Selling to the Digital B2B Buyer


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The digital world is bringing great change to how buyers wish to interact with B2B sales teams.  

Buyers who are at ease in researching, communicating, collaborating and buying on the internet are choosing to do business differently.  

And I am not referring to the ‘Lost Generation’: those dying breed of executives who ask their executive assistants to print out their emails.  

In a recent blog post , Steven Woods notes that:   

As the emphasis on face-to-face interaction as a way to build trust decreases in lieu of other ways of building trust, the need to be “in the field” also decreases.  

With the recession, corporations are pressured to cut sales costs.  Steven Woods cites a stellar blog post from David Skok that compares the relative efficiency of different B2B selling models.  

But if B2B sales teams reduce the amount of face-to-face selling time in favor of more efficient sales models using the web and telephone, will B2B buyers be receptive?  

In fact, B2B buyers have been driving this change for some time and the pace is accelerating:  

  1. The buying process starts online and so do sales meetings -  Given that most buying is initiated with online search, buyers are naturally becoming more accepting of interactions with sales via web conference, email and online chat.   These buyers expect a fast response from an informed sales rep and will not wait for the time it takes to schedule an in-person meeting.
  2. The digital buyer prefers data to voice -   The social B2B buyer is more than likely on Facebook at home and at work,  on email and LinkedIn.  The buyer favors producing content that  is written (data) and not spoken (voice).  This week Facebook announced that  it has reached 500 million users. LinkedIn has over 70 million members worldwide.  Not only is this communication data-driven but it is now mostly mobile: mobile data eclipsed voice traffic in December 2009.
  3. The buyer is not at the office – How you can you meet face-to-face when your prospect is not at the office?    The B2B buyer’s office is often in motion (e.g. plane, trains & automobiles) or a home office.    The door to your customer is opened through their mobile device and not a fixed position PC.
  4. The buyer is time-starved – Buyers face inordinate demands on their time.  Meeting face-to-face is becoming less frequent due to jam-packed schedules.   In  the new book “Snap Selling“, Jill Konrath diagnoses the buyer as suffering from:    
  5. The World (of Buyers) is Flat – Evaluation teams are dispersed across the country and even around the world.     Meeting face-to-face with all team members is not a possibility given the dispersed nature of buying teams.

Do you sense that buyers are less reluctant to meet in-person?   What are you seeing out there in the market? 

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Robert Lesser
I am the founder and President of Direct Impact Marketing, a provider of a sales productivity solution and consulting services to technology organizations. Prior to stepping out as an entrepreneur, I held a number of marketing positions at Dell, IBM, Reckitt Benckiser and Loblaw Companies.


  1. What a great “trialog” of blog posts between Robert, Steven, and the other sources.

    It reminded me of one B2B company that Steven’s and my company both have as a joint client. This high-tech B2B has 6000 SKUs and even their sales team has a hard time figuring out when to offer which SKU to which client. They business is about repeat sales, you see.

    Taking your recommendations and translating them into a technical solution, they are mining web analytics data for their B2B registered website vistors. They profile and score how deeply each prospect/client seems interest in which product areas. That information is fed into CRM and SFA. Sales + Marketing outreach are tor prioritized and personalized accordingly.

    The client was sharing response rates that are way above average for this approach and have expanded the program after initially testing.

    These techniques have originated in the B2C world first, actually. Namely in considered purchases such as for automobiles and real estate.

    The other comments show that there is much more than just a technology answer to Robert and Steve’s recommendations. I just wanted to contribute here what the techy / web analytics person can add to the discussion.

    Let me also forward to Jep to add his 2c from a lead nurturing perspective.


  2. Robert,
    well put, and well communicated. It will be very interesting to see what happens to the concept of the “discovery call” as this trend towards buyer control continues and accelerates. As buyers gain more control over what information they need and what interactions they don’t need, the “discovery call” will be forced to evolve to include on the the bits that the buyer truly things are adding value to them, and not the bits that we as selling organizations believe are.

    that’s a great example to use – in fact whether or not the solution is done automatically or manually, vendor organizations need to evolve to a role of “information concierge” rather than just pushing out communications.


  3. Great article. In addition to sales, this is also very applicable to marketing (maybe even more so). As buyers can easily find relevant information online, there is less of a need to talk to a sales person early in the buying cycle. Assuming the role of an “information concierge” – as Steve called it – is the only feasible option for a company to start a dialog with prospects.

    From the moment that a new leads enters your database, you need to figure out how to provide the best information at the right time. As David Meerman Scott says “Think Like A Publisher”. Make sure you offer information that the buyer wants to read!


    LeadSloth – smart ideas for lazy marketers –


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