Alisha Lyndon, Founder & CEO, Momentum, considers the importance of buyer support for online sales and marketing
We are at a point in time where the opportunity for certain industries has never been greater. Technology is an obvious one – whether digital workspace or videoconferencing, cloud computing or cyber security, enterprises are crying out for support, and they are prepared to put their money where their mouth is. You only have to look at the results of some vendors to see how some are really capitalising on the opportunities that are out there.
Yet at the same time, data suggests that not all vendors are getting it right. In fact, as we head towards 2021, prospects are increasingly feeling let down by the sales and marketing teams of potential technology suppliers. According to the latest Customer Buying Index from Momentum, 42% of enterprises are finding it more difficult to make IT buying decisions.
The Index terms that cohort of customers as ‘distressed buyers’, and they are wrestling with a number of issues. Firstly, there is the challenge of shrinking budgets – technology may be critical to continuity and success, but restricted revenues and cash flow means many buyers are having to be more selective in what they invest in.
Then there is the challenge of business in a post-COVID ‘virtual first’ world, where relationship building and fact finding has to be restricted to Zoom and phone, rather than face-to-face meetings, informal lunches and in-person demonstrations. In fact, 94% of those distressed buyers said that informal meetings, such as lunches and events, with IT vendors are important when building relationships, something that is increasingly being lost in a virtual first world. But are sales and marketing teams adapting adequately?
It seems not. Not being in the office is having an impact on vendors – almost two fifths of enterprises said sales team are more disconnected and struggling to speak to the same number of people as they did pre-pandemic. Little wonder then that more than half of the customers surveyed complained that technology vendors do not even share information efficiently across their own teams.
Furthermore, technology suppliers were marked down in proactivity, frequency of communications and business insights. It all points to sales and marketing teams failing to make the most of the reduced number of interactions they have, and ultimately putting business growth and customer retention at risk.
From volume to value
What then can technology vendors do to arrest this slump and avoid losing customers and prospects? It starts by moving away from volume.
Historically there has perhaps been a presumption that digital marketing tools mean being able to reach a huge number of contacts simultaneously, with the minimum of personalisation. Eventually, something will stick, and a more detailed conversation can begin.
There is a danger that this attitude has carried into our new virtual-first world, particularly if vendors have been reinvesting certain marketing budgets (such as events) into digital channels. If face-to-face meetings have stopped, but digital communications have increased, it is little wonder that distressed buyers have the sense that they are at the receiving end of a monologue, rather than engaged in a dialogue.
That is why vendors need to reconsider their volume-based tactics. Buyers are not anti-digital; in fact, very much the opposite. One study from McKinsey states that “B2B decision makers globally say that online and remote selling is as effective as in-person engagement, or even more so”.
What sales and marketing teams need to be doing, however, is to make sure each interaction adds value. That covers everything, from personalising the approach itself, to investing in the content and ensuring it delivers true, differentiated insight that articulates a clear vision, and allowing the prospect to be able to engage in a manner that goes beyond filling in a form.
You can only do this if sales and marketing teams are taking the time to understand customer needs and pain points, then using this grasp of the issues to make the clear link between the solution they are pushing and the problem the prospect has.
This might seem basic, bread-and-butter sales tactics, but as the Index shows, it clearly is not being followed as a matter of course. Or if it is, it does not bring the level of personalisation that buyers, whether distressed or not, are looking for. This does not mean making sure you get someone’s name right, but that the content they are receiving is customised to both the business concerns and their role.
In B2B buying terms, that also means considering the number of decision-makers, buying influencers and stakeholders that are involved in purchasing cycles. It is a complex process and demonstrates exactly why technology vendor sales and marketing teams need to be relentless in their pursuit of delivering value.
Success in a virtual first reality
As technology vendors gear up for an unknown future, being able to secure growth and retain customers is front of mind. But our virtual first reality means that the old approaches need to be upended. With buyers increasingly distressed, a customised approach that focuses on building relationships is critical. Vendors must not sacrifice value for volume – the likelihood of success through the latter is only going to continue to diminish, and with it opportunities for future prosperity.