B2B lead generation is the life-blood of any b2b company. But a lot has changed over the last couple of years. Actually, a lot has changed over the last couple of months!
If your company isn’t keeping up with these B2B Lead Generation changes, then there’s a high chance that your lead generation efforts, and consequently, your sales efforts are taking a pretty hard hit.
A solid lead generation effort focuses not just on getting the attention of a prospective customer, but also on the nurturing and customer retention strategies that every b2b company must have to grow successfully.
B2B lead generation often uses digital channels. Recently the use of these channels has been going through a transformation from social media channels to the new “self-directed buyer” that is emerging today.
B2B Lead Generation Used To Be So Clear
“Back in the day” generating leads was a much clearer process than it has become today. In the past, you would develop a list of targeted accounts and send in your sales people to introduce your company, products, and services to the appropriate people. Then, as time went on, your sales team would make on-going sales calls to develop the relationship, and eventually, you would get to the point of a “trial order.”
If that went well, then you were on your way to building on that initial experience. Not to say that it was easy, but it was a pretty straight forward process.
We used to have a straight linear sales process that would utilize a sales funnel with the stages awareness, consideration, and decision for the stages that the buyers were going through.
The way that the old sales funnel worked was your marketing team was responsible for pumping as many people into the top of that funnel as they could. As time went on, the idea was that these people would fall down through the different stages of the selling cycle (awareness, consideration, decision) until they ultimately bought something.
This old process doesn’t work, anymore.
The problem with still trying to grow your business using this old b2b lead generation process is that your buyers have changed. “Not in my industry,” you might be thinking. Actually, change is happening in every industry. Some industries are seeing the changes faster than others, but all industries are going through a dramatic shift in how they find, engage, and manage their business partners.
In fact, Lori Wizdo, VP, Principal Analyst from Forrester says “Today’s business buyer controls the buying process more than today’s seller controls the selling process”.
It’s not just your sales team that has to change, either. Your marketing team has to change their strategies to help your company increase lead generation and sales. Today, the job of the marketing team is much more complex and it’s more important for your marketing and sales teams to work together to maximize your marketing ROI and make your brand visible in front of the companies that are most likely to become your customer.
Let’s Look At That Buyer Journey
As we’ve stated your buyer’s decision-making process has changed, it is no longer linear, and your sales and marketing teams must adjust.
But, before you can adjust, it’s crucial to understand how the buyer’s journey has changed. Gartner, a global research and advisory firm, assembled a new model of the b2b buyer of today. Within this model, they found six distinct tasks that buyers must complete to perform a complex buying decision successfully. Those six steps are:
- Problem identification:This is the “we need to do something” step.
- Solution exploration:In this step buyers are asking themselves “what’s out there to solve our problem”.
- Requirements building:Now the “what exactly do we need the solution to do”question has to be answered.
- Supplier selection:“Will they do what we need done” is the next question that has to be answered.
- Validation:This is when the buyer thinks “we think were know the right answer, bet we need to be sure”.
- Consensus creation:Finally, the buyer has to “get everyone on board with this solution”.
With the increased usage of the Internet, Gartner also found that these buyers are spending only 17% of their time meeting with potential partners. If they are comparing multiple potential partners, that amount of time is decreased to 5%-6% per prospective partner.
Will your online information answer these b2b buyers questions well enough for them to want to talk to your salespeople?
Don’t Blame Your Sales Team
The problem is far less with the sales team’s ability to sell to a prospective new customer than it is for the buyer to find the best solution.
In contrast to the old linear buying journey that we talked about earlier, the buyer’s journey, today, is a series of loops. They are revisiting websites to gain more information. They are going back to sites to download gated knowledge-based content, case studies, customer reviews, and they are going back to social platforms to understand brands and their reputations better.
Clearly no longer a point A to point B process.
Understand their pain; you win!
If you truly understand the new buyer’s journey, you could be well on your way to putting your company in the position to win this new business. If buyers want to be “enabled” (and they do), then it’s your sales and marketing team’s job to give it to them. Give it to them in a manner that they want to receive it.
Information is so vital that it is that information that buyers can obtain will far outweigh the companies that they receive it from. They just want you to make their life a little easier.
Thinking about this shift in the buyers’ journey, we have to recognize the impact that these last few months have had on what business strategies will look like in the months/years to come.
According to a Marketing Prof’s report, 65% of enterprise-level B2B buyers and 63% of SMB buyers have said that digital interactions are now more critical than traditional interactions with vendors. If you thought your salespeople were having trouble getting appointments with your prospective new customers before, it’s about to get a lot harder. Everyone, enterprise-sized companies (97%), and small businesses (96%) that sell to other businesses have dramatically changed how they go to the market.
The question that you have to ask yourself is, …if your competition recognizes these changes and has already adjusted, how long will it take you to catch up?
If you have questions about getting your lead generation strategy updated for the new buyer’s journey, let’s schedule a time to talk.