For many leaders in sales and marketing, the year 2020 will go down in history as one of the most challenging in their careers thus far. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic will represent the most significant disruption in B2B commerce in many decades. We are witnessing the greatest digital shift of work and commerce since the invention of the Internet.
The renewed surges in the spread of the pandemic will raise further obstacles and questions as B2B businesses look ahead to 2021. Questions related to how to reset sales and marketing to a vastly different world from just one year ago. One question that will override many others is that of how to reset your overall buyer strategy. A pressing question to adapt to rapidly changing buyer behaviors.
A place to start is to first consider what is meant by buyer strategy. For purposes of this discussion, we can state:
Buyer strategy is concerned with the overarching goals of buyers and what interactions and solutions are necessary to enable buyers to achieve their goals.
What may look like perhaps a simplified statement has three very important questions and components for B2B companies to examine as they reset due to COVID-19. The three are:
Goals: how have the goals of buyers changed?
Interactions: how do we redesign sales and marketing interactions with buyers?
Solutions: how do we enable configuring and selecting solutions to meet new buyer goals?
Addressing the three components of a buyer strategy enables revenue achievement by sales and marketing. Employing a goal-oriented approach towards buyers enables B2B companies to achieve their own goals.
Buyer Goals Have Changed
The disruptive nature of the coronavirus pandemic has many businesses resetting their goals and planning. Goals related to areas such as new product development, new market entries, growth strategies, and etc. are being altered significantly. For instance, global expansion goals are drastically affected. Here is an example qualitative interview response from our Buyer Outlook Study:
“We did have ambitious goals for expanding our shared services capabilities both in Europe and APAC. Given the current situation with the pandemic, we are going to hold back until probably the fall of 2021.” Jennifer – VP, Finance and Operations
The imperative for B2B suppliers is to understand how their buyer’s goals are changing. Assuming buyers will have the same goals and objectives can cause severe misalignment. The consequences will undoubtedly lead to falling short of pipeline and revenue opportunities.
Buyer Interactions Have Changed
We are undergoing the deepest transformation of how and where people work. Working from home, in a mere six months, is becoming the accepted norm in B2B. Big Tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon announced three months ago they intend to keep employees working from home throughout 2021. This was quickly followed by other large organizations. An outcome is buyers and buying teams are scattered. And, how they go about making decisions are changing. A case in point:
“It’s weird really. What I’ve noticed is our team having more sidebar type of conversations on Zoom. Sharing information and going over what they’ve collected more often now.” – Colleen, Global Director of Procurement
As digital self-service behaviors on the part of buyers grow rapidly, so will the need to take a design approach to buyer interactions. Post-pandemic revival means that B2B companies need to redesign how buyer interactions, mostly digital, help buyers in their quest to accomplish their goals.
Enabling Buyers To Configure Solutions
Just a few years ago, it was considered a crazy notion that people would buy a new car without ever going to an auto dealership. Buying a new car was considered one of the most complex purchases for consumers. Today, online auto sales are growing. Nearly a 40-billion-dollar industry led by Carvana, Vroom, CarMax, and Auto Nation. Buyers are able to configure a car to how they want it delivered.
The coronavirus pandemic is now accelerating such trends to enable consumers and B2B buyers to configure their own solutions. In complex B2B sales and purchasing, this is the new frontier in many ways. With air travel, conferences, and in-person meetings curtailed, innovation in this area due to COVID-19 will increase.
4 Actions Leaders Can Take
To reset their buyer strategy for post-pandemic revival, leaders can take four actionable steps:
Do buyer research to learn how buyer goals have changed
Refresh buyer personas and buyer journey mappings
Design and redesign buyer interactions (marketing and selling processes) mapped to buyer goals
Innovate buyer enablement capabilities
As they look ahead to 2021, B2B companies can reset their overall buyer strategy by a deeper understanding of how buyers have been impacted by COVID-19. Learning how their goals have changed. Forward leaning B2B companies will embrace two areas of growing importance. Buyer Interaction Design (BxD) and Buyer Enablement.
The path to post-pandemic recovery and revival will not be easy. Enabling buyers to lead the way will give B2B companies the fighting chance they need.
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