The behaviour of the professional buyer is broadly similar to that of the private consumer, with some specificities.
The dynamics of purchasing have changed dramatically with the rise of e-commerce, and companies are getting up to speed. B2B sales are no exception and must also deal with these new uses and adapt their actions to the behaviour of the professional buyer. A target in its own right that cannot be reached without a refined strategy.
In his research, the B2B buyer adopts the reflexes that he/she has as a private consumer. And it is on the web that he finds, compares information and prices before making a decision. But the use of the digital tool does not stop there and extends to the transaction.
The Fédération de l'e-commerce et de la vente à distance (Fevad) has forecast a clear increase in online sales in 2020. This is an increase of 8.5% in one year, which is a logical continuation of the boom in product sales on the Internet. The share of e-commerce in retail trade was 13.4% in 2020, while it was already 9.8% in the previous year.
E-commerce sales in B2B are following the same upward trend and are expected to continue to eat into the territory of traditional sales. Between 2017 and 2019, B2B online sales grew by 50%, according to figures from Insee and Fevad, and accounted for almost a quarter of sales to professionals in 2020. This already considerable figure is only the tip of the iceberg, since upstream of the transaction, around 3 out of 4 B2B buyers do their research on the internet.
This popularity is explained by the time saved, the savings in travel time and the relative simplicity of online procedures. For professionals, the expectations go further as the digitalisation of the market offers them an overall view, while allowing them to identify each product in great detail, thanks to the technical documentation available in digital form.
The B2B seller must be able to meet the new expectations of his customers. To effectively negotiate the digital shift, companies can rely on software specially designed to support professionals in their digital transformation. At the same time, this requires the teams to develop their skills so that everyone can take advantage of these new tools and exploit their full potential. In fact, the transition is already underway in most companies, but for the deployment to be successful, the strategy must be adapted to the field.
The seller must, first of all, ensure his visibility to his target buyers. Unless the company has an exclusive reputation in its market, it will not be sought after for itself, but for its products. This implies knowing how to use the mechanics of web referencing to one's advantage or calling on the services of a digital communication agency specialising in one's sector of activity, and more particularly in B2B activities.
The behaviour of the professional buyer is significantly different from that of the average consumer. The aim is not to trigger the impulse to buy with advertising banners but to establish a solid and qualitative web appearance. In other words, to become the reference in its market. To define a digital strategy, the salesperson must identify the specific behaviour of his or her target audience on the Internet and mobilise the right communication channels.
Alongside the acquisition of traffic and the deployment of online commercial actions, the company must take care of its brand image on the Internet. Review platforms play a key role in the decision making of professional buyers who will take the time to research before buying. This new assessment grid requires not only an adaptation of the company as a whole, but also a profound transformation of the commercial relationship.
The evolution of the commercial relationship is also based on the implementation of new tools. CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems have become essential to help sales representatives manage customer relations before, during and after the sale. When properly mastered, this tool is a valuable steering aid, offering a complete vision in real time, which is essential for defining priority actions.
The salesperson of tomorrow will also have to deal with the increasing autonomy of the B2B buyer. The approach is evolving and takes into account the difficulties encountered in the digital field: the omnipresence of one or more competitors, negative ratings or comments on platforms, etc. Marketing and sales actions must be carried out in concert and remain consistent in the eyes of the prospect. The customer will have reviewed the company's information and products and will have already formed an opinion before contacting the sales representative. Also, part of the argument is woven before the first exchange. The information posted on the products must be as complete and accurate as possible. In terms of reputation, the best way to address the distrust of potential buyers is to respond systematically and individually to contentious comments and unfavourable reviews left on specialist platforms. Although the process is potentially time-consuming, it has the advantage of being simple and demonstrates the seriousness and responsiveness of the B2B salesperson, which makes it possible to approach the sales pitch on a solid basis.