I got one of those emails today. Somebody wanted to talk to me about the consumerization of B2B buying and selling. The sender had the position that, “most B2B transactions like buying, selling, and customer onboarding will feel the same as B2C transactions today – asynchronous, delightful, and quick.”
Well, yes……. and no. This oversimplifies B2B buying, missing the real challenges and differences between B2B and B2C. Over the past 10 years, we have seen the consumerization of B2B selling. We can learn a lot from consumer product selling, applying some of the approaches to B2B selling.
There are parts of B2B buying and selling that can and should be automated. It’s much more effective for customers, it’s a lot more effective for sellers–we can stop devoting resources to transactional buying. I don’t disagree with the sender of the email, these should be automated by 2025.
What are these B2B transactions? They are, primarily, those buying initiatives impacting an individual or small team. The impact of these buying decisions is on the individual or the small team. The risks to a bad decision are negligible, the impact on the rest of the organization is negligible, the investment is small. So much of our SaaS selling is focused on this. We focus on an individual buyer, or a small department, getting them to buy. It should be fast and simple–both the buyer and seller benefit from this. And the issues the buyer faces in this purchase are very small. They have no dependency on any other part of the organization for support, integration or the success of the implementation.
In any purchase where the risks of failure, the costs of failure, and the investment are negligible, these should automated.
But, complex B2B buying is far different. The impact of these decisions is not just on an individual or small department. It impacts different parts of the organization in different ways. It could impact suppliers, customers, partners. It could have dramatic impact on workflows, support. The investment may be very high, but more importantly, the risk if the project failed could be devastating.
If B2B buying were so simple that it could be automated, why do 60% of B2B buying efforts end in no decision made? Why do buyers fear/resist the change, why to so many buyers struggle with FOMU/FOFU? Why do an increasing number of customers express regret over the decisions they have made?
If B2B buying were so simple, why do customers wander through their buying process, why are buying cycles getting longer?
If B2B selling were so simple, why are so many sellers failing? Why do the majority of sellers fail to achieve their quotas?
Why are customers overwhelmed with information, struggling to understand which is most relevant, reconciling differences in information, and making sense of what they face? Why do customers express a lack of confidence in the decisions they make.
Many would say, “Well customers prefer digital channels to learn about products,… They want rep-free buying experiences…” Mistakenly, one might conclude, the whole process can be “Amazonized.”
But this view misses a number of things. One is the decision customers are making is more than product selection. It’s pretty easy and reasonable to look at digital resources getting information about products. But the big issues are aligning interests in the organization, understanding risks and managing those risks, gaining support across the organization, getting funding for the project. Each situation is unique to the customer–enterprise and individuals, and to a moment in time. It’s these issues that cause difficulty in B2B change management and buying.
The preference for digital channels and rep-free buying is less a statement that customers can get everything they need from a website, but more a statement about the failure of sellers to focus on the issues most important to them (all of which contribute to the high no decision made and decision regret).
It’s so ironic, that so many of those that actively promote the “Amazonization” of buying/selling are the suppliers of tools to help sellers. And when I express an interest in those tools, they have a salesperson call me. If they believe so much in this concept, why aren’t they implementing it? And what they are promoting, it it happened would actually cause their businesses to fail! If there aren’t sales people, who uses their tools?
Why are we looking at such simplistic solutions to that which is very complex and deeply personal?
Why, when our customers are crying for help, do we so consistently fail to respond?
Why do we so hate selling?