The ever-evolving B2B journey is expected to take another turn in 2024, according to Forrester’s 2024 Trends Report. In recent years, it looked like the buying journey was moving primarily online, and buyers only wanted to engage with sales to finalize the sale. But here is the new twist. B2B buyers now want to meet with product experts far earlier in the buying process than previously thought.
What is behind this change, and how can marketing and sales adapt?
What is Driving the Change?
- There is a misconception that there is a single buyer. Unless you are selling widgets or turn-key software, that is generally not the case. Buying committees made up of diverse stakeholders are now the norm. Some buying groups have grown to 20 people, making sales decisions more difficult and multifaceted. However, most buying groups range between 6-8 people.
- Financial constraints have stalled B2B buying. There is a significant gap between budgets and the actual costs of new purchases. According to Forrester, financial constraints and lack of consensus within the buying group slow B2B buying. In the latest survey of more than 18,000 business buyers, 89% said a purchase had stalled, often due to budget limitations. This has led organizations to reassess their needs and revisit the scope of their purchases.
- In 2024, Millennials and Gen Zs will make up 75% of B2B buying teams. Both groups are digital natives and are comfortable seeking information online before speaking with a vendor. However, they face different challenges in the buying process compared to older, more experienced buyers. Younger buyers often cite the inability to build consensus with other decision-makers as a reason for stalled purchases.
Enter Product Experts
These new buyers indicated they’re leaning on vendors — specifically product experts — to help guide their decision-making. They find personal interactions with product experts more meaningful than other activities. Why? Because product experts can cut through the noise and address the new buyer’s specific challenges.
In today's complex B2B landscape, where buying committees are the norm and financial constraints often stall purchasing decisions, the need for guidance from product experts has become increasingly crucial. These experts possess in-depth knowledge of their products and are well-equipped to address the unique challenges faced by the new buyers.
When buyers have the opportunity to interact with product experts personally, they experience a higher level of satisfaction and trust in the sales and marketing process. These interactions allow for a deeper understanding of the products, as experts can provide tailored solutions and clarity amidst the overwhelming amount of online information. By cutting through the noise, product experts bring a sense of reliability and credibility to the decision-making process.
Implications for B2B Sales and Marketing Teams
B2B sales and marketing teams must adapt strategies to prioritize early access to product experts. This involves:
- Identifying and nurturing a network of product marketers. Companies must cultivate a strong pool of experts knowledgeable about their products and possess strong communication and interpersonal skills.
- Turning product marketers into thought leaders, making them superstars on the go-to-market team. Create engaging content showcasing product experts, including blog posts, videos, and social media content highlighting product experts' expertise and insights.
- Promoting expert-led webinars and events. Organize webinars and events featuring product experts, providing buyers valuable learning opportunities to connect directly with experts.
- Building a strong online presence for product experts. Creating individual profiles or sections on the company website dedicated to product experts can help buyers identify and connect with the right experts for their needs.
- Increasing participation at tradeshows and conferences. We see signs that industry events are making a comeback. Face-to-face meetings are still critical for any complex sale. Industry events are a cost-effective way to get product experts in front of key decision-makers at scale.
The Benefits of Early Access to Product Experts for Sales and Marketing
Providing early access to product experts offers several benefits for B2B sales and marketing teams:
- Increased buyer satisfaction and trust: Buyers who receive early access to experts are more likely to be satisfied with the sales and marketing process and develop trust in the company.
- Shorter sales cycles: Engaging experts early can help shorten sales cycles by addressing buyer questions and concerns early and directly.
- Higher win rates: Companies prioritizing early access to experts are more likely to win deals, as buyers are more confident in their decision when they have received expert guidance.
- Stronger brand reputation: Showcasing product experts can enhance a company's brand reputation and establish it as a thought leader.
By prioritizing early access to product experts and collaborating effectively between sales and marketing teams, companies can effectively engage with Millennial and Gen Z buyers, build stronger relationships, and ultimately achieve higher sales and marketing success. As Millennials and Gen Zs continue to assume more decision-making roles, the ability to connect buyers with experts will become an increasingly critical factor in the B2B sales and marketing landscape.