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Change in B2B sales: Customers want to be advised digitally and still individually

The digital change in B2B sales is taking place right now and is particularly keen to rethink the purchasing process based on customer needs. A brief outline of the market changes in consumer society and what this means for B2B sales today.

Individuality. Sustainability. Digitalization. Buzzwords 2021. Everyone throws them around, calls for change, for progress. In modern B2B sales, the three areas go hand in hand, but not just for a few years. The consumer society, which has been the language of Germany since 1960, has radically changed sales. First in B2C, then also in B2B. The perception that everything is available at all times means that the focus of consumer interest is no longer on individual products or the brand, but on the added value offered, entirely in the interests of improving the quality of life. A few more advanced decades in the consumer society brought the Amazonization and the expansion of consumption possibilities due to the digitization with it new challenges.

Consumer society: the foundation for sales 2.0

For a long time, the weekly market and corner shop were central contact points for shopping. In the second half of the 19th century, new forms of distribution emerged, which now addressed specific classes: department stores, mail order businesses and shops specializing in certain products. At the same time, the branded article was created, which is intended to create trust and thus generate customer loyalty. In the 1960s, new forms of sales developed that increasingly focused on the point of sales. Shopping increasingly became an experience and the place of shopping became the stage for customers to show their social status.

Door-to-door sales worked according to the same rules. After entering the front door, not only was a product catalog presented, but a real show was offered. The potential buyer received the attention and confirmation of his individual raison d'etre that he so desires in consumer society. It looked similar in B2B. A sales pitch was often accompanied by a coffee or a beer. In a one-to-one conversation, the buyer was given the attention he wanted and a solution that was individually tailored to him. The self-portrayal from the perspective of the customer as well as the sales representative is a central characteristic of the consumer society. So also as the desire to be perceived as an individual and to be advised individually.

Understand customers and provide guidance

In the consumer society and with the expansion of retail space, some problems emerged. Confusing corridors, lack of orientation, long search times. In the World Wide Web, the requirements are no less simple. No, just the opposite. Here in particular, it is important to provide orientation. Websites are often not very user-friendly or not at all user-friendly and offer no orientation; instead, potential customers get lost in a maze of information. The abundance of information and products also affected B2B sales in other ways.

The excess of information is an essential feature of the consumer society. "A crucial ability in the information society is to protect yourself against the 99.99 percent of the information offered that you do not want."[1], summarizes the psychoanalyst Erik H. Erikson.

Customers need guidance online much more urgently than in analog business. Every company is equally faced with the problem that the abundance of information too often ends up being overwhelmed by consumers. So there is a demand for digital solutions that reduce information without leaving out what is important and that provide advice without any loss of quality. And it is asked which Purchase decision process understand the customer.

Digital change: B2B customers are going digital

The buyer assumes a stronger position and makes incorrect decisions less hastily, because today the buyer alone can determine when and, above all, which buy button he wants to press. A consequence of the oversupply on the market. This also means that marketing and sales have to work together more closely, new sales arguments have to be introduced and new sales channels have to be used, because the fact is that companies have to enter into more dialogue with consumers in order not to end up on the decline.

Digital change also means recognizing and acknowledging the new power of consumers. In addition, buyers expect the same convenience in B2B as in B2C. They expect to be able to complete their bulk orders quickly, easily and digitally, ideally without having to contact sales. This is only possible if there is also online orientation and individual advice. Two points that are not easy to implement on a website or in an online shop.  

The fast pace of life and the flood of information result more than ever in the desire for orientation and advice, or to put it another way: The digital change brings new customer needs such as digital self-service, individual advice without contact to sales and sustainability to the fore. The aim is to inspire customers through positive experiences along the point of sale.

Digital transformation: what is important in modern B2B sales

The attention span of a visitor to the website is usually very low. The first ten seconds on the website in particular have to convince the customer and even if these are overcome, they often only last 2-3 minutes.[2] If a potential customer does not find the desired information in the short period of time when visiting a website or web shop, he often jumps off to the competition.

As difficult as it seems to win new customers online or even to build customer loyalty, the possibilities of activating the point of sale with digital means are just as numerous. New software, for example, enables customers to enter relevant subject areas. In the last few years, four essential features of modern and digital sales have emerged, shaped by consumers and implemented by entrepreneurs.

1. Self service

The customer would like to be able to research flexibly, independently and independently of the product that suits his needs. Sales will only be contacted after the purchase decision has been made with a high degree of probability. Above all, self-service means being able to make purchasing decisions quickly and easily, as well as being able to make changes outside of the service hours in the event of later concerns.  

2. individuality

For B2C customers, factors such as flexibility, information and sustainability are decisive when making a purchase decision on the World Wide Web. But the individual needs and expectations of the searcher also play an important role in B2B. The digital consumer society is characterized by authenticity and singularity. In other words, the customer would like to receive individual advice online in B2B and to be able to make the best possible decision for his company.

3. sustainability

The new information technologies offer more and more alternatives between which the consumer has to choose. In order to cope with this excess of information, new criteria for decision-making are added. In Germany, there is a clear trend towards more sustainable consumption. Digitization offers companies better planning of production - and thus a more sustainable product policy.

Companies benefit from the digitization of sales

Not only does the customer want new digital touchpoints, but also the sales force strives for more efficiency and time savings. In addition, three advantages of digital sales channels for the company should be mentioned at this point: increased efficiency, shortened sales cycles and market insights.

Data offers exciting insights into customer needs and can display market trends in real time. This enables companies to react faster and more sustainably to the needs of potential customers, which can also support a certain agility in the company. Digital Sales tools and new technologies create new access to information and goods, also simplify work processes and are happy to take over the annoying work from time to time.

In all areas of life, sustainability and digitization come to the fore, also in B2B. Digitization offers exciting and promising opportunities for B2B sales. Companies that do not adapt their sales and purchasing processes to customer needs run the risk of losing touch. An immense growth in digital B2B sales is to be expected, so it is best to digitize sales today.

[1] Erikson, Erik H .; Hylland, Thomas: The tyranny of the moment. Finding the balance between speed and slowness, Freiburg im Breisgau 2002, p. 34f.

[2] https://www.usability.ch/news/wie-lange-bleiben-die-nutzer-auf-einer-webseite.html


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