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Let's face it, the B2B selling landscape has changed drastically.

Buyers are more digitally savvy than ever before, and market conditions have become increasingly crowded. Buyer expectations have grown, and as businesses alter their strategies to meet expectations, a sea change has resulted.

Companies that are neither prepared nor focused on digital engagement are left to play catch-up.

So now the question is, what can they do to reclaim the attention of buyers?

It's important for sellers to understand three things:

  1. Buyers are in the driver's seat. They have access to a ton of information but don't necessarily always know how to decipher it. Sellers needs to help them.
  2. The customer journey isn't linear; it has changed quite dramatically in recent years. That means that sometimes, buyers don't engage with brands until the end of the buying journey. Sellers need to account for that.
  3. Sellers need a better understanding of the journey and what buyers are trying to accomplish at each step. Knowing that will help sellers determine where they should be, when they should be there, what they should convey, and how to tailor their message for different stakeholders.

The brands that enable buyers, build their confidence, and simplify the purchase are the brands that will win.

Map the buyer journey and learn who the stakeholders are

Companies think they have the buyer's journey pretty figured out by now. But do they?

For some, the journey is quite simple, but for others, it's the exact opposite—which is why there is no one-size-fits-all approach. In some ways, the B2B buyer journey has been turned on its head, making this a critical time to update companies' understanding of it: the nuances, pain points, and opportunities.

Two major things are working against sellers when understanding the customer journey:

  1. Buyers tend to complete much of their journey before they are interested in engaging with brands. By that point, sellers may have been locked out of the consideration set, and therefore they may not have an opportunity to win the business.
  2. At any moment, 5-10 stakeholders are involved in the decision process, each with different requirements and definitions of value.

Sellers need to get in front of buyers before it's too late.

One of the easiest ways to understand the buyer's journey is to identify the jobs buyers are trying to complete.

Gartner applies that thinking in its "Jobs-to-Be-Done" framework, which identifies six generic tasks that can be applied to many situations: problem identification, solution exploration, requirements building, supplier consideration, validation of capabilities, and consensus creation.

One of the key elements of Gartner's framework is that nearly every successful B2B purchase progresses through the first four tasks. However, B2B buyers simultaneously address tasks five and six throughout the entire buying process.

Connect the buyer journey to the sales process

The B2B sales process has faced massive disruption in a very short period. Companies are looking for ways to navigate those changes that do not compromise their overall business. To do so, companies need to anticipate challenges within the buyer's journey.

The most successful companies embrace obstacles by learning about needs and expectations, piloting concepts and methods, and continuously pivoting to improve brand engagement and maximize brand selection.

Buyers are on a nonlinear journey; steps often repeat. To get ahead of any bumps in the road that buyers might face along their journey, sellers need to work backward, in a sense. They need to understand what jobs the buyer is trying to accomplish and, from there, establish what tasks buyers need to complete on their journey to accomplish those jobs. By doing so, sellers can meet buyers earlier on in their purchasing journey, which allows sellers to be more engaged and insert themselves into the consideration set.

As buyers navigate changes, their behaviors evolve. Companies' marketing and sales efforts depend on a clear understanding of their buyers: needs and expectations and their purchasing journey. Sellers should adapt their deal metrics to assess their ability to engage and move buyers along their journey.

Optimize digital tools to foster brand engagement and maximize win rates

Many believe it's time the B2B buying and selling process takes a note from B2C. It's an omnichannel world, and sellers who can blend real-world and online experiences with a focus on social connection will have the upper hand with buyers.

Consumers continue to demand personalization, especially amid the rise of individualism and the focus on "me over we." Data has become the name of the game for personalization, and it's no different in the B2B industry.

Collecting data from customer interactions with IoT devices helps sellers gain valuable insights into customer behaviors, interests, preferences and needs. Such data leads to actionable segmentation and personas to maximize targeting, which ultimately creates hyperpersonalized experiences for consumers.

There are also technologies that are shaping the future of researching, shopping, and buying that are a critical part of B2B selling. 3D assets and virtual try-ons bring products to life, and crypto wallets make checkout faster and more secure. Conversational commerce gives shoppers a direct line to service, and headless technology makes e-commerce accessible everywhere.

Such technologies have one thing in common: ease of use and convenience for customers. Customers want a straightforward and accurate shopping experience. The sellers who can use that new technology to attract buyers are the ones who are going to succeed.

* * *

The world of B2B sales and marketing is at a key inflection point. What was once a steady march toward digital engagement has been flipped on its side as the world around it has changed dramatically.

To keep up with evolving buyers, sellers need to better understand the new customer journey. Sellers need to meet customers where they are buy employing hyperpersonalized messaging that addresses the customers' end goals, and they must use new and emerging technologies in commerce to create a seamless, frictionless customer experience.

More Resources on the B2B Buyer Journey

How B2B Marketers Can Align With the Self-Directed Buyer Journey

How to Align Content to the Buyer's Journey for Increased Conversions

How to Synchronize Your Marketing With the Customer Journey

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The New Customer Journey: How to Reach B2B Buyers

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image of Linda Shea

Linda Shea is the executive vice-president of client advisory services at Big Village, a global advertising, data, and technology company.

LinkedIn: Linda Shea