Businesses Are Thinking Like Consumers
By Allan Wille
Nobody likes being sold to. For too long, buyers have confronted numerous frustrations with the traditional B2B sales process. Too many hurdles to negotiate, a lack of transparency, inflexible procedures (both inside their companies and with the seller), and too many sales people. Things are changing however. According to a recent report by Forrester Research, “B2B buyers increasingly expect a B2C-like shopping experience.”
Our company evolved along with this trend by making it easy, fast, fun and affordable for business “consumers” to buy, build and share online dashboards. We tripled our revenue and doubled our customer base in less than one year by thinking like consumers. As a bonus, operational costs are lower too without the need to support an expensive specialized enterprise sales team.
Here’s what B2B customers are looking for:
Transparency. Just like consumers shopping for a new car, B2B shoppers want to be able to learn everything about a product from the website without being forced into a meeting with the sales team. Most enterprise solution vendors limit information on their website, forcing an interaction with a sales person as quickly as possible. Buyers are tired of that. They want the sales process to start on their terms, beginning with their discovery process. And they want transparency in the terms of the product, relationship, pricing and cancellation policies – all up front.
Test drive. Those same car shoppers want a test drive before they buy, and business consumers want to try products too. They don’t want the vendor to control the trial by installing the software and building some semi-custom solution. They want to experience what ownership would be like for themselves. We offer our customers a free 14 day trial and an option to extend for another 14 days if they need more time so they can test drive our dashboards.
No P.O. pricing. Increasingly, departmental and individual business customers are bypassing formal internal purchasing processes. Fair, transparent, and stable pricing helps them do this; volatile or fluctuating prices makes it more difficult. No internal approvals necessary when the price is $20 per month per user. This allows buyers to work around rigid procurement policies, adding a purchase to a credit card and expensing it, rather than having to fill out a purchase order or requisition form.
Make it easy. This goes for the product as well as the sales process. A skilled spreadsheet jockey or analyst can easily set up and modify one of our dashboards. No specialized technical knowledge is needed. No barriers. No limits. No need for a call to the IT department. There’s ease-of-access to data, and it’s easy to share the completed tool. Short case studies, videos and demonstrations help buyers immediately grasp the value of the product. Our customers help create internal standards by introducing great tools to prospective users in other departments. If it solves a problem, it could just become the company standard. No decree from on high, just solutions that work.
DIY (Do It Yourself). Even large companies have become smaller. Fewer offer support services, technical experts, analysts and helpers. Even large enterprises have embraced BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). Everything better be self service, including set up and use. Fifty percent of our new customers represent “no touch sales”, meaning the customers made a purchase without talking to anyone on staff. Customers say, “Give me on-line help, including in-depth videos, robust documentation and weekly webinars, and the ability to purchase with a credit card.”
But don’t rob me of the support I need for success. Although our sales process is designed for the do-it-yourselfer, we also provide support and guidance when needed through an integrated sales process. Think about your last experience in an Apple store. Were you talking with a salesperson? No, you spent time with an Apple Genius. We have product gurus who can guide you through the decision making process, and help you set up and service the product.
And, last, but not least…
Embrace the results of democracy. Under the old B2B model, eighty percent of a company’s revenues would typically come from twenty percent of their customers. This created the potential for an uber class of customer who had the power to skew product direction. In the new world, every customer is a peer, and no single customer or group of customers can overly (and unfairly) influence a product’s direction. All for one and one for all!