The Anonymous Buyer Journey – Part 4: B2B Consultant Sellers

Tom ClareOn Our Minds

Buyers today expect expertise and educational value from sales and marketing as discussed in the third post of this blog series concerning intelligent outreach.  The anonymous buyer developed from an overload of voicemail and email spam they learned to ignore, alongside an abundance of online information, contact with peers, and analyst perspectives where they could learn without sales engagement.

This enabled a non-linear journey void of sales engagement until 70-80% of the buyer’s journey is complete.  Research studies show the trend is only increasing, as nearly 70% prefer doing research on their own, up more than 15% from the previous year.  As for engaging with sales, just over 15% prefer working with sales versus working alone, down from just over 20% the prior year.  Overall, sales teams are having a hard time engaging with prospects, as they are not adding value to the buyer’s journey.

When buyers do engage with outbound sales today, their knowledge level and expertise is more mature than in years past.  As a result, today’s buyers expect consultative, sophisticated, and technology-enabled sales people.  Simply put, the consistency and value from the digital experience to human experience cannot have any hiccups.  A context-rich marketing and inside sales program of insights and educational value falls flat if the first sales meeting does not perform at the same level.

If you are part of the LinkedIn information security communities, you have likely seen C-level posts requesting vendors provide insightful educational value to get their interest, and to avoid spamming them or leaving multiple voicemails.  Buyers expect the expertise and rich context of their journey to continue with any sales engagement.  This puts pressure on sales to have more in-depth product marketing knowledge levels of their solution or service space as noted in the second blog of this series.

So what is the profile of a B2B consultant seller?  This is the focus for the fourth blog in this series where the activities and attributes for success include:

Shares Insights – as educational and expert advice is valued by buyers and stands out from the less valuable content or an inbox of generic email and voicemails prospects are slated to get when sales is just blindly requesting meetings.  The lone-wolf, phone-pounding sales person of the past now partners with marketing, support and field services to learn high value insights.  You gain trust through education and being consultative in your communications.  While awards, events and news are often socialized, think from the prospect’s perspective of what is insightful for them.

Digital Adeptness – is required to share high value insights in multiple channels, plus to leverage sales automation tools providing baseline digital signals and intelligence.  The linear sales path is now a mapping of digital signals to analyze and make decisions for account planning and mapping.  The infamous ‘ah-ha’ moment for a prospect is likely to happen visually online as they educate themselves.

Leverages Analytics – as the anonymous buyer is likely to engage with rich online content 8 to 12 times before they move forward with a sales engagement.  Marketing and inside sales provide insights and educational content to increase online touch points from prospects for continuous monitoring and analytics of the non-linear buyer journey into sales engagement.  Qualified prospects expect to be found by vendors based on their online actions, however not harassed with 10 emails and a half a dozen programmatic voicemails.

 Storytelling Mastery – also communicates confidence for the subject matter where the digital to human experience has to be consistent and at parity with buyer knowledge levels.  White boarding and other techniques enable the sales learning process, however the basic solution overview should be a short video on your website.  Because the buyer is well down the knowledge path at your first meeting, it is imperative to quickly and concisely communicate why your solution is unique and how it has helped others, plus expected results.

Empathic Partner – conveys understanding of prospect environments, challenges and communications.  Being a good listener and providing insightful value builds trust for long-term customer relationships.  Recognize that automation is taking over commodity and basic sales positions. What is left will be high value consultative selling built around empathy and trust.   It is common to see customers joining vendors as a career path option for these traits, experience and knowledge.

Collaborative Mindset – enables the consultative seller to apply a collaborative approach in creating solutions with customers as sales processes often go beyond the sale itself into customer enablement, training and services.  Teamwork is also further advanced and walls broken down with collaboration tools and services, plus as organizations map all prospect and customer touch points to understand the complete experience.

The sales profile of the past to open doors, leverage product expertise and overcome objections has changed.  Sales teams need to know their products or services; however, they also need to know their customer’s business to share relevant insights, educate and provide value.

The next blog in this series will look at the other side of the Empowered B2B Buyer and the impact of extended nurturing cycles.

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