In order to succeed as a salesperson, you need to know exactly who your customer is. This includes information you can research yourself, such as this person's company, job title and place in the purchasing decision. It also includes the kind of general information typical of most modern B2B customers.
In fact, keeping up with and responding to the changing B2B customer profile is one of the biggest challenges a modern salesperson faces.
Here are some of the most important traits of contemporary B2B buyers, and what those traits mean for you as a salesperson:
1. Liketly to do their own research
In the digital age, information is easy to come by: There’s a ton of content available on the internet, and plenty of opinions, thanks to social media. Today’s buyer can become informed very quickly. It’s not surprising, then, that customers are conducting their own research independent of salespeople. In fact, a recent Accenture study found that 94 percent of all B2B buyers surveyed said they perform their own research online at least once during the process of making a purchase.
To take advantage of this, be completely honest and up-front. Ask prospects what research they’ve done and if there’s anything they’d like you to clarify. By tackling the elephant in the room directly, you’ll show that you aren’t afraid to supplement their research instead of discouraging or ignoring it.
2. Increasingly skeptical
Because prospects have access to more information than ever, they’re starting to distrust salespeople and trying to make purchases without them. In fact, Forrester found that almost 60 of buyers it surveyed preferred to make purchases independently instead of dealing with a salesperson.
This means you need to go out of your way to build trust with your prospects. Don’t be pushy and try to land a sale immediately. Instead, focus on helping your customers, trying to figure out their needs and see exactly what you can do to solve them. Provide them information and try to teach them something new. If you can position yourself as a helpful expert, you’ll be much more likely to earn their business than you would being just another aggressive salesperson.
3. Patient, as purchasers
The average sales cycle is getting longer, having increased by over 20 percent in the past five years. To get past this, reach prospects earlier and start nurturing them however you can. If somebody isn’t able to purchase immediately, offer that person information and try to find out more about when he or she is looking to make a decision. Use automated email campaigns to nurture leads throughout various stages of the purchasing process. If you can stay top of mind throughout the buyer's journey, you’ll land more sales, even if that goal takes a little bit longer.
4. Subject to peer influence
The rise of social media has made it much easier for people to post their opinions about particular brands. It also makes it much easier for them to solicit opinions from their peers. With B2B, this is especially important. Almost a quarter of all B2B buyers make their purchasing decisions based entirely on social recommendations.
Take the time to build relationships on social media, especially LinkedIn. Create original content for the platform and join in discussions to position yourself as an industry leader. If you have an established presence on a platform, users will interpret that presence as trustworthiness and you’ll have a much easier time selling to them.
5. Hungry for content
As the buying process lengthens and more information is available, consumers are looking for a wide variety of content to help them make their decision. Buyers will look for this content both before and after contacting salespeople, so it’s important to generate content for buyers in various stages of the sales process.
Content should be distributed in a variety of ways. You should maintain a company blog and promote it across various channels. On social media, you should create infographics to grab attention. Short Facebook and YouTube videos work well among mobile users.
You’ll also need white papers, customer success stories and recommendations, as well as documents answering frequently asked questions that you can distribute to prospects reaching out to you directly.
Keeping up with the profile of a modern B2B decision maker can be difficult, especially as technology drives change at a rapid rate. By keeping your eyes open to new trends and following the advice outlined above, however, you’ll have a much better idea of who your customers are and what they’re looking for in a salesperson.