As baby–boomers approach retirement age, the composition of America’s B2B workforce will radically change and soon, as the next generation of B2B buyers and sellers look to make their mark.
Every day for the next 19 years, 10,000 baby boomers will reach age 65. The aging of this enormous cohort of Americans (26% of the total U.S. population are Baby Boomers) will dramatically change the composition of the country. It translates to 43% of Americans retiring within the next 8 years.
How will this seed change impact B2B Sales and Marketing?
“Millennials (whom we define as between ages 18 to 34 in 2015) are projected to number 75.3 million, surpassing the projected 74.9 million Boomers (ages 51 to 69).
The next generation of B2B sellers and buyers will have grown up in a world where online tools, services, reviews, customer advocacy are accepted parts of the Customer Journey and Customer Experience. As B2C customer behavior migrates to B2B, buyers will want to have the same simplicity of access to information, ease of production selection, reviews, and other tools so that they can easily share information with the complex net of B2B influencers within each company who drive the decision purchase. Unlike a B2C purchase, there are always other influences, whether that be political within the company, or if the internal champion has had to lobby to a number of internal stakeholders to garner enough support to close the deal.
For High-Value companies, the B2B buyer decision is rarely made by one person. The interconnectedness of today’s successful companies demands a group decision, bolstered by business strategy, financial logic, and clear ROI. As consumers, we readily accept the larger ecosystem of online purchases. E-commerce has become the digital conduit to your customers. In other words, the consumerization of B2B has begun.
“B2B companies that deliver an exceptional e-commerce customer experience offer more control and access to their back office.”
As a result, B2B buyers approach each purchase with a clear set of expectations driven by their consumer experience. In most cases, this means giving the buyer access and transparency to complex back office systems.
McKinsey reports – “Our research indicates nearly 50 percent of all B2B purchases will be made on digital platforms by the end of 2015.”
Typically, the ecosystem includes –
- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
- Configure, Price, and Quote (CPQ)
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
- Order Management System (OMS)
- Product information management (PIM)
- Content Management System (CMS)
- Experience management
- Marketing automation
B2B Buyers And Sellers, And The Role Technology Will Play
Clearly, data and analytics play an ever increasing role in B2B sales and marketing. Circle Marketing reports that 79% of B2B business leaders say there are “noticeable skill gaps” between their teams, primarily in data, customer insight and digital marketing techniques.
"Historically, marketing hasn't been as important in B2B because it was primarily driven by sales," said Don Schultz, Professor Emeritus-in-Service at the Medill School of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) at Northwestern University. "Today, sales reps can't get in front of prospects as easily as they once did, so marketing is playing a bigger role."
Social Media will also play a larger role in B2B sales. Facebook’s Like button has a B2B equivalent. Since many of the “one to one” relationships that sales execs have had in the past are transforming to “one to many”. Before the contract is even presented, many invisible members of the buying decision team may have formed impenetrable opinions.
The transition to B2B Consumerization has not been smooth
“…on average, a B2B customer will regularly use six different interaction channels throughout the decision journey, and almost 65 percent will come away from it frustrated by inconsistent experiences.”
What is absent from all the Pundits and Thought Leaders is the importance of the human relationship in B2B sales. We are all inundated with automated messages from potential partners/clients during the course of the day. Rarely, do any of the messages speak to specific pain points that we might be facing. Nor do they offer “Trusted Advisor" counsel that will help me keep more customers/clients or drive more revenue.
As you think about the ecosystem of tools that you will need to compete along with the type of people you will be hiring to replace the aging workforce, do not forget that the foundation of any successful sales relationship is the human relationship.