Recently, Forrester Research published a report called ‘Winning The New B2B Buyer’ pointing out critical changes in the B2B buying process. B2B buyers expect to be treated as equal partners through experiences that are open, connected, intuitive and immediate. Let’s take a deeper dive into this first topic: open access to information. Leading analysts have been exploring this topic lately. In this article we explore what this change means for B2B marketing and sales professionals.
It may not come as a surprise to learn that we all have easier access to a larger amount of information compared to 30 years ago. The internet has made everything you need to know instantly available. What is new, however, are the expectations that are starting to consolidate around this.
Now that we are used to finding all the information we need instantly, B2B customers also expect this. What’s more, they expect suppliers to share more relevant information with them. Sharing more information is unlikely to pose a challenge to most companies. However, sharing relevant information is more challenging than companies would like to admit.
Providing information that helps your B2B buyers buy
According to Gartner the problem is not the lack of information. It’s not even a quality issue, as 89% of B2B buyers acknowledge that the information they encounter during their purchasing process is generally of high quality. The problem is that B2B buyers are overwhelmed by all this high-quality information. They have trouble seeing through the maze of information they are exposed to when looking for new solutions, and they need help to see the bigger picture.
“There is too much high-quality information out there for customers to make sense of. And while having high-quality information may be a prerequisite to being competitive, it’s no longer a differentiator in a sea of other good information.”
The solution is to provide the right and relevant information and to help your buyer make sense of it. Gartner names this – not surprisingly – the “Sense Making approach”. Sellers using the sense making approach to empathize with the buyer. They clarify the information and might even suggest or recommend suppliers other than themselves. The goal is to help the buyer find a way through the overload of information. And help the buyer to develop a mental framework so he can make an optimal decision. We also call this ‘buyer enablement’.
According to Steven Casey from Forrester Research, buyers expect a consultative seller that tries to help them make the best decision. Instead of the traditional persuasive seller that tries to lure them into choosing his offer.
“The new B2B buyer does not want to be targeted, they want to be helped. They do not want to be seen as a prospect; they want to be seen as your partner.“
Pricing information on your website
So, what information do B2B customers need? Going back to the Forrester Research report, it becomes clear that pricing information is essential. Publishing prices on the company website is common practice in the B2C context but is not as prevalent in a B2B environment. This is quite remarkable, considering that pricing information is highly desired by business buyers. A survey performed by Clutch shows that:
“Businesses are most concerned with transparent information about costs when reviewing a B2B company’s website.”
Product Roadmaps always popular
Besides pricing, the Forrester Research report names another area where you should be transparent as a B2B supplier: product plans. Opening up product roadmaps to your prospects gives them a better idea of what your company is working on and what they can expect in the future. However, putting the entire product roadmap out there for everyone to see is obviously not desirable. Forrester suggests to cooperating with product management to determine if, how, and how much of the organization’s roadmap to share.
Privacy of data hot topic still
Not only does your company have information it does not want to share, your customers want to know that their data is safe as well. Concerns about data confidentiality have been around for a while now, especially in Europe. Results of the CMI Benchmark for 2021 predict that privacy and the availability of customer data will become incredibly hot topics on a global level. This will obviously pose a threat to all companies, as data practices will be under the loop and the consequences of a data breach will be detrimental. However, it will provide an opportunity at the same time, as the Forrester Research report states that:
“Only 28% of the Global Fortune 100 explicitly references data privacy in their corporate social responsibility reports.”
Conclusion: transparency not an easy fix
If there is one key takeaway from this, it’s probably that transparency is not an easy fix. As a supplier you need to be attentive about which information to share and what to keep private.
General advice: share information about prices and product plans, put yourself into your buyers’ shoes and think about what information will help them to make a good decision. Adding more information on top of the massive pile of relevant info is more likely to hurt, rather than help your buyer.