Increasing numbers of B2B companies are investing in customer portals where they can offer the customer a personalised buying experience that includes digital assistance and information. But there are still companies that take orders via telephone or email and close new deals using salespeople out in the field.
Are you one of them? If so, it can be worth considering a B2B portal that allows you to meet new customer demands and exploit broader sales opportunities.
New buying processes set new demands
In the traditional B2B buying process, the customer’s first point of contact was always a salesperson. When the customer wanted to buy, they would contact these salespeople for information about the various options on the market before they made their decision.
The buyer has done their research first in peace and quiet, online. When they feel ready, the buyer then contacts a salesperson. This makes it very important to have product information available digitally. This way of doing business may be the most common one if you have non-standardized or complex products where you need advice to place the right order.
But the change in bying behavior is a lot bigger than that. Professional B2B companies often negotiate long-term agreements with one or several suppliers. Those agreements include discounts, service levels, support and delivery terms and so forth. And in most cases they can execute the ordering of products and services online.
Today, increasing numbers of B2B buyers expect to be able to buy where and when they want. So you can easily miss out on a sales opportunity if you don’t have current product information available 24/7. Here are three common pitfalls:
- You aren’t available when the customer wants to place their order.
- The availability, price and delivery times for the item aren’t up-to-date. The customer loses confidence and decides not to order.
- Geographical limitations and specific opening hours prevent the customer from being able to buy where and when they want. This creates uncertainty and reduced sales.
Millennials set new demands
Without a B2B portal, in the long term you’ll miss out on large parts of the buying process. And the reason for this is that the average buyer’s behaviour has changed. Today, it’s above all millennials – those born in “Generation Y”, between 1980 and 2001 – who control the majority of B2B buying power. Studies show that millennials are here, now, and that they're affecting your sales.
- 73% of millennials are involved in purchasing products or services for their company.
- With a younger, more digital generation, the purchase process becomes more digital too, and buying decisions are made more independently.
- Millennials want to find out information for themselves first and contact salespeople much later in the sales process than earlier generations.
- Millennials rely on independent experts, social media networks and industry colleagues, so if you want to win their trust you need to focus on credibility, openness and empathy.
- Millennials want apps and portals, and to be able to act independently. Millennials have grown up in a rapidly changing world and with new technology constantly to hand. They have redrawn the map in terms of the expectations and priorities we have of the world around us. Millennials expect a top-class experience with intuitive, digital self-service options.
A few statistics on the millennial view of the B2B market:
- 76% of buyers feel significantly more comfortable as decision-makers than five years ago.
- 83% of buyers report that technology keeps them more informed about product choices than ever before.
- Almost 60% of buyers say they would probably change brand if their current one didn’t offer a mobile-friendly experience.
- 79% of buyers indicate that it’s important for salespeople to act as “trusted advisers” – a role that can only be achieved through the use of intelligent, digital e-commerce technologies.
The generation shift can be challenging, but it also makes it possible to find new business opportunities and increase sales growth. As a B2B organisation, if you want to maximise and future-proof your sales, you need to listen to what the younger generation wants. This applies both to your business and to the customers’. Allow millennials to be your guide on this journey of digital change.
You need a B2B portal... But it has to change
Back to the question: Is it worth investing in a B2B portal to handle the demands set by future buyers? Of course the answer is “Yes”.
What you must decide first and foremost is when the time is right for your business to begin your journey into change. The next step is then to prepare the organisation for this change in plenty of time. If you leave this too late, there’s a risk that the organisation won’t have a shared view of what the change means to the company’s different sections, and how it will affect the organisation.
Where you start and what approach you choose depends on a number of factors such as business model, customer needs and existing digital infrastructure. We’ll happily help you find the right path for you to future-proof your business with a B2B portal. Get in touch if you need a sounding board.