Mark Kovac: Marketing and Selling to Digitally Empowered Business Customers

With the wealth of online information giving business customers unprecedented power, the traditional marketing and sales model has run its course. Mark Kovac, the global head of the Commercial Excellence Group within Bain's Customer Strategy & Marketing practice, recommends that B2B sellers upgrade their digital presence and redefine the role of the sales representative.

Read the transcript below.

MARK KOVAC: Chief commercial officers and heads of sales of large B2B companies face two fundamental challenges these days. The first is B2B buyers. Their customers have a wealth of information that they gather online and are much more educated before they engage with the sales rep. The second is, product portfolios are constantly expanding, either through organic product line expansion, or through mergers and acquisitions. We recently surveyed these executives and only 12% of them said they were prepared for these fundamental changes.

To respond to these changes, we believe B2B companies need to do at least two things. The first is their digital footprint. We often say a company's digital footprint will screen it in or out of consideration. For B2B companies, this means getting authentic, thought leadership content in the hands, or in front, of B2B buyers. This can happen through white papers, or webinars, or highly engaged channels like social media.

Second, B2B companies need to provide their sales reps a customer "smart view." The changes in buyer behavior fundamentally question the value-add of the sales rep. Where once reps provided feature and functionality information to customers, customers already have that information in hand when engaging with a rep. So a rep must find new ways to add value and companies must arm those reps with data and information, based upon a customer smart view. A customer smart view contains all the information, data history, sources of behavior around a company's needs, that allows a rep to truly add value.

Finally, B2B companies must tailor their selling process to the buying process of their customers. For large customers, this might mean having a dedicated account rep with [a] product specialist to engage with the customer at the appropriate time. For new prospects, it might mean adjusting the rep's compensation to account for long sales cycles. Companies that move quickly in these areas will be able to capitalize on the changes in buying behavior, rather than being caught behind.

Read the Bain Brief: Bought Not Sold—Marketing and Selling to Digitally Empowered Business Customers