Your customers don’t want intimacy, they want immediacy!
It’s been true for B2C for some time, but now it’s hitting B2B. Working in B2B sales and marketing myself, I’ve seen three big changes from this consumerization of B2B.
From the M1 to Intercom
A typical day for me in the 90s involved going up on the train to Peterborough to see a prospect, or tooling up the M1 to see a customer in Derby. In that case, I’d often share the car with a colleague and we’d stop off for breakfast and pub lunch afterward. The whole day would get used up for a one-hour meeting.
Today, I run a web demo which takes one hour for a one hour demo. I spend 10 minutes on an Intercom chat session resolving a customer issue that takes…10 minutes. Travel time is zero. I’ve gone from 1-2 customer calls per day to 5-6. “Mobile” used to mean calling clients from a Little Chef. Today it means surfing LinkedIn for leads on the couch with one eye watching the news on TV.
Meetings get set up on demand half the time. You don’t need a diary when the only entry is “now”.
BYOA – Bring Your Own Application
People no longer bash their heads against corporate systems and other brick walls. They simply pump their corporate workflows through Google Apps, Evernote, and personal Dropbox accounts. There is an increasing expectation of instant provisioning and zero ramp-time with consumer based products, which is driving B2B applications to re-engineer their interfaces or go the way of the dinosaurs.
Pay Now – From Purchase Order to Credit Card
The company credit card has become as ubiquitous as the personal, and almost all B2B transactions less than $/£/€ 1000 are put on the card, rather than the traditional Purchase Order / Invoice process. This has shortened the sales to cash cycle to seconds and breaks through the usual sales/accounting firewalls.
The common thread here is that it’s all about speed. Cutting response time. Any delay, and it’s swipe left and move on. There are no second chances.
So how do you get ‘swiped right’?
Give you customers what they want, but give it to them now. The most immediate thing you can do is to make sure all your players understand the importance of the one-touch strike. Don’t push the problem off to “support”. Fix it. Fix it now. Turn a question into a sales opportunity. Now.
This takes visibility. You need to know where the ball is. You need to know what marketing has sent to the customer. You need to know what their latest interaction with support has been. You need to know if they have paid their bills. You can’t wait for the account manager to appear, and you certainly can’t “wait while I just connect you through to accounting”.
In the Swipe Left Economy, only organizations that integrate their systems to deliver visibility across their entire customer experience will prosper. But it takes more than simply wiring up separate silos. The applications need to be designed with adoption and ease of use as the primary goal. A mindset of empowerment rather than enforcement.
No one vendor has the answer here, but 2nd generation SaaS-based systems with open APIs can deliver a natively integrated operational layer without reliance on third party consultants and enterprise level pricing tiers.