How to start quality conversations with B2B buyers - Showtime Digital

How to start quality conversations with B2B buyers

23 April 2019 Read 1277 times

If you sell into the B2B sector and you’re frustrated with the high ratio of new monthly conversations to signings there may be a very good reason for it.

A 2018 study of 342 B2B buyers found 50% of buyers had poorly defined criteria.

Due to this confusion 53% of B2B buyers were likely to postpone their decisions.

The two major reasons people postponed their purchase decision was –

  1.  66% of people saw no differentiation between suppliers
  2.  57% didn’t want to be sold an off the shelf product/service

This study identifies the reason why so many companies are frustrated with their bounce rates, abandoned contact forms and unqualified sales conversations.

If you've ever said to your digital agency, ‘we want quality over quantity leads’ then this article will give you concrete answers about how to impact more of your marketplace and on increasing the quality of the conversations you do have. What you will come to understand is –

The quality comes out of quantity


The buyer-first strategy

If 53% of B2B buyers are likely to postpone their decisions, you can take one of two paths.
A. Focus on the remaining 47% of buyers who know what they want.
B. Influence 100% of buyers when they start their journey.


The benefit to Path A is you only need to pick up the phone 47% of the time making it easy to manage resources. Don’t laugh, many companies are quite happy doing this.

Taking Path B is more difficult and puts into question every marketing channel and tactic you may currently be using to attract consumers. This article will focus on Path B.

But before you focus on channels and tactics you must first understand why the buyer is in the market and the journey they will take. You need to get inside their head.

Image1 indicates the journey we all take as buyers (this includes you). The journey starts with a thought, a thought based on existing beliefs and values. From these thoughts come feelings and emotions which drive a buyer’s action … or inaction.

If the buyer’s thoughts and feelings are not definitive, their actions will reflect this, and we may waver during the sales process, with our goals, the vendors and their recommendations.

Hands down the fastest way to influence your buyer is to connect with their thoughts and appease to their feelings.


When are buyers open to suggestion?


The study found (Image2) 47% of situations, B2B buyers reached out to vendors at the beginning of their journey, whilst 26% called once they knew what they wanted.

The majority (48%) of buyers were more receptive to ideas when they began their research. This influence diminishes significantly over the course of the sales process (Image3).



Reaching out to buyers early

This study indicates the best time to pitch your idea is at the beginning of the buyer’s investigation process. At this early stage you have less competition, in fact your only competition could be their preconceived idea of the outcome.

The closer you mirror the buyers preconceived idea
the better the chance of the sale.


The four phases of the buyer’s journey

Regardless of the timeframe through to a purchase (postponed or not) there are four stages to a buyer’s journey (Image4). Buyers enter the top of funnel, or Awareness stage first. This is where interest is piqued, they discover what’s available and envision potential outcomes.

The Consideration phase is where they evaluate their options based on the education they’ve received. The Conversion phase is where the best fit from amongst their options has been chosen and they become a Customer or hopefully an advocate for the company.



Your ability to influence the buyer journey

In Image5 we can see at 48%, the higher up the sales funnel we meet the buyer the more influence we have on their decision throughout the entire journey.

However, if you are not influencing buyers in the Awareness Phase, your ability to make an impression on the sale drops off by a whopping 56% as they move through the sales funnel.



Targeting buyers at the Conversion phase

B2B sales can be long and arduous, we know from experience, we’re a digital agency. From a marketing perspective building the process around the four buyer phases of the journey gives definition to the channels and tactics you should use during each phase.

If you consider people become more educated as they go through the sales process you should consider different tactics and language at each phase of the journey. This impacts any assets you make available to people as they pass through from a marketing qualified lead (MQL) to a sale qualified lead (SQL).

Building a channel strategy which goes across all phases sounds like a quick fix but the outcomes you’ll receive will be lacklustre at best.

If for example you solely used Google Ads as your channel strategy and neglected other channels the following may happen.


Having a one-channel strategy

In the Awareness phase people are more open to your offer but because the buyer isn’t ready to buy, you’d spend lots of money without a sale. Sure, you could target them later but what if the buyer entered the sales funnel from another avenue, one you had no representation in. Native content, Facebook or a trade show? You wouldn’t be in the conversation.

By the Consideration phase only 1 in 4 are likely to be influenced by your offer. They may shortlist you if it’s like a competitor offer, simply because the buyer identified with this same idea in the Awareness phase.

By the Conversion phase you have very little influence over the buying cycle. You may win the deal if you’re the cheapest or localised to the buyer.

You can also enter at this late stage if the anxiety of the buyer is high and they haven’t found a solution yet (we recommend avoiding these buyers).


Opening the sales funnel

If you consider 50% of B2B buyers had poorly defined criteria and due to this 53% were likely to postpone their decisions, then educating the buyer earlier in the process is critical to the sale.

This also works for 50% of buyers who know what they want.

Even if 66% of people saw no differentiation between suppliers, if you’re the first to educate, you remain front of mind because your competitors line up behind you as the first influencer.

If you’d like to discover the process to create a Channel Strategy download this Go-To-Market Strategy eBook.

Steve Palmer

Steve Palmer is the Joint Founder and CEO of Showtime Digital. Steve has been in B2B sales since 1997 but influencing people and behavioural science has been a long-term passion.

The magic he brings to his clients is in knowing how to engage their audience. His goal is to help businesses understand the deeper reasons of why consumers convert online with them.