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How To Make B2B Buying as Smooth as Shopping Online

The challenge with revenue now is to look at the shape of a line and wonder: can we shape this around the buyer instead?

two women computer revenue lifecycle b2b journeys
[Stocksy United/file]

Forget about where you work for a minute, and think back on your last two decades as a consumer. The most important innovations were all about making it easier for you to choose — and buy.

For example, in 1999, Amazon patented one-click ordering to make it easy to purchase (for me, maybe too easy). The next year, Netflix launched DVD recommendations, making it easy to binge (again, maybe too easy). Personalization became so powerful for Netflix, it famously offered a million-dollar prize to anyone who could improve the algorithm’s accuracy by 10%.

This was the era of customer obsession, and it trained us to expect fabulous buying experiences: seamless, personalized, and on demand. Now these buying expectations have spilled over from B2C to B2B.

Eighty-five percent of business buyers now say that the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services. That’s 6% more than consumers who say the same.

Businesses, like people, are feeling the pain this year. Some are shrinking, and some are just surviving. But some businesses are actually gaining steam, and they’re doing it by applying lessons from the B2C playbook. They’re becoming easy to do business with. They’re focusing on experience. And they’re reimagining sales with a buyer-first mentality.

I like to put it this way: buying is the new selling

Buying feels great in B2C. To make that happen in B2B, you’ll need to change your mindset:

  • Before: sell on your preferred channel. After: let customers choose their preferred channel.
  • Before: customers are won and done. After: customers are won — and won again.
  • Before: focus on customer acquisition. After: focus on customer value delivery.

Our big bet on revenue management

What’s revenue management? It’s going beyond the initial selling motion to think about the entire revenue lifecycle. And it’s rooting out fragmentation — because wherever there’s fragmentation, it will show up as a bad buying experience.

Maybe selling used to stop when the deal closed, but that’s not true anymore. In recurring revenue models, billing touchpoints — payment schedules, invoices, contract amendments — are also customer touchpoints.

Sales and finance need to manage the same customer experience loop, together. This is a big shift, and we believe in it so much that we built a product to support it  — Revenue Cloud.

Let’s take a look at how connecting touchpoints across the revenue lifecycle can make B2B journeys better for the buyer.

4 strategies to make buying the new selling for your business

B2B transactions are complicated. Closing a deal always involves many moving parts, touchpoints, and delays between when the contract is executed and the payment is made. Not many folks buy a six-figure license with one click.

Still, the B2C playbook can inspire us to bring teams together around new buyer-first principles. How can you open up new paths for customers to buy? How can you eliminate buying friction? And how can you learn from customer behavior and really act on it?

Based on my conversations with hundreds of B2B leaders over the years, I recommend these four strategies to make the shift.

We can see things with one single pane of glass, instead of having to jump between systems.

Philip Luedtke, vice president of IT and Business Applications, Podium

1. Get personal

Customers want you to know all about them, so they can get trusted advice, personalized recommendations, and tailored experiences. To make this happen, you need a single view of the customer — what we call the Customer 360 — with updated data in one place, for everyone to access.

Podium, the messaging platform for local businesses, made personalization a reality. Their vision: make it easier for customers to buy, by making it easier for their reps to sell. Using Revenue Cloud, teams across sales and support can now see exactly what’s going on for a given customer — what they own, how they’re using the product, and how they’re being sold to — so reps can engage based on context. Philip Luedtke, vice president of IT and Business Applications at Podium adds, “We can see things with one single pane of glass, instead of having to jump between systems.”

2. Let customers choose their own adventure

Revenue revolutionaries are letting buyers navigate the journey for themselves. For example, a customer configures a product online, clicks a button to request a quote, and speaks with sales. In the conversation, sales can see what the customer has been looking at and take revenue actions, like applying discounts or creating bundles.

This is the future — omni-channel and self-service — and it’s only possible when one single transaction model is connecting your quoting with your billing. Revenue Cloud supports it.

For example, one of our customers built a new subscription product, and brought in Revenue Cloud to go self-service for add-ons. Now, their customers have the autonomy to add licenses online, all proving the power of helping over just selling.

3. Always be closing be helpful

It’s no longer about closing deals at all costs. Being customer-first is about being helpful, transparent, and trustworthy at every stage of the purchasing process. An empathetic sales approach is even more important during the pandemic. The most successful sales reps view interactions as opportunities to build a relationship.

And don’t just make your people helpful. Make your ecosystem helpful. Make pricing more transparent, give customer-facing teams better data, and make it a breeze to renew. This is possible, when you take the world of quote-to-cash — from configure price quote, to order management, to billing — and put it on one platform.

4. Change how you sell by changing your metrics

Revenue models with subscriptions and usage need recurring relationships. Net retention — not acquisition — becomes the north star, because you’re up against rising customer acquisition costs as sales becomes more complex.

Renewals, upgrades, and upsells are what’s keeping you in the game now, and your metrics need to reflect that. It’s not just about measures like the number of closed deals anymore. It’s also about qualitative metrics, like customer satisfaction. When you start measuring performance by buyer-first metrics, you’re standing up for this shift and building success by prioritizing relationships.

Revenue: there’s a new function in town

Revenue used to be the result of a process: sell stuff, get revenue. But as new monetization models emerge, revenue is a process itself. It’s something you manage; it’s a function like sales or finance.

The challenge with revenue now is to look at the shape of a line — a line that goes from quote to cash — and wonder: can we shape this around the buyer instead?

Ready to learn more?

Visit our new Revenue Cloud product page. You can also visit our demo to dive in deeper.

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