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How Sellers Engage B2B Buyers: 5 Stages of Maturity

Posted January 5, 2021

How Sellers Engage B2B Buyers: 5 Stages of Maturity

Posted January 5, 2021

What must brands do differently to engage B2B buyers? Forrester calls the answer “Prospective Buyer Engagement.” 

We spoke about this topic not long ago with Laura Ramos of Forrester at our Executive Roundtable. There she introduced the 2020 PBE research she’ll also share at the Anteriad Summit on January 21. (See the agenda here and register.)

Prepare for the Summit with this read about buyer engagement.

What’s Prospective Buyer Engagement?

A continually optimized, multichannel mix of digital and human touches that build interest with the right buying groups for your offerings. 

What’s Different?

Prospective Buyer Engagement disrupts traditional models that have Marketing using digital and offline channels to build awareness, develop leads and hand them off to Sales to further qualify and negotiate.

Forward-facing B2B marketing and sales teams are “agreeing to objectives that reflect dual, not dueling — focus areas,” according to Forrester. 

How Sellers Engage B2B Buyers: 5 Stages of Maturity

What does it take to launch and maintain an effective, fruitful prospective buyer engagement program? What practices drive engagement long-term?

Forrester identified five stages followed by mature PBE-aware sellers:

Stage 1 Observe. Maturity improves as marketing and sales teams hone their customer data collection processes and build skill with intelligence tools. Mature PBE sellers continuously observe buyer activity across the entire purchase journey. They know how to use technology to their advantage and then observe what the data shows. Automated data collection identifies where prospects run into engagement issues. Mature teams create ideal customer profiles by observing how the best customers differ from average ones. 

Stage 2 Interpret. Customer interest, journey and preference data becomes insight when you apply analysis. Mature organizations use machine learning and AI to interpret data and:

  • Find prospective buying patterns
  • Predict which activities will engage which buyers
  • Optimize digital and content marketing performance 
  • Understand what buyers find interesting and relevant
  • Help marketers and sellers detect new opportunities to engage

Stage 3 Design. Business buyers are largely unimpressed by B2B marketing content. To drive Prospective Buyer Engagement in these conditions, mature firms focus on:

  • Creating content that is helpful and valuable
  • Make it available throughout buyers’ journeys
  • Abandon flat, product-centric content 
  • Favor dynamic formats such as video, interactive and guided selling tools that engage buyers and tell a story
  • Build calculators and comparison tools to help sellers show how products and services solve problems

Stage 4 Activate. Here;’s the problem: No matter how good, content is useless if buyers can’t find and consume it. Likewise, sales interactions range from annoying to painful if the seller’s overture lacks insight and understanding. 

Solution: Prospective Buyer Engagement emphasizes getting content out to customers in the channels they prefer, not just the ones Marketing and Sales use. Intent data reveals those buyer-preferred channels. Mature firms also maintain a consistent, but personalized experience across all available channels that buyers are likely to use.

Stage 5 Optimize. Mature firms pivot to accommodate changing markets. They realize that buyer needs are dynamic and have context. These firms seek interactions that are more human and their content more helpful. Here are two of their objectives:

  • Guide buyers through the buyer’s purchase journey
  • Develop processes, skills and automation to dynamically change content, channels and sales support to accelerate journeys 

Modernize B2B Selling With Prospective Buyer Engagement

B2B Buyer Engagement Key Capabilities

What capabilities do revenue teams need to put these practices to work and drive prospective buyer engagement?

1. Tight Marketing and Sales Teams

  • Marketing delivers qualified opportunities based on ideal customer profiles
  • Marketing teams coordinate tactics to build interest and understanding
  • Both use data to interpret behavior across channels
  • Sales teams use prospect data and interactions to respond effectively

2. Technology + Data

B2B sellers must uncover opportunities as buyers speed across journeys and channels. Engagement strategies use technology and data to support and drive buyers to the next-best action. Unfortunately, many marketing and sales strategies lack a coordinated, data-driven engagement model. According to Forrester’s findings, just 12% of marketing leaders and 14% of sales leaders pursue mature prospective buyer engagement strategies at their firms, respectively. 

(Image source: Forrester report)

Prospective Buyer Engagement: A Journey-Focused Vision

The vision of Prospective Buyer Engagement is to take prospects from prospect to client to advocate. To do this, the coordinated, comprehensive engagement model feeds value throughout the buyer journey. When B2B sellers follow this model, buyers receive relevant information and support, regardless of journey stage.

To unlock these outcomes, align marketing and sales behind a shared plan of getting buyers to engage more readily through quality, value-driven experiences. You can dive deeper into this data-driven story when you attend the Anteriad Summit on January 21. Here’s the agenda.