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B2B Tech Procurement: The Post-Pandemic Reality

Given the realities of the current Global Networked Economy environment, why do so many business leaders report wanting a ‘return to normal’ ASAP? That’s very puzzling to me.

As an example, changes within the commercial procurement arena demand radical new thinking.

Forrester’s “2021 B2B Buying Study”, with more than 950 respondents from around the world, reveals significant changes in business-to-business buying behavior. Their study findings show how buyers navigated the transition of remote working, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, while seeking information about vendors and their offerings -- long before making a purchase.

With most B2B buyers working remotely, global market disruption from the pandemic has pushed the ‘buying group’ to the forefront of the decision-making process. Independent buying scenarios, in which only one or two people are involved, are much less likely in a complex sale.

Today, 63 percent of B2B purchases have more than four people involved -- versus just 47 percent in 2017. The typical buyer’s committee can include several buyer roles -- e.g. solution champions, subject-matter influencers, executive decision-makers, line of business end-users, or other ratifiers -- from multiple enterprise departments.

Buyer Enablement: The Decision Maker Scenario

Forrester analysts report that although the number of buying interactions has been increasing slightly every two years (e.g. from 16 to 17 interactions between 2017 and 2019), the number of buying interactions during the global pandemic has jumped from 17 to 27. A huge increase.

According to the Forrester analysis of their findings, the number of buying interactions reflects one individual’s buying journey to obtain information about competing offerings or providers.

In the total number, Forrester includes self-guided interactions (mostly done by research online) and personal interactions, which refer to a conversation with a person, from either a vendor company or a third-party (such as a vendor channel partner).

Almost all of these interactive conversations took place virtually (online) during 2020.

With just-in-time access to the internet, and the plethora of content from vendors and industry thought leaders or other credible influencers, savvy buyers can easily find information about B2B products and services from a variety of qualified sources.

Furthermore, B2B buyers seek one-to-many forums -- such as sponsored webinars and online events -- to learn more about the product or service category, what their peers are doing in the same industry and the leading vendors that are most likely to offer viable solutions to problems.

B2B buyers then talked to these peers, industry experts, and various vendor representatives to get their specific questions answered. They also performed self-directed research via search engines, and some used social media to uncover industry-specific information resources.

Sales Enablement: The B2B Seller Scenario

Once buyers have completed their initial self-directed research online, they’re armed with an abundance of topic insights and commentary that enables them to ask all the right questions. This Q&A process has raised the bar of expectations for vendor sales representatives to add meaningful and substantive value to the buyer’s journey.

B2B buyers are often asking vendor reps to “tell me something I don’t already know.” That said, the burden of proof is in the hands of these front-line vendor employees that must respond.

According to Forrester, 70 percent of B2B sales reps spend between one and 14 hours every week customizing content for their buyers. Seventy-seven percent of B2B marketers also report significant challenges driving the right content consumption with buyer decision-makers.

I believe that this is an acute issue within the technology vendor sector, where typical marketing organizations are often product-centered rather than customer-centered. Very few business technology vendors have the marketing employee talent that’s capable of addressing buyers' needs for content that focuses on achieving business outcomes.

That’s why I’m not pursuing the quest for a ‘new normal’ that’s based upon the prior status quo. This is the time for technology vendors to reimagine their go-to-market approach and dare to be different (much better than before). Besides, as more vendors transition to the cloud-based ‘everything-as-a-service’ business model, there’s a dire need for more qualified leaders.

Choose to Embrace Change 

As the saying goes: the best way to predict a future outcome is to invent it. True leadership comes from people who are fearless about testing the limits of conventional thinking and thereby adopting a new mindset. Thriving in today's environment requires ambitious leadership that's not satisfied to merely return to a prior state, simply because it's familiar or easy to execute.

Resist convention, embrace change. If you haven't already, then start now.

Reach out, learn more: Contact us now

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