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Hunter or Hunted? How Digital Media and GDPR Increases Importance of Inbound B2B Sales

January 30, 2018 • STRATEGY & MANAGEMENT, Marketing & Consumers, Editors' Pick

By Laurence Minsky and Keith Quesenberry

Today, through prior digital and social media research, organisational buyers approach their vendor sales teams much more informed. Hence, it is indispensable for B2B sales to focus on becoming a valued and trusted partner early in their customer’s decision journey. Such could be achieved through six strategic steps, which the authors elaborate on in this article.

 

Long gone are the days of information asymmetry where the sales person had more information than the customer. In that bygone era, potential customers came to sales seeking information – or the sales person contacted the buyer through cold calling or canvassing.

Today, through prior digital and social media research, organisational buyers approach their vendor sales teams much more informed. In fact, a Consumer Executive Board survey found that B2B buyers make their way through 57% to 70% of the decision-making process before even contacting potential suppliers.1 And, recent Forrester Research indicates that 74% of buyers now conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase.2

Since these B2B buyers already know about features, specs, competitors, pricing, reviews and more before even engaging with their vendors, organisations must reconsider their B2B sales process and take steps to align it with this new reality. To be heard and help guide the buying decision, companies must figure out new ways of engaging the customer during the early stages of the buying cycle.3

Gartner Research of global enterprise buyers found that only 32% of the buying time is spent interacting with providers. Of the remaining 68% of the time, 18% was spent on internal company evaluations, 9% on social networks with peers, 12% on other interactions with peers, 13% on third party interactions, and 15% on reviewing independent information. Most of this time is spent interacting with others to understand and interpret the vendor information.4 Why? Gartner analyst Hank Barnes observes that it’s because there’s a lack of trust with sales organisations. It is not only important for sales to have more contact with potential customers in the early stages of the buyer’s journey, but those interactions must deliver value. Each interaction represents an opportunity to raise trust by emphasising advising over closing.5



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About the Authors

Laurence Minsky is Associate Professor at Columbia College Chicago. He’s a co-author of both The Activation Imperative: How to Build Brand and Business by Inspiring Action and Audio Branding: Using Sound to Build Your Brand.

Keith A. Quesenberry is Assistant Professor at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, PA. An expert in social media and digital marketing he’s the author of Social Media Strategy: Marketing and Advertising in the Consumer Revolution.

Special thanks to Joseph Carson, CISSP, Chief Security Scientist, Thycotic to ensure accuracy with GDPR regulations. 

 

References
1. Paul Nolan. (2015). “Mapping the Buyer’s Journey,” Sales & Marketing Management, March 27, https://salesandmarketing.com/content/mapping-buyer%E2%80%99s-journey.
2. Lori Wizdo. (2015). “B2B Buyer Journey Mapping Basics,” Forrester (blog), May 25, https://go.forrester.com/blogs/15-05-25-b2b_buyer_journey_mapping_basics/.
3. Lori Wizdo. (2015). “B2B Buyer Journey Mapping Basics,” Forrester (blog), May 25, https://go.forrester.com/blogs/15-05-25-b2b_buyer_journey_mapping_basics/.
4. Jon Reed. (2015). “Why enterprise buyers trust influencers – new research,” Diginomica (blog), June 19, https://diginomica.com/2015/06/19/why-enterprise-buyers-trust-influencers-new-research/.
5. Hank Barnes. (2015) “The Trust Cycle – Are you Developing or Eroding Trust?” Gartner (blog), June 16, https://blogs.gartner.com/hank-barnes/2015/06/16/the-trust-cycle-are-you-developing-or-eroding-trust/.
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16. Scott Meyer, “What Marketers Need to Know About the EU’s New Data Protection Rules,” eMarketer (blog), March 14, 2017, https://www.emarketer.com/Article/What-Marketers-Need-Know-About-EUs-New-Data-Protection-Rules/1015409.
17. Laurence Minsky and Keith A. Quesenberry, “How B2B Sales Can Benefit from Social Selling,” Harvard Business Review (blog), November 8, 2016, https://hbr.org/2016/11/84-of-b2b-sales-start-with-a-referral-not-a-salesperson
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