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The world of B2B marketing continues to change at an incredibly rapid pace. Just when it seems that marketing automation and social media are finally being adopted, we have pundits proclaiming them passé and that more cosmic shifts are underway. Yet in the midst of all this transformation in the B2B marketing landscape, reports have shown that many are still missing the mark and drawing the ire of CEOs.

So, what’s the driving force behind all this change, the force that has marketers failing? It’s the buyer. Studies continue to confirm that, when it comes to making a buying decision, they have more access to technology, more interaction with their peers via social networks, less need for vendor-driven information, and less reliance on salespeople. Marketers are struggling with this new dynamic. Amid the morphing of the buyer and, subsequently, the B2B environment, marketers are failing to convince buyers to buy their products or services. Why? Because there remains one constant no matter how technology-driven or socially enabled we become. That one constant (and many fail to understand it) is that we market and sell to people.

As obvious as that seems, it is something that is lost in many of today’s marketing approaches. It’s as if we in the B2B space have failed to understand that behind the “B” in business to business are hosts of “Ps" (people).

A recent study by Televerde shows that even though some companies are making an attempt at nurturing the buyer, they are truly not connecting to the human element of B2B marketing.

  • Over 60% of those surveyed stated incomplete data and poor data hygiene as their biggest marketing challenge when it came to data.

  • Only 29% stated that more effective and relevant customer touches should be the highest priority for lead nurturing. (For that 29%, conversion rates ranked the highest. This indicates that  more effective and relevant touches lead to higher conversions.)

  • 83% described their definition as providing educational and collateral (i.e., one-way communication).

  • 57% make no distinction on how they nurture leads based on their buying stage. (All buyers are treated the same.)

  • Of those that use nurturing, 54% do not use lead scoring. (Lack of lead scoring does not allow for one-on-one dialogue, but ensures that all buyers are treated the same.)

As seen above, many organizations are still not clueing into the fact that we are selling and marketing to people. People are the ones who make the buying decisions and vendor choices. Those people have thoughts and emotions that affect their buying decisions. We must remember that. To help move from a B2B mindset to a B2P mindset, here are a few quick tips.

Stop Trying to Sell

Randy Aronis of Ingenuity Sales Consulting has taught many that the first sales call should be focused on the building of rapport. In other words, start by getting to know your buyer. It seems crazy, but try it sometime. The first time I tried this was early in my career. I was selling into the largest IBM distributor in the world and had secured a call with one of the key decision-makers.

After the obligatory introductions and overview, we spent the next 25 minutes talking about golf, our favorite courses, etc. (Keep in mind the call was scheduled for 30 minutes.) We ended the call by scheduling a follow-up onsite that, of course, included a round of golf. Long story short: They were one of my best accounts for my remaining two years at the company. Why? My contact told me, “You guys were not the lowest cost nor did you have the largest staff, but I liked your company and knew I could call you directly if we were ever going to have a problem. I felt that you would personally address it.” Instead of selling, I built a relationship. Marketers would do well to begin thinking this way.

Put the Social Back in Social

The term “social media” is interesting to me. Yes, there is indeed a component that is social. Yet, social media also provides a false sense of relationship. Too many marketers are using this channel to provide one-way communication, doing nothing but sending out facts, figures, and business information. They forget to use social media to engage. What does that look like? Well, for starters, don’t be afraid to have some fun with social media. Comment on posts, answer questions in forums, and engage in online conversations. This will significantly enhance relationships with your buyers online and socially. Buyers want to know there are people behind the walls. So, listen and respond.

Act Like a Politician

OK, before you stop reading, don’t worry. By suggesting you act like a politician, I am not suggesting you give yourself a pay raise every year, slander your competition, or tell lies to divert attention from your mistakes. What I am suggesting is, like many politicians, seek to get personal with your buyers. This doesn’t necessarily mean a marketing/sales bus tour. However, it does mean adding face-to-face interactions to the mix. Marketers erroneously think that the face-to-face stuff is for sales to handle. Not so! Marketers need to stop hiding behind technology and to start meeting with buyers. This can be done by attending sales calls, conferences, and even one-on-one meetings. Nothing will replace a face-to-face interaction and connection. Sitting down across the table from your buyers (or playing a round of golf) will go a long way.

Be Slow to Speak

This goes hand in hand with the “Stop Trying to Sell” tip. My brother tells his kids all the time, “God gave you two ears and one mouth to remind you that listening is more important than speaking." He may have something there.

By listening to your buyer and asking questions, you will gain (as will they) more from them than from all the things you so desperately want to tell them. You will also show them that you are genuinely interested in them and in meeting their needs. In the course of building a relationship, you’ll have plenty of time to talk about your product or service. So, be patient.

No matter how advanced technology becomes or how easy it gets to dole out information about our products and services, we’ll always be marketing and selling to people. That fact is something we cannot afford to forget.

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image of Carlos Hidalgo

Carlos Hidalgo is a life design coach, marketing and sales consultant, author of The UnAmerican Dream, and a TEDx keynote speaker. He has held corporate roles, started entrepreneurial ventures, served in nonprofits, and sat on many corporate boards. Hidalgo and his wife host The Life Design Podcast.