B2B sales is no longer about steering your potential customers through the buyer journey toward a sales call. It’s not even about being persuasive.
Today, selling is a collaboration between you and your prospects.
You’re there to act as an educator and guide—to give the prospect the information and support they need—and let them work through it in their own time.
Chances are, you’re already doing that. But we’re also willing to bet you’re using the wrong tools to do the job.
If you’re trying to repurpose internal collaboration tools (Slack, Google Docs, endless email threads) to work with your customers, you’re bringing a knife to a gunfight.
B2B sales today isn’t just a fight for your prospects’ attention. The competition you’re in now is really: Who makes it easiest to understand, evaluate, and purchase?
Wading through emails isn’t easy. Skimming through some generalized blurb in a PDF isn’t easy. Collaborating in a Google Doc isn’t easy. It’s clunky and tedious.
This article will break down what you should be doing instead.
What is the B2B buyer journey?
The B2B buyer journey is the process during which a company evaluates and finally purchases your product or service.
It differs from the customer journey, which begins earlier (when the prospect first hears of your company) and finishes much later (at the end of your working relationship).
When we talk about the buyer journey, we’re only talking about the purchase process—the time when your customer is considering your product and possibly intends to buy it.
How the buyer’s journey has changed
The B2B buying process has changed because buyers have changed. Today’s B2B buyers are:
- Making purchase decisions while working remotely
- Part of an internal buying committee with more stakeholders than ever before
- Reluctant to talk to Sales because of the rise of product-led growth
- Working their way through an overwhelming swamp of online reviews
- On a tighter budget than ever
Here’s how that’s impacted the buyer journey:
1. It’s more of a rat’s nest than a funnel
The buyer journey is no longer just a smooth, linear progression from becoming aware of a problem to finding, evaluating, and purchasing a solution (with a bit of prompting from a skilled salesperson).
Instead, it’s a jumble of digital resources, internal meetings, advice from colleagues, and hours of online research. Small wonder that more than three-quarters of buyers described their most recent purchase as “very complex or difficult.”
2. It consists of buying jobs, not buying stages
It’s not just a question of increased complexity. The B2B buyer journey is no longer a series of linear steps from the awareness stage, through the consideration stage, into the decision stage, and so on.
Instead, Gartner recommends that B2B companies think of the buyer journey as a set of jobs to be done:
Buyers will probably be working on more than one of these jobs at any given time during the buyer journey rather than progressing from one to another sequentially.
3. It starts much earlier than you think
The B2B buyer journey starts even before you hear from your prospect for the first time.
A Bain & Co. survey of over 1,200 B2B customers found that more than 80% have a shortlist of vendors in mind before they even start researching potential solutions— and 90% of them will buy from their initial list.
The lines between prospect, buyer, and customer are blurred even more by product-led growth strategies. Before, a lead became a prospect and then finally a paying customer.
These days, a prospect might be a user of your product (through a free trial) well before they become a paying customer. That means your customer support team will be fielding the questions and concerns that used to be handled by a sales rep.
4. It relies heavily on digital resources
Sales and Marketing can’t function in isolation anymore. The B2B journey is asynchronous and remote, and your buyers rely heavily on online research to make a decision. That means that your digital resources are active members of your Sales team:
- 58% of buyers will start by reviewing your company’s website.
- Buyers will also research you on “industry publications, industry influences, and review websites,” according to the Bain study.
- Your demo or trial may very well make or break the deal. Nearly 75% of respondents in the Bain survey based their final decision on a product demo.
5. It involves more decision-makers
Research by Gartner shows the average B2B buyer journey today involves between 11 and 20 stakeholders. Ten years ago, it took just five people.
Bain found the typical B2B buying committee is organized into three tiers:
- The “ultimate approvers” who make the final decision
- The core buying committee who does the heavy lifting (research and evaluation)
- Internal influencers, usually end users, who provide expert insights
You need to address all three groups during the B2B buyer journey—but Bain’s research suggests that convincing the core committee is the most important for closing the deal.
9 selling tips for the new buyer’s journey
Given that the buyer journey looks so different now, your approach to sales may need an update.
Here are nine best practice tips for today’s B2B Revenue teams:
1. Focus on buyer enablement
Given the complexity of the buyer journey, the more you can do to help out your potential buyers, the better.
It’s your job to be the easy option in a sea of complexity.
Give your buyers the types of content they need to be able to make an informed decision:
- ROI studies
- Benchmark data
- Cost calculators
- Diagnostic tools
- Recommendation engines
- Requirements checklists
Make it as easy as possible to find the information they need. Walk them through the purchase process. Include an order form in your digital sales room (more on that later).
2. Match your sales process to your buyers
Since the new buyer’s journey isn’t linear, you can’t assume you know which stage of the buyer journey your prospect is in.
A new prospect could already have extensive knowledge of your product. They could have spent ample time researching you online, or could already be a user.
Instead, when you get the prospect on an inbound sales call, for example, let them tell you what they already know and what their priorities are.
3. Don’t sell. Educate.
Given that your buyer will make their purchasing decisions behind closed doors (rather than in conversation with an account exec), your role is to help them understand the decision they’re making and how to make it.
Instead of bombarding them with sales collateral, prioritize educational content that will make it easier for them to navigate the market, assess competing options, and make a better final decision.
Mutual action plans can be useful here. These are shared checklists that you can use to collaborate with and guide your prospects through the different stages of the buying process.
Using a mutual action plan, you can coach them through the right questions to ask, the concerns they should raise internally, and the to-dos they should work through to get ready to buy.
“If you think about what we are as sellers, we're educators. We provide buyers with information so they can make an educated decision for themselves.”
His team uses Dock to give their prospects a useful customer workspace that they send after an initial sales call:
“They can browse through our Dock within a few seconds and understand exactly what we do and how we compare to what's out there. As the buyer asks questions throughout the deal cycle, we update the Dock with our answers.”
4. Embrace asynchronous sales
Sales used to happen in real time—in a meeting or over the phone. However, today’s B2B buyers aren’t even in the same room as one another most of the time, let alone ready to schedule a meeting with your sales reps.
Sales reps can set up a personalized digital sales room for each prospect, complete with all the information they need to get the decision-makers on their side to buy.
Other ways to embrace asynchronous sales include:
- Creating personalized product demos (Reprise is a useful tool here) instead of scheduling a time to meet
- Using video tools like Loom to record product walkthroughs and detailed answers to buyer questions
- Saving meeting notes and recordings in your DSR, so that all the stakeholders in the buying committee have access to the same information
For instance, Marketo offers a guided product tour on their website that lets prospects see the value of Marketo and start to picture themselves using it.
5. Use a digital sales room
That’s why you need a digital sales room.
A digital sales room (DSR) is an online workspace you can use to share content and collaborate with your prospects during the buyer journey. It addresses many of the pain points that today’s B2B buyers are dealing with:
- It makes it easy to find relevant information, cutting down on information overload.
- It gives your buyers ready access to the content they need to make a purchasing decision, without digging through emails or Google Drive.
- It helps keep the whole buying group on the same page and ensures everyone has the same information.
You should introduce the digital sales room once the prospect has demonstrated a firm interest in your product or service—or you’ll risk hitting them with too much, too soon.
If you’ve already set them up with a digital sales room, enrich the space with more detail once you’ve confirmed their interest. This is the right place to house:
- Your mutual action plan
- Sales collateral and pricing
- Case studies that specifically relate to their use case or industry
- Product overviews and demos
- Recordings of sales calls
6. Track buyer engagement with sales collateral
Another major advantage of using a digital sales room is that you can keep an eye on what your buyer is doing when you’re not in the room.
With Dock workspaces, for instance, you can see exactly what your buyers are clicking on, how much time they spend with your content, and how well your messages resonate.
This is crucial because so much of the buyer journey happens when you’re not there. Instead of guessing whether your buyer is interested, you can see if they’re engaging with your content, provide them with more of the resources they like, or jump in if you notice engagement is dropping.
7. Harness sales multithreading
Too many sales teams are still going after just one or two of the stakeholders in the buying committee.
Your goal shouldn’t be to try and get to the most senior person involved in the process—that simply isn’t how buying decisions work anymore.
Instead, you need to target different people—the decision-makers, the core committee, and the internal influencers.
This approach is called sales multithreading—and it’s key to selling to today’s B2B buyers.
Here’s how to do it:
Use the discovery process.
Take time during your initial discovery call to uncover all the stakeholders involved in the decision-making process—even those that aren’t obvious to the prospect themselves.
For instance, they might not realize that they will be swayed by the perspective of the end users unless you ask them specifically. Jason Bay recommends asking:
- “Who would feel left out if they weren’t involved in this decision?”
- “When you’ve purchased in the past, how did the buying process work?”
- “Who was involved?”
You can also ask your buyer champion to introduce you to the right people.
Build multiple relationships.
Buyer personas are not going to cut it here. Invest real time in getting to know as many of those stakeholders as possible.
Use multiple channels (say, email, phone calls, and social media platforms like LinkedIn) to reach out.
Aim to introduce different people in your organization to different people in theirs. For instance, have your CFO meet their CFO or introduce your lead developer to theirs.
Share content that speaks to different targets.
Use the information you gather as you build these relationships to tell you what content you need. Then get relevant, specific content into the hands of your various prospects within the account.
For instance, your buyer champion will need sales collateral to help them sell your solution internally. End users may be more interested in case studies or technical documentation.
💡 Tip: You can use Dock’s Sales Content Management platform to keep all this information in the same place and make it easy for all your stakeholders to find.
8. Partner with your marketing team
Instead of working as siloed teams, Marketing and Sales should work together as a single revenue team, designing and creating content that will enable your buyers to complete each buying job.
Your content marketing strategy should create great sales enablement resources to include in your digital sales room as your relationship with the buyer unfolds, such as:
- Software guides and comparisons, to help them understand the market
- Case studies and testimonials from different customer profiles and industries, to personalize the buyer experience
- Technical white papers, to help your buyer champion secure buy-in from tech staff
- ROI studies and calculators, to reassure them as they make a purchase decision
9. Personalize at scale
Today’s buyers don’t really want to talk to sales reps—which means you have less time to build a relationship with them. You’ll need to use personalized content to fill in the gaps.
For instance, during your initial discovery call, keep careful notes, and translate those into a personalized report of their challenge and how you can help. Include details like:
- Their objectives
- Their current challenges
- What their priorities are with a new solution
- The key stakeholders involved
- Their decision process
- Their budget and resources
Using a digital sales room can help here, too, because you can create a unique workspace for every account, and you can use a customizable template. (Here’s one to get you started.)
Add the buyer’s logo, an intro section tailored to them, and any particularly relevant content that you’ve hand-picked for them—you’ve built a fully customized, white-glove buyer experience in just a few minutes.
Dock can help you sell to the new B2B buyer
The new B2B buying journey means that Revenue teams need customer-facing collaboration tools.
Your CRM can help you track customer data, but you can’t use them as a shared interface with your clients.
Too many companies are using a mash-up of internal tools (file-sharing platforms, email, PDFs) instead. These are more collaborative, sure—but the buyer experience is clunky, messy, and frustrating.
Dock was built specifically to help revenue teams tackle the new buyer journey. We give you a single, shared source of truth for your team and your buyers, including:
- Customizable workspaces to collaborate and communicate with your buyers
- Content management tools to get the right resources to your buyers at every stage of the purchasing process
- Order forms to make it easier to agree on pricing
We built Dock to help you work with, educate, and empower your overworked, overwhelmed B2B buyers—so your solution becomes the easiest option.
It’s free for up to five workspaces, so you can try it out and see for yourself.