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    Issue 39

    August 3, 2020

    Subject:

    How Covid-19 has changed B2B buying

     

    For much of the world, the Covid-19 pandemic is getting worse.

    The suffering is not likely to end until someone develops a vaccine or an effective treatment.

    So how is Covid-19 likely to affect your business in the coming months?

    In today’s issue…

    Today’s Driven looks at the effects of Covid-19 on B2B buyer behavior. It also suggests ways for you to adapt.


    SALES | MARKETING | REVENUE | BUYER BEHAVIOR | COVID-19

    How Covid-19 is changing the expectations and behavior of B2B buyers

    Of the many changes Covid-19 has caused in your business, which will continue affecting the way you work with customers and prospects?

    This article distills insights from multiple sources.It also offers 8 suggestions for your sales and marketing response.

    Which industry sectors are most affected, and how long will it take them to recover?

    The following graphic shows a range of recovery scenarios for major industry segments.

    It combines the views of global executives who took part in a survey by McKinsey Global Institute and Oxford Economics.

    Each row offers a prognosis for the industry listed to the left.

    The timelines in the center column show 2 scenarios for recovery:

    • The white dot shows an estimate of when the industry will recover if the world contains the virus soon.
    • The black dot shows the estimated recovery time if the virus continues longer without containment.

    Smaller businesses will suffer more

    The pandemic will hurt small businesses more than big ones, the authors say. Small firms will also need more time to recover.

    Industry sectors with a big share of small businesses are likely to be most affected.

    5 industries will suffer most and longest

    Industry sectors with the worst prognosis appear at the top of the graphic.

    They have both the worst best-case scenario and the worst worst-case scenario.

    Here are the 5 unluckiest industries:

    • Arts, entertainment, and recreation
    • Accommodation and food services
    • Educational services
    • Other services, excluding public administration
    • Mining, quarrying, oil and gas extraction

    How buyer preferences and behavior have changed

    Demand Gen Reports just published the results of a survey of 212 B2B professionals who make buying decisions in the United States.

    Some trends are stronger than others. Read the downloadable report for nuances.

    At a high level, here’s what they found:

    1. Many companies have delayed buying.

    About half said budget freezes forced them to delay buying.

    The other half said the crisis has not affected the timing of their buys.

    Almost a third said they’ve sped up some buying because the crisis has changed their needs.

    2. Most are taking more time to research and analyze their buys.

    Most said their company spends more time researching buying decisions. They regularly conduct a detailed economic justification before buying.

    3. Most discover potential vendors through online search.

    After search engines, vendor websites are the second-most important source of information.

    Product-review sites rank third.

    4. Some develop a short list of potential vendors within 30 days.

    About a third have a short list within 30 days. Almost two-thirds complete their short list within the next 2 to 5 months of starting their process.

    5. Buyers want flexibility in choosing when to involve sellers.

    Many said they direct their own buying processes with less help from sellers.

    But almost as many welcome early help from sellers.

    6. Many see room to improve the role of sellers.

    Some said sellers meet the needs of their team “only somewhat.”

    Their main complaint was that a seller didn’t engage with multiple members of their team.

    But most said their sales rep was generally helpful and provided useful information for their entire team.

    7. Vendor content makes a big difference.

    Respondents cited content as an important reason for choosing a vendor.

    The vendor that won their business…

    • Showed in-depth knowledge of the landscape of business solutions
    • Understood the buying company and its needs
    • Provided content that made it easier to build a business case for buying
    • Provided high-quality content
    • Responded fast to inquiries

    Almost all respondents said it’s important for vendors to provide content that speaks directly to their industry needs.

    Most said it’s important for vendors to provide content that speaks directly to their company.

    Most said product reviews are a key factor in their decision.

    8. Buyers want pricing information early.

    Many collect preliminary information on pricing and costs within a month of starting their buying process.

    Most said pricing is among the most important factors in their buying decision.

    Key takeaways

    To adapt to the fast changing preferences of B2B buyers, consider doing these things:

    1. Redirect your sales and marketing efforts to industry segments that have been less affected.

    Or focus on segments that are likely to recover soonest.

    2. Research your prospects and customers to see how their buying priorities have changed.

    3. Get on a short list of vendors as early as you can.

    You have 5 main ways to do so:

    • Online advertising
    • Use of buyer-intent data
    • Outbound outreach
    • Third-party rating sites
    • Content marketing and inbound marketing

    All of these approaches to varying degrees. Use them all to the extent you can afford them.

    Especially focus on getting your products listed favorably on third-party rating sites.

    4. Beef up your sales and marketing content.

    • Rethink your messaging to be sure it’s consistent with your prospects’ new priorities.
    • Re-evaluate all your content to be sure it contains your updated messaging.
    • Evaluate your website to ensure it meets the primary needs of your prospects.

    5. Provide the content your prospects value most.

    • Develop and offer industry-specific content for your website. Make it easy to find.
    • Publish pricing on your website, even for enterprise SaaS products. (If you can’t provide detailed pricing, at least give a range of likely investment for various customers and software products.)
    • Provide content that helps your prospects do economic justification for your products.
    • Customize the content you provide to important prospects for whom you can justify the cost and effort.

    6. Help your sellers succeed in their early engagement with prospects.

    Make sure your sellers respond fast when prospects show interest.

    But don’t have your sellers or sales development reps (SDRs) call everyone who downloads any piece of content.

    Instead, provide an option for prospects to request a call from a seller.

    Also:

    • Equip your sellers to provide valuable industry insights in their early contacts with a prospect.
    • Enable your sellers to provide more content that meets your buyers’ information needs throughout their entire decision process – not just at the beginning.

    7. Train or encourage sellers to do thorough discovery throughout the customer’s entire decision process.

    They’ll need what they learn through discovery for an economic justification.

    8. Coach your sellers not to get single-threaded in deals.

    Your main champion may be fired or could leave the company.

    Make sure your sellers identify the entire buying team and build relationships across it.

    Call on your own executives to help build peer-to-peer relationships.

    Sources

    “COVID-19 recovery in hardest-hit sectors could take 5 years.” July 29, 2020. McKinsey & Company blog.

    B2B Buyer Behavior Study. July 2020. Demand Gen Reports. Sponsored by Demandbase. [Downloadable PDF. 22 pages. No charge. Gated.]

    Warning of potentially skewed or biased information

    Demandbase, sponsor of the B2B Buyer Behavior Report, is a technology provider that sells software applications for account-based marketing (ABM).

    It’s in their interest to show that their solutions serve the needs of a changing business landscape.

    For this report, Demand Gen Reports surveyed 212 B2B business professionals in sales, marketing, and IT between May and June 2020. All were apparently all in the United States.

    Respondents represent a good cross-section of industries.

    They hold titles ranging from manager (33%) to C-level (21%).

    They work at companies that generate between $500 million and $1 billion in annual revenue.

    Almost half of respondents said they make buying decisions mainly for software or technology.

    Dig deeper

    2020 Content Preferences Study. Demand Gen Report. Sponsored by Vidyard, ON24, and PureB2B. Published around April 2020. This report focuses mainly on webinars. [Downloadable PDF. 25 pages. No charge. Gated.]


    WRAP UP

    That’s it for this week.

    Next issue, you’ll read how other companies are adapting their sales and marketing operations to the pandemic.

    Please share

    If you’ve enjoyed this issue of Driven, please share it with a colleague or a friend. And encourage them to subscribe.

    Archived issues

    For back issues of Driven, go to the archive here.

    Have a great week.

    Best,

    Dave Vranicar

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