Real-Time: The New Expectation for Buyers
We’ve been talking about how technologies of the last decade have changed the world we live in, changed our ability to access information, access new services, and tap into new apps that connect us in new ways. But if you boil it all down, the one thing it has changed permanently are our expectations as consumers that everything can be accessed in real-time.
When we want something, we expect it to happen now.
Just a few years ago it felt perfectly normal that you had to download a song in iTunes and sync it to your phone before you could leave for your road trip to Tahoe. It felt perfectly normal to walk out onto a street corner and wait for a cab to come by before you could get across town. It felt perfectly normal to have to wait for the the new Spiderman movie to be available on DVD at the local Best Buy. Today, everything is accessible in real-time
If we can now have access to consumer services in real-time, it feels logical that everything should happen the same way when we head into the office. Just a few years ago if we wanted to ask questions of colleagues in another department at work we’d have to send an email to a department alias and wait. If we wanted to submit an expense report we’d have to collect our receipts in folder and submit a report once a month. If we wanted to collaborate with our team members on a launch plan we’d have to send versions of Excel spreadsheets back and forth and wait for people to save it back to the shared drive. But the new breed of web apps breaks down all of these barriers and we can now work in real-time with colleagues around the globe
The radical transformation to real-time customer service happened faster than anyone would have thought. Let’s face it, customer service departments have never really been known within companies at the hotbed of innovation. But the technology shift in this area of business was like a tsunami that ripped through customer service organizations and turned them upside down. Just a few years ago the 1-800-PLS-HELP hotline was the only way to contact a customer service center. Fortunately with the advent of social media, mobile apps, and real-time video, any customer can now access a customer service center in real-time, through any channel they prefer.
In the face of this mega shift and buyer expectations changing in every major aspect of life, there is one area that is surprisingly unchanged—the experience for anyone buying a product from a B2B company. A few years ago if you were interested in buying a product or service from a B2B company you could go to their website and look around at all of the marketing materials, explore some product info, and get a sense on pricing options. However, if you wanted to talk to a rep to actually begin the purchasing discussion you were forced to fill out a “lead capture form” and wait for someone to get back to you. And today if you are a B2B buyer today the process if still the same. That's insane. In every other area of business if someone wants to buy from you don't put up hurdles, forms, and hoops for the buyer to jump through. For some reason the B2B sales and marketing organizations have been resistant to change. This frustrates B2B buyers and causes companies to lose out on valuable selling interactions. We see a brighter future for real-time sales & marketing that looks more like this:
The future of B2B sales and marketing will undoubtedly be more conversational, with buyers and sellers connecting in real time. It’s only a matter of time until the B2B buying process changes because what’s best for the buyer is what’s best for business.