The Radically Changing Future of B2B Sales
The tech industry has seen a lot of change in 2020—some might say too much. Between generational change, technological change, and COVID-19, one thing has become clear over the past 12 months: the world will never go back to the way it was before. When we published this year’s B2B Buying Disconnect report at TrustRadius, we learned a few key things about the future of Saas. Millennials will make the majority of buying decisions, and they already decide differently than other generations. Some of the marketing tactics vendors love most today are the ones buyers hate. Self-serve will rule.
Will marketers adjust? The smart ones will.
The rest will be lost to the future of B2B sales.
The Future of B2B Sales is Self-Service
Out of all the insights in the 2021 B2B Buying Disconnect, this could be the most important: the future of B2B sales is self-guided, online-driven, and mostly self-serve.
Even before the global pandemic changed how we conduct business, a growing number of buyers wanted to shop for new software without speaking to sales reps. Today more than 87% of buyers want to self-serve part or all of their buying journey.
How can businesses rise to that challenge? By meeting buyers where they’re at—literally. Let the buyer choose their path, and be there when they need you as a helpful guide—not as a gatekeeper of information.
The Future of B2B Sales is Customer Voice
To maximize your chances at winning online buyers, you need to figure out where they’re looking for information about your product.
Demos and websites are still popular in 2020, but a sizable number of buyers are also turning to user reviews as an information source. 45% of B2B tech buyers consult user reviews during their buying process.
Our research shows that compared to the typical collateral provided by tech vendors, reviews are much more trustworthy.
The grid below shows that three out of the top five information sources used by buyers—free trials/accounts, product demos, and user reviews—lead in trustworthiness and influence over purchasing decisions.
B2B reviews also have a huge sphere of influence in the tech world. 92% of buyers who use reviews share them with at least one other person. 2 out of 5 share them with four or more other buying committee members.
The best marketers will see this as a golden opportunity for investment.
The Future of B2B Sales is Intent Data
Since buyers see reviews as one of their most important information sources, it only makes sense that tech vendors would follow suit. 46% of technology vendors use reviews to engage their buyers today. And 86% of those who use reviews partner with review sites in a paid capacity.
In fact, the average software vendor now uses review sites for 7 different use cases—including lead generation, social proof, and customer references. However, only 2 out of 5 technology vendors currently use review sites for intent data. This is a huge oversight.
Buyer intent data offers a window into the actions of tech buyers and replaces the intent signals we lost when COVID-19 grounded field sales reps and cancelled industry conferences. It also significantly increases the ROI of using review sites altogether.
The Future of B2B Sales is the Millennial Buyer
This year we also learned that the average B2B tech buyer is getting younger. 60% of all B2B technology buyers are millennials (age 25 – 39), and 2% are from Generation Z (24 and younger). And they behave very differently from their boomer counterparts.
Gen Z and Millennial buyers are 2X as likely as older generations to discover a product by searching online. Older generations typically first find out about products from their own prior experience.
Millennials and Gen Z buyers are also less likely to use analyst rankings and reports. This may be contributing to the overall decline in the use of analyst rankings and reports we’ve observed in the annual B2B Buying Disconnect. Since 2018, the use of analyst reports has steadily declined from 31% to only 20% in 2021.
A lot of effort and money go towards a channel that only influences 20% of buyers—and that number declines each year. Why are marketers chasing the millennial buyer with a boomer channel?
The Future of B2B Sales is Increased Spending
COVID-19 can’t keep the industry down forever. This year nearly half of buyers report decreased tech spending due to the coronavirus pandemic. Between tightening budgets on one hand and increasing data security concerns on the other, buyers are now scrutinizing their software purchases more than ever before.
Still, some software categories are experiencing upward trends. With the increase in remote work, web & video conferencing is the #1 category where technology buyers are looking to increase their spend in 2021(TrustRadius).
How You Should Use This Data in 2021
The TrustRadius 2021 B2B Buying Disconnect is full of actionable insights that can help you level up your marketing strategy for 2021. But here are 4 key takeaways that you can act on today:
- Prioritize SEO to give your product a stronger online presence.
- Embrace the millennial buyer and focus on channels they actually use.
- Create self-service options that delight buyers with your product.
- Invest in high quality B2B reviews and intent data.
There’s more to B2B and Tech Marketing and Sales than meets the eye in 2021 and Beyond! Catch more here where leaders from Ness Digital, TeamViewer, JotForm, Xactly and others weigh in!