B2B Sales Directors – The way CXO’s make buying decisions has evolved.
I recently had a meeting with the MD of a market leading international B2B professional services company in London who shall remain unnamed. His company is well known for being knowledgeable and trustworthy and good at their job and they fit in the ‘reassuringly expensive’ category when compared to competitors. They are the best at what they do and with them you do indeed get what you pay for.
Recently their competitors have been winning their share of the business. The same business they wouldn’t have a chance to take 5 years ago. Thus the MD wanted to understand why. They asked a number of their ‘would be’ clients and they told them that when they checked them out online their competitors seemed to know more than them. The website seemed to be more up to date and better connected than they were and thus they didn’t see the value in paying top dollar for the fees. The MD was obviously irate, cross and frustrated about this and his first reaction was to argue the case with clients and his staff, but for many clients perception is reality. The clients had done their research online and looked up the individuals in the company. They further researched the department and looked at their website, blog, social channels and saw far more content on the competitor’s site. The competitor’s site presented their staff as experts in their field and demonstrated their relationship with established happy clients. By comparison to his website, you could not find profiles for staff and thus you could not see what the staff knew or who they knew. You could however see their brand in several sport stadia and in the industry magazines. So their brand awareness was good and people knew what they did but on closer inspection it was not clear what they knew or who they did it for. This was the main reason for losing ground to companies, who perhaps knew the same or less than they did but these companies were demonstrating what and who they did it for much better.
The Corporate Executive Board have recently released the results of their survey of their members (senior executives) that shows that 60% of the sales process is already over before an executive buyer contact a sales person. This means that empowered buyers are in a position to do a lot of their own research and make much more informed decisions before they get in touch with you or buy your product or services, if indeed to ever contact you at all based on what they find out on their own.
So what can you or MD’s like the one I met do to affect this buying journey? Well here are few simple but effective steps:
- Clearly identify your business objectives, understand what you currently do to achieve them and understand how digital content and online interaction can help you to achieve those objectives.
- Get leadership buy in and ask them to lead by example when it comes to interacting online.
- Create an online interaction policy and create educational materials and training processes for your staff about the policy.
- Have professional online profiles of your staff that demonstrates that they are qualified, experienced, knowledgeable and trustworthy.
- Analyse your target audiences for the different parts of your business and understand how those audiences interact online and the topics they are most interested in and their main challenges in their role. You can do this via surveys, online analysis, focus groups, interviews or picking up the phone.
- Convince your internal stakeholders to leverage digital content and online interaction in their roles. Demonstrate what is in it for them.
- Create and implement a content strategy, content schedule and keyword tagging plan in order for your staff and third parties to regularly and easily produce relevant online content that your target audience is interested in.
- Share the content online by training your staff to start and join conversations online using the content in the most appropriate and effective way.
- Measure your progress, celebrate your wins and reward your champions.
The next time you check out a person or company online before you decide to buy from them or not please consider this; What would others think if they did the same to you and your company and how much of the sales process would already be over after they did that?
If your company needs help with your online interaction strategy, social media training or social web development then get in touch with us for a friendly exploratory conversation or indeed Tweet me @ColmHannon or email us at [email protected].