If your business operates in the B2B (or B2B2C) space, then you know better than anyone – it may even be keeping you up at night – that a few bad quarters isn’t just cause for alarm: it can be the beginning of the end; especially since the only people who are better than prospects when it comes to detecting “blood in the water” are competitors. After all, your loss is their gain.
On the other hand – and far less terrifying – is that establishing a foundation and framework for growth and profitability is not a matter of trial and error. It’s the result of sound strategy, clear vision and market research.
Chances are, you have a solid grip on the first two pieces of this puzzle. But you may have to invest in professional-grade market research – perhaps because you think it’s optional, or you may be under the (mistaken) impression that online survey tools or customer feedback are enough. They aren’t. Paradoxically, they can even be dangerous, since what appears to be actionable intelligence can – and often does – turn out to be misleading pointers.
Below, are the three reasons why market research is key to B2B sales, and why exploiting it in your operation isn’t a question of if, but rather a matter of how and when:
B2B Customers are Teams – not Individuals
Research by Gartner points out that in organizations of 100-500 employees, an average of seven people are involved in a purchase decision. This means that you aren’t just targeting a single individual, which is often the case in B2C sales. You need to engage, impress, inform and nurture multiple stakeholders (e.g. executives, IT, finance, operations, HR, etc.). Market research helps you map out who you need to reach, and what messages, strategies and tactics will generate the most traction with each buyer persona.
B2B Sales Cycles are Getting More and More Complex
B2B sales has always been challenging. But on today’s business landscape, it’s even more complex due to increased competition, higher customer expectations, and longer sales cycles that can take several months – or even years – and numerous touch points to culminate in a purchase. Market research helps you clearly understand what the buyer’s journey looks like, so that you can be well prepared the marathon ahead.
Prospects are Conducting More Pre-Sales Research
In the past, B2B sales reps could engage prospects early in the relationship, probe for needs, uncover pain points, and deliver a guided and consultative sales process. These days, however, most prospects are 50% or further along the buyer’s journey before they seriously engage a sales rep. In light of this, market research plays a critical role in three integrated ways. First, it identifies where prospects are searching for information (e.g. search, social, websites, etc.). Second, it identifies what kinds of messages resonate with prospects, which leads to relevant content production. Third, it positions sales reps to hit-the-ground-running when prospects reach out and have targeted, informed questions. All of these are essential for shortening sales cycles, increasing deal sizes, and boosting win rates.
A Final Word
Market research is a smart and necessary investment – which is why all successful companies exploit it (yes, including Apple). But if you don’t have the in-house resources, know-how and technology to conduct professional-grade market research, you can’t and won’t reap rewards by going the DIY route. Make sure you work with a credible, established and proven market research company. When you see your sales numbers and market share jump, your only regret will be that you didn’t leverage market research sooner.