Companies are currently experiencing changing customer behaviors and a subsequent changing customer journey. For many companies this is a challenging development and it requires them to rethink how they address and engage with existing and future customers. Let’s take a close look at this modern buyer.
Today’s customer can be described as a digital customer who independently searches online for information that will help him solve a problem. This person is mobile and connected to multiple devices 24/7, able to search real-time for the latest information and insights.
The usual customer journey, which traditionally is quite linear, now becomes fragmented across multiple channels. Customers can get information from various social media platforms. For B2B purposes LinkedIn and Twitter are most relevant, but depending on the specific vertical, other platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram can be very relevant as well. The key trend is that product or service information can be accessed without the involvement of the sales department. This is different from a few years ago, when the main focus of sales was to communicate with customers by sharing company-branded product information. Research shows that sales departments now have no or far less presence in the first 60 to 70 % of the customer journey. Customers have less of a need to engage with sales and, as a result, the traditional way of selling has stopped being effective. In addition, modern customers don’t like to deal with salespeople who are merely interested in closing targets, and wish to engage with people who can actually help them.
Characteristics of a digital customer: how the modern buyer uses social media to get informed, educated and inspired:
- Use of communities and blogs. These activities range from reading blogs, watching videos, adding comments, rating content and uploading reviews. A more advanced customer will publish posts and upload visual media. By reading blogs from influencers, the customer can become very knowledgeable about certain topics. In fact he will become better informed this way than the old-fashioned way of speaking to a sales rep and merely receiving the company-approved sales pitch. Customers don’t care about you, your company or your products. They only care about themselves and solving their daily challenges. They will therefore look for and find people, subject-matter experts or specialists that can help them fulfill that goal. In this respect social selling will allow sales to continue to be relevant for current customers and prospects by adding that extra value. This then means that pushing generic corporate content doesn’t work. Instead sales needs to create added value by sharing tailored, insightful and compelling content that moves the customer forward in the buyer journey.
- Use of social platforms, such as LinkedIn and Twitter. Today LinkedIn is the most complete contact database that can be accessed either free or via paid licenses, such as Sales Navigator. This allows the customer to connect with peers and research the people he would like to engage with. LinkedIn allows him to research contacts for credibility, experience and expertise. Often customers will research prior to reaching out, following or consuming content from any given source. This way the customer can obtain more unbiased information, which is perceived more useful than the usual company-branded marketing messages. Via LinkedIn, the customer can also connect with various dedicated groups where subject-matter experts share knowledge and best practices.
- Consuming Content. Customers seek information and content that can help them move forward in their journey. They consume content, retweet content, post content – they basically look for support. Visually attractive, compelling content will draw attention. Content comes in different shapes and sizes and the expression ‘Content is King’ is often heard. In many instances the search starts on Google and triggers an overload of content. Customers need to find a way to differentiate valuable content from the usual corporate marketing messages. The source that is most insightful, informative and inspiring will draw the most attention. Content from influencers and other sources will give the customer an unbiased opinion. This process doesn’t involve any sales reps and only after the customer has gone through 60 to 70% of the customer journey will a sales rep usually get involved. Social selling allows sales to influence the customer early on in the buying process. It is critical to ensure that the customer includes you and your company once he is ready to choose a vendor. This only works when sales provide added value, by sharing compelling content, knowledge and insights.
Do you want to learn more about what a modern sales machine and commercial blueprint should look like? Take the test, book an inspiration session and challenge your team to find ways to make a difference with your organization.
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