The state of B2B buying in the “new norm”: what SMEs must know to succeed

new norm
The inscription b2b on the phone held by a young businessman in his hand. Business concept between legal entities.

As we start a new financial year and business is now starting to resume, companies are now looking to see how they can re-ignite their operations and drive sales. Selling to other businesses (often referred to as business-to-business or B2B) can present significant opportunities for SMEs.

Despite the volatility and uncertainty that exists right now, many are businesses are looking to spend more to help them move forward as well as generate revenues. However, in order to take advantage of such opportunities, it is important that you understand three key elements.

How business buyers buy
  • Business buyers use on average three to five sources of information when making their purchase decisions. These include articles, blogs, videos, white papers, demonstrations, online calculators, discussions with suppliers.
  • They conduct extensive research (predominantly online) on all potential purchases before making any contact with sales. 70 per cent of buyers wait until after they have fully defined needs before they engage with a sales professional. Three-quarters of B2B buyers use social media to qualify suppliers.
  • Third-party reviews, customer references and case studies are increasingly becoming part of the buying process.

Therefore, in order to attract business buyers, your SME must have a robust digital strategy whereby you are providing the right kinds of information and insights that business buyers for your product or service seek both on your website as well as where your prospective buyers search for information.

The mindset of the business buyer in the “new norm”

As a result of the volatility, uncertainty and tough business conditions created by the pandemic, business buyers now:

  • Lack confidence as to how best to proceed with running their operations.
  • Face enormous pressures to restart their businesses and generate revenues.
  • Are highly risk-averse.
  • To reduce purchase risk, business buyers are now typically forming buying committees whereby consensus is required among a group of stakeholders on what product or service is purchased.
What business buyers want

Despite their risk aversion and tendency to proceed very cautiously, business buyers recognise that they will need to spend on products, services and solutions to both stay in operation as well as to have a relevant, sustainable and competitive business in the future.

In this so-called “New Norm”, business buyers are now looking for the following:

  • Guidance to plan for the future.
  • Actionable solutions.
  • Ability to connect with others to help solve their problems.
  • Not being pressured to buy.

Overall, business buyers are now seeking decision confidence to know what actions to undertake their businesses forward.

What this means for you as an SME

Business customers can be a significant opportunity to restart your business, drive sales and growth. The key to success is positioning your company as the business buyers’ trusted adviser and partner. To do so, you must do the following:

  • Help them identify and capitalize on revenue opportunities.
  • Demonstrate the cost of inaction will have on both the survival as well as future viability and success of their business.
  • Minimise perceived risks by providing documentation, testimonials and case studies.
  • Offer roadmaps to enable them to make changes with their organisations and implement new solutions.

So, don’t delay. Get your SME off to a good start this new financial year by doing your research (or as I like to call it “listening”) to understand the needs, challenges and priorities of your target business customers and the industries in which they operate. Doing so will enable you to take your SME to new levels than you ever thought possible.

Michael Haynes, B2B Customer Strategy Specialist and Founder, Listen Innovate Grow