Customer confidence is critical
A Gartner survey of nearly 1,000 B2B customers reveals that those who report a high level of decision confidence are 10 times more likely to make a high-quality, low-regret purchase. This means those customers purchased larger, broader, higher-priced solutions, with little to no regret following the deal.
There are three statistically significant drivers of customer confidence — customers’ perceptions of sellers, their perceptions of nuanced differences between suppliers and their perceptions of consensus during the purchase process.
“By choosing to avoid sales reps, customers are forgoing a critical means for distinguishing nuanced differences between suppliers and driving consensus across the buying group,” added Adamson. “It’s like kicking out one leg of a three-legged confidence creation stool, leaving customers to find nuance and establish consensus on their own in a digitally dominant environment. Everyone loses in this world.”
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Nuance is key to differentiation
Another Gartner survey of more than 1,100 B2B customers showed that customers struggle to distinguish supplier offerings from one another through digital alone. Sixty-four percent cannot tell the difference between one B2B brand’s digital experience and another’s. And 76% of customers report doing nothing different as a result of engaging suppliers through digital means (e.g., websites, online tools, digital content).
64% of B2B buyers cannot differentiate between one B2B brand’s digital experience and another’s.
“It’s almost as if we’ve built our websites and other digital engagement to purposefully mask differences. Unwittingly, customers seeking a rep-free buying experience are simultaneously seeking a difference-free buying experience. They’re swimming in a sea of sameness,” said Adamson. “In this world, where customers would prefer not to talk to sales reps at all, but find little to no value in our online experience, we have to find a completely new means to give back what neither sellers nor digital can provide on its own.”
To engage B2B customers in deeper, more valuable seller-led conversations that will deliver on nuance and consensus, sales organizations need to focus on three core components of selling in today’s digital environment:
1. Digitally different experiences
First, sales leaders should thoroughly evaluate their current digital experience and ask “How different is our website from our competitors? What type of experience are we providing to help customers on their buying journey”? B2B customers are starting their journey in digital first, and suppliers’ websites are the first stop in their information-gathering journey.
Supplier websites should be armed with tools designed specifically to help customers on their buying journey. This can include diagnostic tools, customized benchmarking data, virtual tours, configurable solutions, three-dimensional solutions modeling, and virtual and augmented reality tools, among others.
2. Moments of nuance
Next, those digitally different experiences must revolve around the small number of critically important nuances that differentiate a supplier from its competitors. This can be in terms of the problem it solves or the capability it delivers. “Help your customers feel confident that their choice isn’t just a coin flip, but that the differences are meaningful,” said Adamson.
3. Rep-mediated digital experiences
Lastly, sellers must reside “inside” the digital experience as a complement or support to customers’ digital learning, rather than on the outside as a substitute. Sellers must be ready to use the technology — the diagnostic tools, customized benchmarking data and solution configuration guides — to interactively help customers dive deeper into the nuanced differences between solutions.
Within the digital experience, sellers must be prepared to help customers make sense of all the information they encounter, explaining implications, alternatives and undiscovered opportunities in an understandable and compelling way.
A seller-assisted digital buying experience is designed to not only acknowledge, but actively embrace, customers’ preference for digital first, but then give them an easy means to engage with a seller within that digital context.
“B2B selling in today’s world must be digital and human. A carefully designed, richly immersive digital experience where you’re accompanied by a seller rather than funneled to one,” said Adamson. “In other words, rather than seeking to engage customers through sellers or digital, the best companies are exploring how to engage customers simultaneously through sellers and digital.”