It’s B-2-All Now!

Today, the way people buy multimillion dollar products and services is no different than how you and I buy a pair of jeans.

It wasn’t always this way. Selling used to fall into one of two groups: B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to consumer). Each had its own set of rules. Selling to business took place in a fact-driven, risk-averse environment. Selling to consumers was a much more impulsive, emotionally driven exercise. Today, B2C is having a major influence on B2B. And vice versa.

It’s creating the democratization of the marketplace. Everyone is equal in this new way of selling, whether you’re a business or a consumer.

Look at how this great levelling of the marketplace is playing out today.

Convenience is king: It’s now much more convenient to buy consumer goods than ever before. This used to be the exclusive domain of B2B sales. Today, you can buy a toothbrush on Amazon and have it shipped to your home with the same ease a business enjoys when ordering stationary.

Access to information: Selling to businesses used to be an insider’s club: you needed to know the right people to get the inside scoop on a product’s performance. Not any more. Consumers and businesses alike today have unprecedented access to information: and that’s well before they ever make the decision to buy from you.

Scarcity of time: Corporate buyers and consumers alike are time starved now. They don’t have time for a “dog and pony show” sales process. They expect a buying experience that respects their right to make decisions on a schedule that suits them: not your sales team. For some, that means after hours, while travelling by plane, or on weekends at home.

Showrooms never close: Shopping tools are everywhere now and all business is a 24/7 job. Brick and mortar showrooms are no longer where you meet your customer for the first time. If you see them there at all now, it’s now at final stage of the selling process. And remember: no one is researching products only from 9-to-5 anymore. They visit your online showroom at hours convenient to them, which is mostly afyter traditional workshours and on weekends.

Let’s look at how all this change means major opportunities for you and your sales organization today.

Serve every platform or die: In a digital economy where everyone connects to you with the device of their choice, you cannot afford to have an online platform that’s picky about whom it will serve. One study found that on average, six out of ten users are unlikely to return to a website that they had trouble accessing on their phone. Think about what happened the last time you looked up a new restaurant on your phone, only to discover it wouldn’t load because the site was running on Flash or was only readable on a 27-inch PC screen. Odds are good you found somewhere else to go. Don’t be that restaurant.

Build a seamless experience: Your customers should never pay a penalty for switching between devices—whether they’re at a desk, at the airport or on the couch at home. Example: a client of mine builds an educational product for math teachers. They discovered that teachers would start their product research on PCs at school and then pick up at home where they left off but this time using tablets and phones. By ensuring there were no speed bumps in the buying experience caused by platform switching, sales went up.

Treat product marketing as the new front line: It used to be salespeople were the front line of your buying process. Not anymore. Buyers today expect to make decisions without a salesperson involved. They know what they want before they talk to you, and most often they’re right. This is why it’s important to invest in well-crafted product marketing now. Much like how B2B used to work, consumers today want you to provide compelling “use cases.”

Think like a retail buyer: In a connected marketplace, people talk. A lot. Everyone is an expert buyer now. This is how B2C is influencing B2B. Buyers are unswayed by testimonials from strangers. But they do sit up and pay attention when somebody they know tells others they like what they see in a particular product or service. Create a community of peers for your products attended by industry leaders: it’s critical for those word-of-mouth recommendations.

Your brand is everything: Brand defines how you want people to feel about using your product. In a marketplace that never closes, you must ensure that your brand continuously builds a community that reflects the feelings and values consistent with your business. You don’t have to be the #1 manufacturer of anything, but you do have to make your customers feel that their #1 buying experience is with you.

Better, faster screening: In this B2All world, it’s vital you develop a deep understanding of your target buyers. Just because a prospect wants your product does not mean they’re the right fit. Selling to the wrong buyer reduces your leverage in this hyperconnected marketplace, eroding your brand with poor reviews and limiting your ability to build a community of peers. Screen carefully. Select wisely.

Hire brand ambassadors: Recognizing how much the marketplace has changed, you need salespeople capable of changing the way they sell. In a B2All world, every seller you hire today is a brand ambassador: delivering a consistent buying experience and communicating benefits that resonate with this well informed, highly mobilized customer base.

Brush up on this democratized marketplace. Get reacquainted with your buyers. Learn how their needs have changed. In a world where every buyer is equal, it pays to know what your customers now expect every time they do business with you. Get it right and opportunities will open everywhere. Get it wrong and you risk hurting your position in the marketplace.