Today’s buyer, Buyer 2.0, wants services from suppliers that are as low risk as possible with proven profitability. In most cases they’ve already worked out and documented in detail what they think they need beforehand. This doesn’t just mean that selling has become more expensive; it also means you have less influence over your client.

To start with, your marketing communication has to be appealing and flawless. Buyers want to inform themselves, so they need to be able to find background information about you quickly via all possible channels. They’ll probably look for your reference clients, comparative product information, confirmation of their decision-making criteria, or a better understanding of the impact your solution will have.

B2B companies are meeting this demand with content marketing and producing more and more resources to help them answer each of these specific questions. These answers are then distributed through traditional channels as well as online, e.g. videos, webinars, blogs and social media.

You also need a well-trained sales team. Kris Verheye from Belgacom, one of the speakers at our Corporate Performance event and boss to 200 account managers, said about these tasks: “A salesperson is a guide who together with the customer seeks to provide maximum value from the purchase, justification of the budget, and the most suitable project supervision. He also leads a virtual team that has to ensure the right resources are used at the right times internally.”

This salesperson profile is miles away from the archetypal salesperson and the people who make promises (“you’ll see, that’ll be fine, you don’t need to worry, because we are the biggest, we have the most experience”) still employed by many companies. The new salesperson profile also costs more. That’s fine, modern B2B salespeople know they have to be versatile and that comes at a price.

You can recuperate this greater marketing and sales cost by and increasing your price and your chances of success. Kris Verheye adds: “We win more tenders than before by being more selective and by increasing the entire organization’s view of existing deals. We document potential deals better and share this information with more people so that we have more ideas for adding value and differentiation to our approach.”

Another important aspect, finally, is that everyone who collaborates on preparing the deals also speaks the same language. This is only possible if all departments use a shared method which is also supported in the reporting. “It allows us to harmonize each individual’s internal activities with the customer’s willingness to buy. This has an important effect on our internal operation so we work much more efficiently on the right things,” add Kris Verheye.

This article is part of a series of articles created following our Corporate Performance event on sales effectiveness. You can more articles and videos here.


An average buyer has already completed 57% of their buying process when they first make personal contact with a salesperson. Buyers select potential suppliers partly based on information they find online (as Kris Verheye explained to Belgacom earlier in this blog). So you can count yourself lucky if you even make the Request for Proposal shortlist. And if the sales team is systematically discounting your handful of leads (86% of leads are not followed up by sales), you definitely have a problem.

So with buyers looking en masse for online information, it’s best to just keep pumping out online adverts, isn’t it? “But what was the click-through rate on your last banner campaign?” asked our client Tom De Baere from Newtec at this month’s Business Meets IT seminar on marketing automation. “If you’re very lucky you’ll hit 1%.”

So we need a more intelligent and focused approach in the battle for prospective clients. De Baere: “You start by giving them free content to make them aware how to tackle a certain problem. In a second phase you ask for contact details and content to explain how they can resolve this problem. Then you ask for specific information about the recipient and try to facilitate them throughout their buying cycle.”

But if you don’t listen to your buyers to get the information you’re looking for at the right time, your message will never get through, no matter how many times you try to explain it or how profitable it might be. De Baere: “How are your emails going to be opened? How are you going to reach potential clients who have so far remained inaccessible? Content marketing only makes sense if you link your content to the buyer’s position in the procurement process. Systems such as marketing automation software make this possible.”

The Return on Investment (ROI) follows on from the conversation about converting leads into sales and your average return per sale. This is how Newtec calculated that their marketing has to generate just 15 extra qualified leads for their investment on marketing automation to be earned back. “Change management, a clear vision and a good internal implementation process are at least as important here,” says Tom De Baere.

lead FU in perspective

Thanks to a more intelligent marketing process, monitored and measured by marketing automation, Tom De Baere can now present marketing qualified leads and prove how much he is contributing to the business. Good lead scoring ensures that the sales team almost only ever produce sale-ready leads.

Relevant content marketing led to an increase of over 16% in Newtec visitors in 2012, and there’s also an 11% increase this year (for comparison: in previous years the online number of visitors increased by 2%). A marketing process designed to meet the needs of a prospective client’s buying process and marketing automation management software resulted in 12% more contacts in 2013.

Marketing automation also needs relevant content to be able to function properly. Lots of companies get stuck here because they leave everything up to the marketing department. But it’s every employee’s responsibility to advise buyers. Everyone’s a salesperson, and everyone’s a marketer.


It used to be the case that your quote was too expensive, and prospective buyers would almost always question it. If you asked why they thought it was too expensive, they would tell you it cost much more than your competition. This meant that good negotiators who could resolve issues automatically became the best sellers. Our client, Kris Verheye from Belgacom, says those times are now a thing of the past. Buyers aren’t price-buyers anymore, so you won’t get very far with sellers whose only skill is negotiating.

This new buyer, Buyer 2.0, is a very well-informed buyer. Our own experience and figures confirmed in Harvard Business Review tell us that B2B decision-makers have already made 60% of their purchasing decisions before they even meet potential suppliers. This means that the sales conversation is no longer about price, but rather about value and risk management.

At our latest Corporate Performance event, Kris Verheye said: “Buyers don’t always know how to get good value out of the things they have informed themselves about. That’s why the new buyer has to help, and make the difference as a good guide.”

So the conversation cannot be about the cloud to begin with, for example, but about the client’s challenge. What do they want to solve? What do they want to improve? Where do they want to be more competitive? The new seller doesn’t have to find an answer for the whole business strategy straight away, but they do have to understand the client’s market conditions well enough to be able to take advantage.

Once the intended aim of the purchase is clear, we shift to the financial aspects. What is the available budget? What is the expected TCO? How will we calculate the return? The new seller starts acting as CFO and, in this role, concludes the second phase of the purchasing process.

Only then is it time to discuss the solution and, for example, look at that cloud. The average buyer won’t necessarily want to know what it is exactly; they might know about that already. But they will want to know how their supplier can ensure the implementation will be as invisible as possible, and how they can minimise any risk resulting from the change. So the new seller becomes the risk manager.

Perhaps there’s no need to discuss a solution at all, because the seller also has to be able to decide if it’s best to pull out of being the potential supplier, for example if the business case isn’t clear enough, or the budget won’t satisfy the ambitions, or the client is underestimating the project management. If this is the case, the seller also needs to be a risk manager with an eye for a maximum success rate for quotes, and a high return from pre-sales costs.

Together with the price-buyer, the price-seller is also disappearing. Ironically enough, this increases the sales costs, which you can read more about in this article.