Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Tumultuous times have a way of altering our approach to many things — especially the decision-making process. Organizations with decades of internal processes built around how to make critical decisions were challenged to change radically during the global health crisis, as the norm has seemed to change nearly every month. And if those decisions involve purchases, it just complicates matters further.
As economic and societal uncertainty continues to loom, some businesses are asking realistically, how much money could be allocated to any investment at this time. Is any investment a wise appropriation of funds? Small businesses can certainly attest to this fear, with an UpCity survey finding that 57% cut their spending during the global health and economic crisis. Those that left their spending intact opted for budget reallocation, choosing to devote more funds to salary increases (34%), marketing (28%) or operations management (27%).
In the past, businesses set approval thresholds to authorize spending up to certain dollar amounts. The decision for larger capital expenditures would naturally be reserved for higher levels in the organization. Certainly, leadership would gather feedback to provide more context on the purchase, but the ultimate decision would be left in the C-suite’s hands.
However, there has been a shift. It is no longer possible to gather input in the same ways, as remote and hybrid work has become common. A meeting for larger expenditures would need to be scheduled, though doing so can add months to the process. These roadblocks have led some companies to abandon processes that were set in stone for years.
The changing face of B2B customer engagement
Firms working with these businesses have been quick to respond, evolving to meet the new many-to-many relationship that has surfaced. An increasing number of people within the supplier have found themselves communicating simultaneously with an increasing number of people at the customer — often across multiple locations and mediums. In many cases, this only adds to the strain on the firm’s internal operations. It takes more time and energy to synchronize with a customer to ensure the quality and consistency of messages, especially because B2B buyers are now going in different directions.
With the evolution of the multistep decision process, suppliers have had to be prepared to support asynchronous communication. This method of contact has created a new B2B customer experience trend, with buyers requesting information but not consistently. It is up to suppliers to meet them where they are with up-to-date information. All of this is driving significant change to suppliers’ internal operations.
Internal systems have had to change to address this new style of remote decision-making as well. Video calling, video chat systems and so on are instrumental in getting internal teams on the same page to facilitate consistent communication with buyers. Process-based decision tools are also being rapidly adopted. Slack’s acquisition by Salesforce and Workfront’s acquisition by Adobe illustrate how critical communication and decision-making across distributed individuals has become central to maintaining B2B customer engagement across the B2B buying journey.
Related: 5 Tips for Developing Your B2B Sales
Instituting new B2B customer engagement strategies
B2B customer engagement strategies have changed. There’s no denying that fact. However, you must still resolve B2B pain points to maintain customer relationships and remain in the good graces of your customer base. There are aspects of operations that might require a tweak or two to keep pace with what’s ahead. Here’s what you can do to be prepared:
1. Get everyone on the same page
If you’re not on the same page with your team, you won’t be able to provide relevant strategies for customers. Getting everyone on the same page sounds simple enough, but Salesforce found that 86% of business executives believe ineffective collaboration and communication are the two major causes of failure in business.
Don’t just focus on the tools and systems that facilitate collaboration and communication. Those should already be there. Look at the processes involved. Like B2B pain points, are there obstacles to more effective communication? If there are, now is the time to find ways to internally streamline them.
2. Evaluate the sequence of communications
The sequencing of communications with your customers shouldn’t be something you take for granted. Just ask the 82% of decision-makers who believe sales reps are unprepared for meetings, according to SiriusDecisions. A Forrester survey backs up this sentiment, with 78% of executives reporting that sales reps lack essential information. Another 77% believe these reps don’t understand their company issues or the purpose of the product.
To mitigate these shortcomings, ensure your team members understand where customers are in their B2B buying journey. If a customer is still in the design phase and has yet to establish the requirements, pushing the company to make a decision only sours the relationship. Capture accurate data and clarify your B2B buyer insights to ensure you’re consistently meeting customers where they are.
3. Embrace the new norm
By now, you no doubt know that many change efforts fail due to internal resistance and a lack of managerial support. As such, you need to strengthen your internal competency around change management to ensure you can constantly adjust to customer demands and an ever-evolving marketplace.
The B2B buying journey has forever changed, and it will likely change again in the very near future. Social and economic turmoil has accelerated the adoption of digital solutions and ushered in continual improvements in the way businesses connect. Getting specific aspects of the B2B buying journey right can ensure your team is better positioned to handle whatever the future holds.