3 Practices to Rev Your B2B Growth Engine

Ditching the old playbook for modernized methods

Let’s face it, the days of wining and dining are dead (at least for the foreseeable future). Social distancing guidelines have put the brakes on business travel and video conferencing has become the preferred method for “face-to-face” meetings. This leaves many B2B leaders scratching their heads and wondering, what is the best approach to grow business and acquire new customers?

Building a book of business in the world of B2B is difficult at any time and becomes even more pronounced with strict social distancing efforts in place. The sales tactics that businesses deploy are creating a sea change in business strategies – effectively impacting each part of the business.

In working through this transition with B2B business leaders, we have identified 3 core practices that lead to top line growth:

B2B TRIANGLE

This blog is the first in a series focused on B2B business growth. We offer a glimpse into the three topics within this blog. Subsequent blogs will drill down into each of the three topics in more detail.  

Mapping the Buyer Journey

Gartner points to the fact that the typical buying group for a complex B2B solution involves six to 10 decision makers‚ each armed with four or five pieces of information they’ve gathered independently and must deconflict with the group. At the same time, the set of options and solutions buying groups consider is expanding as new technologies, products, services and suppliers emerge.[1]

In other words, the buyer journey is complicated and increasingly so. The considerations are expanding, solutions are evolving, and decision-making teams are more diverse. And as we enter a more remote environment, the journey continues to evolve.

Key questions for B2B business leaders:
  1. How has your buyers’ journey evolved over the past 6 months?
  2. How have you embraced those changes?
  3. Where are the opportunities to increase brand awareness, consideration, selection?

Connecting the Buyer Journey to the Sales Process

As the buyer journey has evolved to reflect the broader macro changes, the sales process is forced to respond in kind. And for sales staff there are some clear tactical changes in their day-to-day roles – conferences have been replaced with webinars, in-person meetings have been replaced with video conferences and quick phone calls have replaced meetings over coffee. These are seemingly small changes but have a major impact in the way that sales teams are comprised and how the broader strategy is devised.

For some B2B professionals this new normal was quick to embrace as digital has always been part of their toolkit. However, for others whose approach relied heavily on personal relationships, this new edict has created hurdles in the way that they typically engage with clients.

In a recent McKinsey survey, 96% of B2B organizations stated that COVID-19 had necessitated changes in their go-to-market models. Most had to shift from in-person interactions to remote sales, a change that nearly two-thirds of B2B decision-makers believe is as effective or more so than the old sales model. The bottom line is remote sales interactions will be the norm for the foreseeable future.[2]

Understanding that the current process is setting the stage for the new norm it is imperative to assess how buyers and sellers interact, and ultimately optimize the interactions along the entire journey.

Key questions for B2B business leaders:
  1. How has your customers’ buying process evolved over the last 6 months?
  2. How effective has your reaction to this change been to your growth?
  3. What is the next stage of the digital sales evolution?

Optimizing Digital Tools to Foster Brand Engagement

For most of us, digital applications have radically changed buyer/seller engagement in the world of the consumer. However, that progression has not evolved at the same rate or as ubiquitously in the B2B environment.

This fact shines a light on the massive transformation underway to bring many old school forms of B2B marketing and sales initiatives into the world of digital. This is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the shift to B2B digital education and advertising. EMarketer points to the fact that many B2B marketers have reduced their overall marketing spend, but even with budget cuts, paid digital channel use has surged amid the pandemic. In fact, 43% of US B2B marketers surveyed by B2B Marketing Zone said they would reallocate live event budgets to content creation. Digital ads have become a primary driver to this new content.

These shifts are essential to understand as evidence points to the fact that B2B buyers are typically much farther down the sales funnel before they are ready to engage with a brand. B2B buyers are typically 57% of the way to a buying decision before actively engaging with sales.[3] This underscores the importance for marketing to pave the path at every step of the journey for buyers to learn about and engage with your brand.

As such, this represents an opportunity for a brand to become involved in those early steps to build brand presence and recognition as well as to learn about customer needs.

Key questions for B2B business leaders:

  1. How well are you reaching your target audience?
  2. Have you evolved your digital marketing and sales initiatives to support continued growth?
  3. Have you driven adoption to your digital tools to enhance familiarity and relevance of your brand?

In today’s environment, the B2B brands that are leaving their counter-parts in the dust have solved the digital engagement paradigm. This paradigm traverses every aspect of the prospect/customer journey from learning about a brand to early days of brand engagement to support and follow through for products and services purchased.

To what extent are you on the winning side of this equation?

What’s Next?

B2B is in our DNA. We have spent the last 50+ years helping businesses identify the most effective ways to create sustainable growth. In today’s environment, your ability to tap into your markets, competitors, prospects and customers and to effectively synthesize the learning for action, is essential. We have the tools, techniques and the expertise to help you succeed!

Written by Linda Shea, EVP Business Advisory Services, ENGINE Insights.

 

Stay tuned for the next blog in this series, Mapping the Buyer Journey.

 

[1] “New B2B Buying Journey & its Implication for Sales.” Gartner. 2020.

[2] “A post–COVID-19 commercial-recovery strategy for B2B companies.” McKinsey. July 2020.

[3] “Making the Consensus Sale.” Harvard Business Review. March 2015.