do that.
KRISTA: Just for anybody who doesn't know what sales enablement is can you just give me a quick definition of that?
THAD: It's really just the tools and technology and content that's required to move someone all the way through a sale to close.
KRISTA: So helps closing deals basically?
THAD: Yeah and that can go all the way through to contract proposal software, spec sheets, different anything about the product that they might want to have it their fingertips to send.
KRISTA: Great very cool.
THAD: And automation tools as well so that there can be they can spend more time helping customers or prospects and less time writing emails and doing all the tedious stuff.
KRISTA: Yeah that stuff takes so much time. So if you were gonna give some advice to a company that was really looking to, you know, attract and start nurturing some of their customers what would be some advice you would give them?
THAD: I think the most basic advice is just: pay attention to how you actually buy things; because it's really easy to make an assumption because you've been doing something for a long time. That that's still the way everyone does things but if you just look at your own habits and your own behavior or your friends and family you're gonna understand that it has changed, and it applies in B2B just as much as it does in the B2C space.
KRISTA: Yeah, that maybe we should be kind of adjusting and doing a few things differently overall. So just a quick summary of some of the things that we've kind of talked about some of the key things you know that could really help you reach kind of the modern buyer — one of those would be really educating your customers. It's really important to build trust and make sure you're being really helpful with the content that you're putting out not just promoting yourself but really you know taking the time to give something valuable so if somebody is doing research trying to understand, you know, if this product or service is right for them that your content is really going to be helpful in that way. Making sure you're really solving problems in helping move them down the buyers journey so to speak. Something else you also mentioned was going multi and also making sure that you are kind of where your customer is so they're gonna see your brand they're gonna start becoming aware, you know, and you really kind of start getting that brand recognition.
THAD: Well and with that you really need that consistency, so you need to know what your brand is and what it stands for, while you're doing things.
KRISTA: Yeah and being in front of them you know on a consistent basis like you mentioned and often as well so being in multi-channel kind of hitting them multiple places you know will really kind of drive that home for sure. And again, you know just really making sure you're adding that value for your customers, knowing them, make sure you understand where they're gonna be, you know, what kind of things that they're interested in so you can really make content that's going to be helpful for them. And you can do that with various like we talked about various different channels whether that's video content podcast for instance. You know just really being able to reach them and be helpful first. Would you agree with that?
KRISTA: For more information on this episode visit manufacturinggrowth.com
Co-founder & VP, Client Services
Krista also has more than a decade of professional experience under her belt. Her expertise lies in graphic design, project management, and digital marketing for both high-profile and growing businesses. Currently, she functions as the VP of Client Services and lead strategist.
Building a great company is a marathon, not a sprint. Each week Krista Ankenman and her team at TANK New Media take on growth challenges, explore technology, and interview business leaders dedicated to growing better through continuous improvement. If you’re ready to build repeatable and scalable systems to drive your business forward, this podcast is for you.
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