Today’s modern buying trend puts little stock in the B2B seller. However, with a reframed strategy of “Seek to Serve, Not to Sell™,” B2B sellers can provide solutions that deliver true value, build relationships — and land long-term sales.
Though a B2B buyer’s tools, resources, control and journey have drastically changed in our modern world, the large majority still crave one thing from their sellers: compelling, relevant value.
B2B buyers navigate in a world where their consumer brands are present in many platforms of their day-to-day lives; these brands offer up information that tells their consumers, “We know who you are. We know what you really need.”
And a buyer, be that a consumer or a B2B prospect, rarely believes they need the product or service your B2B organization hopes to push, regardless how much you wish otherwise. Rather, they desire a seller who knows the specific and real pains they are suffering and can provide support to overcome those business problems.
This is a straightforward and noble concept. Yet the major challenge presents itself when we start looking to the prevalent habits and trends of B2B buyers, which reveal a gap that is widening between buyers and sellers.
The Modern B2B Buying Trend
According to a recent study conducted by Aberdeen Group, B2B buyers seek-out sellers who can sharpen the buyer’s competitive advantage and provide an appealing long-term solution vision, among many other things. Likewise, 65% of buyers still see value in discussing their situations with salespeople, according to a recent CSO Insights study.
Yet, 30% of the time buyers are not engaging sellers until after they have identified and clarified their needs — and another 26% are not engaging with sellers until after they have identified a solution (CSO Insights).
Uncovered in this same CSO Insights study, though, was a massive number of buyers — 90% — who noted they would be willing to engage salespeople earlier in their buying process, that is if the salesperson could provide specific value.
The gap between buyers and sellers remains in large part because of this reality: B2B sellers are not offering what their target B2B buyer finds as valuable.
Finding Value in B2B Buyer Pain
A seller who “Seeks to Serve, Not to Sell™” begins first by understanding how to deliver relevant value to their target buyer, long before there are dollar signs associated with the relationship.
This translates to a buyer’s pain: What business problems are keeping them and their organization from reaching their goals? What regulations does this target buyer have to navigate through that is hindering their business? What market conditions are they facing?
B2B buyers surveyed by CSO Insights indicated the following as preferred resources to solving their problems, presented in an order from most preferred to least:
- Subject Matter Experts From Industry or Third Parties
- Past Experience With Vendor
- Vendor Websites
- Industry Events/Trade Shows/Conferences
- Business or Industry Publications/Trade Media
- Web Searches
- Vendor Salespeople
- Local or National Professional Trade Associations
Actual salespeople exist low on the list of preferred resources to answering buyer pains. The same B2B buyers surveyed indicated that they are more interested in engaging with sellers, however, in the instance of a business challenge proving:
- New for the buyer
- Risky for the buyer themselves or their organization
A seller can no longer expect to engage buyers by leading with generic discovery questions or, worse, the seller’s product or service. Rather, sellers need to keep a pulse on their target buyers, who they are, where they find their valuable resources, how they buy, and what their biggest pains are, either through constant market pulse research or long-term relationships.
When it comes down to it, a buyer’s pain is a true action-driver — one buyers would be pleased for sellers to acknowledge and resolve.
Translating a Buyer’s Pain Into a Seller’s Value
Sellers must reposition the framework of their strategies from selling their solutions to providing real value that answers a target buyer’s pains. This means listening to buyers; sometimes a buyer is stuck in “status quo”, where they genuinely appreciate a seller putting a name to and at the same time solving it. This means knowing a buyer’s industry, business, challenges, opportunities — oftentimes even more-so than they do.
Sellers can position themselves higher in the value chain by becoming an industry subject matter expert or being a prominent voice at an industry event. They can publish pieces that inform, inspire and entertain their targets while offering new information or insights.
“You have to know the people you want to reach in order to make content that they will love … Then you’ll create content that isn’t all about pitching or landing the sale … Start with the soul and end with the sale,” echoes the advice of CC Chapman, founder of The Cleon Foundation and author of Amazing Things Will Happen.
Sellers must work from the context of a target buyer persona, not a purchase. By knowing what makes a buyer tick, what the buyer is wrestling with day-in and day-out, what is relevant and meaningful in their world, sellers have an in to providing solutions that will keep buyers returning for more.