3 key forces shaping buyer behavior
Human behavior change as a result of the pandemic has impacted nearly every aspect of our lives: our expectations, our priorities, our work, our employees and perhaps most dramatically, our customers.
Vistage research revealed in Q4 2021 that 78% of small and midsize business (SMB) leaders have seen a change in customers’ buying behavior as a direct result of the pandemic. In Q4 2022, another 47% further noted a change in buyer behavior due to skyrocketing inflation.
Now, as the dust clears and we settle into a new reality, it’s crucial to understand the evolving needs of the new customer. The following are the three driving forces shaping the new customer:
1. Behavior change
Like everyone else, customers have made a mass shift to digital after learning about its benefits during the shutdowns of COVID-19. While digital shopping was a growing trend pre-pandemic, it is now a staple of modern B2C and B2B sales alike.
When the pandemic hit, sales meetings were suddenly forced to become virtual. However, when face-to-face meetings became safe to conduct again, it quickly became evident that the world would never go back to how it was.
Virtual sales calls are often more convenient, cost-efficient and productive for both parties. Plus, with more individuals enjoying hybrid or remote work schedules and empowered by technology that allows them to do so, it is intuitive for sales and purchasing to follow suit.
Now, 70% of B2B decision makers actually prefer remote human interactions or digital service, per a McKinsey survey, which also states 70% of B2B decision-makers are willing to make fully self-serve or remote human interactions for a new product or service costing over $50,000 — behavior that was traditionally reserved for smaller cost purchases.
2. Market change
As we enter 2023, interest rates and inflation remain high while unemployment remains low. After the extreme volatility of the last few years, the 2023 economy will be a low, slow and relatively steady burn. Many buyers are pulling back and tightening their budgets, resulting in a slower sales cycle.
While a slowdown is certainly a challenge, it also brings forth a potential opportunity to gain market share from competitors who may have been forced to increase sales prices or reduce capabilities or services. This is a unique chance to win over individuals whose needs are no longer being met.
3. People change
Over 4 million people in the U.S. quit their jobs in October 2022 alone. The JOLTS report recorded a record-high 47 million annual quits in 2021. In the wake of the “Great Resignation” and the continued workforce revolution, the workforce has changed drastically.
Due to the expedited turnover, many key relationships between sellers and buyers have been broken. And new relationships must be forged in a digital environment, where brand loyalty is harder than ever to obtain.
To truly thrive in 2023 and beyond, CEOs must be willing to embrace the new customer.
For many, this will require re-evaluating selling processes: businesses must have a compelling, engaging and customer-focused digital presence, and sales and marketing teams must be equipped to create and foster meaningful relationships virtually.
From customer service chatbots to emails, calls and social media posts, today’s professional salesperson must be prepared to promptly meet buyers wherever they are with the information they need to close a deal.
Leaders should also ensure their processes are flexible: some buyers will want occasional in-person meetings, while others will prefer self-serve with minimal human intervention — being able to master hybrid sales can serve as a true differentiator.
While the economy may be entering a low, slow grind before our next growth cycle — and as long as employment remains high — the economy will keep inching forward. It’s important to remember everyone is on a level-playing field dealing with the same business conditions.
Leaders who strategically utilize this time of slower growth and decreased volatility to adjust to the new customer will be at the front of the wave when the economy picks back up. The resulting opportunity will be ripe for the picking.
This story was first published in Inc.
Evolution of the Buyer [Perspectives Magazine Spring 2022]