As our own business grows, I find myself more frequently in the role of a business buyer. It is a stark reminder of why we do what we do at Artesian.
CC Bloom Syndrome
A meeting with a potential supplier, only a few days ago, was a classic example of what will now be forever known to me as CC Bloom Syndrome, a behavioural trait described by Forrester’s Scott Santucci in his blog post Closing the Divide Between Sellers and Executive Level Buyers: A Plea ! Three colleagues and I sat through a forty five minute demonstration peppered with questions and answers. Our time had been well spent and having done a great job, the pre-sales consultant handed back to the seller. At this point we were asked how we would now rank their product against others we had seen.
The preceding highly interactive session had revealed much about our specific needs. We’re an interesting company, in a growth space, tackling a new market, well funded and introducing new systems and processes around old ones that we are outgrowing. I didn’t understand why he didn’t have more questions about, errr, us. Instead, like the character CC Bloom in the film Beaches, we were asked Anyway, that’s enough about us, over to you, what do you think about us?
The first five thesis of the Business Buyer Manifesto
Our seller hadn’t appreciated that the world has changed. He hadn’t figured out what our business, a business that has social selling at its core, would want from a seller. Irony upon irony.
In a world where the dynamic between buyers and sellers has changed dramatically there are at least five new imperatives to observe, to underpin each and every customer interaction. I make no apology that the tone is inspired by the Cluetrain Manifesto one of the most prescient pieces ever published on the future of business.
- It’s the Buyers Process. I am not part of your sales process, you are part of my buying decision. Like many B2B buyers according to research from the Corporate Executive Board, by the time I contact you I am 57pc of the way through my decision. That’s right, if it was a sales process, then how did I get more than half way through it without you?
- Buyers Needs are increasingly Transparent. We are all busy but I will have done some research on you, your products and your competitors. Many of my needs as a business buyer are identifiable from news about my company, from my LinkedIN updates, my tweets and blogging. It is all out there so return the favour.
- Do the Right Thing. I don’t need an introduction to your existing customers, I can find them, their views and what it is to work with you today because all of these things are on-line. I will not take any single view, rating, recommendation at face value. Connected buyers are more sophisticated in their use of social media than that. We are looking for patterns. Ask yourself, have you been doing the right thing for your customers? I will be.
- Be Authentic. Like most B2B buyers, according to a Forrester survey, I have read three pieces of content for each carefully created corporate marketing piece you offer me. And, as a connected buyer I place more trust on the views of my extended network anyway. Don’t position, posture or handle my objections with pat techniques or scripts. Instead, be open and honest. I am not looking for perfect, few of us are. But I demand authentic.
- Exercise Leadership. Much is said about power shifting from seller to buyer but the new reality is parity, not control. I understand that wherever there is change there is sales. Sellers that exercise leadership help us challenge the status quo, provide answers and offer direction. You should be good at this stuff, you have been on this journey before.
The social seller then is not waiting for a key word in the conversation so that she can launch into a sales pitch. Instead she is looking to understand, to learn, to help and to lead. The social in social selling is less about the media, the tools and the platforms and more about recognising the 5 imperatives. To serve the buyer and proactively interpret their need as a result of being immersed in their customers world. Understanding, openness and authenticity earns trust and builds reputation that gives social sellers the right to take a leadership role taking them and their customers to a place of mutual success.
For those that continue to ignore the changing dynamic between buyer and seller, the Cluetrain will keep stopping … perhaps they should take a delivery.