B2B Selling Is Taking Cues from B2C Interactions

B2B buyers are looking a lot more like their B2C counterparts, according to recent research conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of Avanade. New trends spurred by technology, including the rise of mobile and social channels, are driving the changes.

"Businesses have lost control of the sales process, and B2B and B2C buying models are merging," noted Mick Slattery, an executive vice president at Avanade, in a statement. "Those businesses that understand the nature of today's complicated customer relationships are creating longer-term and more lucrative relationships with customers."

People have long asked their friends for advice about purchases or learned about a product through word-of-mouth, but now business buyers are doing the same. Sixty-one percent of B2B buyers look for feedback from business partners, social channels, or industry peers before making their decision. They, in turn, write reviews themselves. Forty-two percent of buyers said they reviewed a company on a third-party site. They also posted on Facebook or LinkedIn (32 percent) or tweeted comments (19 percent) about their experience with a product or service.

Consumer-focused companies such as Zappos have long prided themselves on their customer service experience, which they offer to customers in exchange for their purchase of full-priced products. Now business buyers demand the same level of service. Thirty percent of business customers said they would pay more for a product if they received better customer service. Their words are backed up with actions. Fifty-six percent of people reported paying more for a product in the past six months because the company selling it offered better customer service than its competitors.

Companies that have already seen and adapted to these changes are faring well, according to the survey. The majority of businesses (more than 80 percent) have built new business processes and technologies to respond to changes in how customers are interacting. Their efforts have led to gains in revenue, customer base, and customer loyalty.

With the rise of CRM systems, more departments are playing a part in the customer journey. Eighty-three percent of businesses reported that IT, marketing, and manufacturing have expanded roles in managing customer experience compared to just three years ago. Business process changes have helped accelerate this transition. Four out of five companies reported making these changes in order to make more departments involved with the customer. Top changes included increasing their investment in customer sales and support technology (44 percent), increasing the number of customer-facing employees (40 percent), and upping sales force automation (32 percent).

Avanade's survey queried people in 19 countries and 12 industries who were C-level executives, business unit leaders, or IT decision-makers.

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