The Internet tsunami has radically changed B2B Buyer behavior. Before the Internet, the B2B buyer making a complex decision had few sources of information. Vendors leveraged that knowledge gap. The vendor sales person was the primary gateway to information the buyer needed to decide – a tremendously powerful position. Fast forward to today. The Internet and social media have triggered a turbulent change – the rich dialog has shifted on-line and away from the sales person.
As a result, the B2B Buyer in a complex sale is now an expert buyer with very different behavior and expectations.
- Buyers are constantly on-line. IDC research shows that IT buyers find online search and the vendor website more valuable sources of buying information than face-to-face conversations.
- Many times, buyers know more than sales people. 55% of buyers think sales people are only somewhat prepared or not prepared for initial meetings.
- B2B buyers, who are life-long consumers, bring that expertise to work, expecting concierge service.
The Internet tsunami has massively changed Buyer behavior. Yet, we’ve seen surprising little change in the traditional funnel.
112 years-old and bears the unmistakable marks of the industrial-era. Buyers are treated like widgets that sellers manufacture into a product called a customer. But today's empowered Buyer is far from a widget. The industrial-era funnel is horribly out-of-touch with reality. Symptoms of a sick funnel are showing up in poor conversion rates, lengthening sales cycles, and marketing and sales management challenges.
A New Customer Creation Framework
To ensure that prospective buyers want to become customers, tech companies need a new framework that better aligns with the way buyers buy today. This framework should maintain what is valuable about the industrial-era funnel. For example, the graduated stages of the traditional funnel are a useful, practical tool for measuring progress.
In order to meet the needs of the 21st century tech buyer, this new framework, which IDC calls the Customer Creation Framework (Figure 2), must advance from tradition in three important ways:
Buyer-centric: Act like a Concierge
Replace the manufacturing mind-set with a service orientation. Act like a concierge who delights guests with information and support services that guide them through their "Buyer's Journey". The "Buyer's Journey" describes the cognitive process that a buyer goes through as he makes a decision. The industrial-era funnel was almost exclusively concerned with internal tasks – vendors must create awareness, stimulate interest, close deals, etc. These tasks will still exist. However, they are conducted in a spirit that put the buyer's needs front and center.
Integrate Marketing and Sales
Instead of the assembly-line-like hand-off between marketing and sales silos, the IDC Customer Creation Framework calls for an orchestrated collaboration between the two functions. The fact that today's Buyer desires high-quality digital buying support and never, ever, goes off-line has HUGE implications. The digital dialog is most intense in the early stages of the Buyer's Journey. However, Marketing, as the owner of the company’s digital dialog, can never disengage, can never hand-off. The sales team cannot simply wait for the “good leads”. They may meet a prospective Buyer at any stage – at an event, for example, or in the hallway of a current account. Sales people must be prepared to serve the Buyer at whatever stage he happens to be at. Marketing must be more active enabling this entire sales conversation.
Finally, IDC’s Customer Creation Framework is smarter than the traditional funnel. The entire customer creation process contains data that can be harvested to use as a feedback system. By analyzing this data, barriers and opportunities will be revealed. Companies can then use marketing and sales tactics like knobs and levers to tweak the behavior and outcomes of the pipeline. Tested marketing campaigns can be strategically applied to build advantage. Digital technology in the form of the Internet is killing yesterday's funnel. However, digital technology is also giving us amazing tools to manage in the new one.