What is Buyer Engagement?

Buyer Engagement is all the touchpoints between seller and buyer during their B2B engagement.

A Buyer Engagement framework is a way to develop a process across marketing, sales, and customer success to best cater the buyer’s needs during their buying decision-making process – from awareness to purchase, renewal and cross-sell.

How does it differ from the traditional marketing and sales funnel?

First, the traditional approach is all about the seller. The funnel relates specifically to the seller’s process, and it is based on awareness, lead generation, lead nurturing, MQL identification and transfer to sales. Second, in many organizations, especially those that sell high-consideration products to enterprises, the funnel ends in handoff to sales or turning the marketing lead into SQL or an opportunity.Buyer Engagement is all focused on the buyer’s side – the buyer’s experience through the whole purchase process. Buyer Engagement starts at awareness and goes up to contract renewal, cross-sell and upsell. It doesn’t end at the point of handover between sales and marketing, and doesn’t end after the lead turned into a customer.

Why is Buyer Engagement important?

Well, let’s begin with the fact that buying processes are not linear. We’ve always known that, but recent research supports this point. In a non-linear buying process, the linear nature of the funnel is a limited framework to manage the relationship between sellers and buyers.

Moreover, the divide between sales and marketing is a clear and present pain point. The funnel and the classic lead management approach strengthen and widen this divide. The reason is that marketing can optimize their part of the journey, sales can optimize their part, and both are able to present KPIs that show that they improve with time. But there is one small thing that is being left out of the equation – the buyer.

Do buyers care?

Actually they are hurting. Only ~30% of B2B buyers say that the information provided by suppliers impacted their decision-making process. To put in other words, 70% feel that they are wasting their time when they engage with suppliers.

 

Source:CEB 2017 Digital B2B Buyer Survey.

Note: Survey question was: “Of the information sources that you used, how would you rate their impact on you accomplishing this activity set?”

It is also not that easy on the sellers side either. They are struggling to purchase:

n = 750 B2B buyers.

Source:CEB 2017 Digital B2B Buyer Survey.

Note: Complex and Difficult = Agree with either/both statements: “This purchase has been very complex” and/or “This purchase has been very difficult”.

 

Besides, It is not that they are not trying to some extent to work with suppliers to find the best solution for them. Sellers just don’t deliver:

n = 50 Sales Leaders.

Source: CEB2017-2018 Sales Leader Interviews.

 

How did we get to this?

The division between marketing and sales is an artificial invention created by corporates to better manage resources and processes, but buyers don’t really care if they are handled by a person with a marketing title or a sales title.

Think about it for a second – no person wakes up in the morning and says – hey, I’m an MQL now, and if I’ll fill in this form I’ll turn into SQL.

Sellers are trying to maximize the impact of their often-disjointed marketing and sales machine by optimizing sales and marketing operations, but not optimizing the buyer’s experience. And the buyers? The buyers just want to solve a problem.

Let me tell you a story: we are using Salesforce CRM. One day I’ve looked at one of the products on their site, and downloaded an ebook about it. I got a call from someone at Salesforce asking me if I’m interested in this product, which CRM I’m using and such. It was ridiculous. Hey, I’m already a customer! But, when you come to think of it, it was clear why it happened. Someone got a Sales KPI follow-up after a content download and a set of qualification questions. Then, they focused on efficiency, trying to maximize the process. One thing was left out of the equation once again – my buyer’s experience.

OK, but how does it help me as a seller?

We know that buyers are engaging less with sellers directly. This means that the chances of sellers to impact the buyer decision-making process is very limited. Could you afford not to optimize your internal processes in order to meet the buyer’s needs ?

What does it take to implement a Buyer Engagement methodology? Is it expensive?

First of all, it doesn’t have to be expensive, and this is how you do it:

  1. In-depth knowledge of the buyer buying process – this knowledge usually exists in several parts of the organization (sales, marketing, strategy, analyst relations, even investors in some cases) and needs to be formalized
  2. Basic Buyer Engagement model agreement – joint agreement between marketing, sales and customer success regarding the way they should cater the needs of a buyer in every stage of the engagement model. Especially, how to work together in order to maintain an exceptional buyer’s experience
  3. Supporting Content
  4. Supporting Technology – it is best to run Buyer Engagement programs with supporting technology to better manage and track it. This technology usually includes marketing automation (Marketo, HubSpot and such), sales engagement (SalesLoft), and possibly a content experience platform (Uberflip). These platforms should be configured to support the Buyer Engagement model agreement mentioned above

Wow, this sounds complicated…

Not necessarily. We usually recommend keeping the following in mind:

  1. Start small – one product and one buyer type
  2. Pilot everything before scaling – use the one product-one buyer mindset to identify all obstacles along the way
  3. Measure in a meaningful way – define goals that are simple to track and communicate KPIs for the first process
  4. Scale when successful – scale rapidly when success is achieved

Is this the right time for Buyer Engagement?

If your company wants to quickly adapt to buyer decision process, be in the room at the right time with the right message, optimize your internal resources, and beat the competition by creating an outstanding buyer experience, this is the model for you. Like any methodology, it should be adapted to your specific organization, market and product. But the Buyer Engagement mindset is the key to success. Buyers are suffering today, and you have an opportunity to win them with a better Buyer Engagement or let your competitors win them over.