Anyone who does not live in a bubble is aware of the massive amounts of technology by which we are surrounded. In fact, even if one were to make residence in a bubble, it would probably have Wi-Fi capabilities and streaming services.
In March of this year, Forrester Research analysts discussed the impact of e-commerce on the B2B industry, and predicted the loss of up to 1 million sales jobs by the year 2020. Using terms such as “a significant threat” and “overhaul several major aspects” in the B2B industry, the dire words were directed at the at-risk group of order-takers in B2B companies.
Over the years, the buying process has changed for the B2B world. As online commerce continues to grow, so too does the popularity of procurement tools like Software as a Service and purchasing giants like Amazon jumping into B2B wholesale with AmazonSupply. Research and self-education are easier than ever before, which takes out the need for a middle man in the form of a B2B salesperson.
Or does it? There are three things to remember about the future of B2B sales.
#1. Interaction Occurs at Every Stage
During the 10th annual SiriusDecisions Summit, the research and advisory firm shared the results of its 2015 B2B Buyer Study, which showed that as B2B buyers move through the sales journey, they are interacting with sales representatives at every stage. These findings stand in contrast to industry experts who claim the role of the B2B salesperson is in decline.
In addition, SiriusDecisions found that B2B professionals approach the buying process linearly and in order. However, buyers tend to approach business interactions and content consumption in a more episodic way, loosely connecting digital research with other resources in order to make a decision.
Several factors affect the amount of interaction between a buyer and a B2B company, and include:
- Price points
- The buyer’s position in the journey
- Type of decision to be made and buying scenario
Positive interactions remain a part of most buyer-seller relationships.
#2. A Digital Age Does Not Equate to a People-Less Age
As customers navigate a long sales journey, with its twists and turns around unique B2B corners, the salespeople still matter. Potential buyers have invested time and resources into your company’s product and are arriving at this place in the journey with high expectations. This is the point where relationship becomes key to the process and B2B professionals need to stay aware of customer goals and solutions to their issues. This is especially true as buyers are performing more research, arriving at the point of contact after having conducted more than half of the buying process.
Although the buyer’s journey has evolved over time, the expectations when it comes to doing business remain the same. Buyers want to know that all of the research was worth their time and that they can trust you to provide solutions.
The relationship between buyer and supplier continues to be a necessary part of the B2B purchasing journey. Sam Gordon, CEO of Intelliverse, believes that building relationships cannot take the place of actual people, B2B suppliers who are active in seeking a customer’s needs and answering complex questions.
#3. Technology is Still a Valuable Tool
Technology remains an invaluable resource, one that has allowed B2B companies to navigate the industry in ways that once seemed impossible and carry out administrative responsibility with more efficiency. Gathering information and equipping customers is easier and more advanced than ever before, and when used properly, can serve as an advantage for customers.
People-to-people Interaction is still alive in the B2B industry, contrary to some expert opinion. Keeping the customer engaged and serving them well can serve as a contribution to a healthy, sales-driven business interaction. The use of technology during the sales journey can be a valuable tool when used properly and combined with expertise from a real person.