The New Buying Journey: Your Customers are Segmenting You

If you read this post, then you may have seen this coming. In order to get a clearer picture on this topic, let’s take a journey into to the minds that drive every aspect of our business initiatives: buyers.

Buyers are you and me, and sometimes we aren’t aware that we are practicing the very things individually that are influencing each other collectively. Forty percent of companies currently employ 50 or more millennial workers, and those workers are helping dissolve the delta between B2B and B2C buying behavior. B2B buying behavior is now more closely resembling B2C behavior, so let’s take a look at some of the drivers influencing the buying journey, using B2C retail as an example.

THE STATS

According to PwC in this Total Retail Survey, here are a few interesting statistics for the U.S. alone:

-40% of buying behavior is influenced by reviews -29% of buyers are comparing prices using their phones while in the store -36% of buyers are more likely to buy from an offshore retailer if the prices are better

Now, that’s just the U.S. Let’s take a look at a few key stats from PwC’s 8 Key Findings of How Customers are Driving Behavior:

-65% of Chinese shoppers shop online via their mobile phone, while only 22% of U.S. shoppers use their mobile devices for shopping -We might try to sell on value, but for 60% of survey respondents, price is still the single biggest reason buyers choose to buy from a specific vendor -32% of customers said they would be happier if they could quickly check online stock while in the store

If you read deeper into those surveys, you will see that all of us are quite demanding and finicky buyers now! We are conducting research on competing products while we are on the verge of purchasing another product. It is this type of behavior that is now influencing the B2B buying environment.

THE BUY

Buyers do endless hours of exhaustive research and in many cases are well into their evaluation phase through before they even call you. They’ve narrowed you down, along with two other vendors, and are looking to find out which one of you will ultimately end up taking the “good/better/best” seats in the decision process. With the rise of many niche competitors, a “first bid wins” mentality is seeping into the sales cycle. Why? Because buyers can take this tack when they have more choices.

We all look for the same things when we buy and when we sell: How do we get the biggest return with the least cost and how do we make more money with the least amount of friction possible?

VENDOR SEGMENTATION

With seemingly endless vendor options and a myriad of easy research avenues, buyers have done countless hours of collective research, held dozens of meetings, and identified their biggest needs and their timelines. They know everything about you and the other vendors under consideration before they’ve even talked to you.

They’ve studied your results, your company’s history and stability; they’ve read your customer reviews online, they may even know your costs from their network of connections. They’re watching and waiting for any sense of friction to make it worthwhile to go with another supplier. They know what they’re willing to spend, how they’d like to spend it, and what they’d like to get for their money. Web-driven information transparency has equipped buyers and intelligent procurement teams with almost everything they need; everything except the last thing in the equation: You.

Buyers are using every resource and tool available to understand their needs and costs before they call; are you sure spreadsheets give you the best negotiating leverage when they call?

Buyers are using this seemingly endless supply of online information to help guide them in their buying decisions; are you effectively using both your data and external data sources to guide you in your selling decisions?

Buyers have segmented you and are using data to their advantage to select and buy intelligently. Have you segmented your customer base so that you can market and sell intelligently?

They have narrowed you down to good/better/best as a vendor. Do you have a clear and dynamic understanding of your good/better/best targets for all of your products and customers as a seller?

They have accurate insight into what they’re willing to buy. Do you have accurate insight into what they’re willing to pay?

They understand when friction will make them walk away from a deal. Do you have insight into the friction that lets you know when to let them walk away?

In this new selling paradigm, it is more important than ever that sellers have the tools they need to compete with savvy buyers. If you are not leveraging data science-driven price optimization or smart configure, price, quote (CPQ), you are losing your ability to serve to today’s buyers and keep the competition at bay.

About the Author

JJ Worthen

JJ Worthen is part of the strategic accounts sales team at PROS. He is responsible for evaluating and understanding customers' specific needs across a broad gamut of industries, ranging from Chemicals and O&G, to Telco and Financial Services.

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