There used to be a stark difference between B2B and B2C sales tactics. Traditionally, B2B transactions were very complex, happened over a long period of time, and required continual interaction with professional service organizations.
On the other hand, consumer purchase journeys (particularly in the digital age) have become fast, easy, self-service experiences, where instant gratification is not only expected, it’s demanded.
But in recent years the expectations of B2B sales have majorly transformed. The lines that originally separated B2B and B2C sales are blurring as B2B buyers now seek the same values and experiences as their B2C counterparts.
Through our own research into the connected consumer, we discovered that the four paradoxes that have potential and promise for B2C relations also hold true in the B2B realm.
Here are the four paradoxes that make B2B and B2C consumers similar, skewing the line that once separated how salespeople approached them.
Independent, Yet Interconnected
Similar to their B2C counterparts, B2B buyers want to be in control of their purchase journey. Just like Nicole, for instance, a connected consumer in our study who searched for online reviews and Top 10 lists when searching for an armchair, B2B buyers prefer to do their own research and draw their own conclusions before listening to what a sales representative has to say. In fact, in our study results, we found that most buyers want to learn about product details, like specs, price, and availability, from the product page.
However, according to a study by the International Data Corporation, 75 percent of B2B buyers, including 84 percent of C-level executives, turned to social media to support their purchase decisions. And executives using social media, who had 84 percent bigger budgets, made 61 percent more purchase decisions.
So although B2B buyers want to learn about specific product details on their own, they still seek peer recommendations in their purchase journeys. This means that maintaining a great reputation remains critical for B2B companies.
In order to help B2B buyers form a favorable impression of your brand, make sure that it’s easy for them to discover valuable information on your products. This also makes it more likely that they’ll reach out to you for more details, giving you the chance to connect with them on a deeper level and build the type of relationship that translates into sales.
Idealistic, Yet Discriminating
Similar to B2C consumers, B2B buyers expect the brands they engage with to “walk their talk.” However, the difference between the two lies within the way in which brands engage with B2B buyers.
Sales pitches and other cold or off-target interactions are being increasingly seen in a negative light. Karen, our connected consumer who was in search of a laptop, spent some time browsing in one of Best Buy’s physical locations but didn’t like dealing with the salespeople, which is what led her to leave and continue her search online.
B2B buyers exhibit similar tendencies. Even when a buyer has already reached out to a brand and established that connection, if they’re greeted with information that isn’t in line with their needs, they’re likely to go cold and might even move on elsewhere.
To become more in-tune with customers’ needs, use data to track their purchase journeys. With this data in hand, your salespeople can approach the right customers, at the right time, with a message catered directly to their needs.
Digitally Native, Yet Highly Hands-On
Most B2B brands don’t have physical space where buyers can test their products on-site or speak to a sales representative in person, so the “hands-on” element in B2B buying isn’t quite the same as B2C shopping. Rather, it’s more akin to B2B buyers’ need to conduct the majority of their research independently and online by seeking out the precise information they want or need, when they want or need it through sources, like knowledge libraries, whitepapers, and video tutorials.
However, to set themselves apart from competitors by meeting the demand for both digital and physical experiences, some B2B brands are taking inspiration from B2C and branching out into physical spaces or setting up live in-person encounters.
This is precisely what we helped Chase Business achieve when we worked with the company to create and promote their mobile experiential: The Chase BizMobile. This business advice center on wheels travels across the United States, serving as a hub of valuable information for small business owners. They can also receive details on Chase’s financial offerings independently on tablets or speak to a Chase representative directly if they need personalized help.
For some B2B brands, producing high quality, varied digital content is enough to establish trust and build relationships with buyers. But if you can create opportunities for customers to connect with you IRL, you’ll see your reputation and business grow much more quickly.
The Power of Gods, Yet All Too Human
With the ability to summon a world of information at their fingertips, B2B buyers, like their B2C counterparts have almost god-like powers of choice.
Yet, with inboxes full of emails and pages of product comparisons to sift through, all this information can make buyers feel overwhelmed.
This is why it is so critical to create content that’s valuable, mapped to specific points on the
buyer’s purchasing journey, and answers the exact questions they have at those specific
Customers want to be guided, so long as it’s on the route of their choosing. Creating targeted content can ease customers’ purchase journeys by helping to filter out any unnecessary information.
B2B sellers who still believe that there’s a separation between B2B and B2C sales are finding themselves at odds with their own objectives, at risk for derailing the purchase journey, and at the mercy of losing potential buyers to competitors.
By being attuned with the four paradoxes that intertwine B2B and B2C connected consumers, companies can make the shift from conventional selling to building authentic relationships that close deals, inspire loyalty and advocacy, and bring buyers happily home to their brand.
Need help navigating the B2B sales landscape? The Zen Media team is here to help! Contact us to learn more about how we can help your business gain and maintain momentum.