Rapidly evolving environmental factors due to the coronavirus pandemic are driving profound changes in the behaviours of business-to-business (B2B) buyers.

This poses a risk to all B2B organisations unless they adapt quickly and pivot their strategy to be more customer-centric and digital.

During the researcher’s virtual flagship Summit 2020, Forrester analysts revealed that the quality of virtual interactions with B2B buyers is driving buying decisions, with 42% of purchases being made digitally.

“These are unprecedented times, and powerful dynamics are converging within the B2B landscape,” says Sharyn Leaver, senior vice-president of research at Forrester. “Environmental factors including social distancing measures, increased demand for self-service and e-commerce, and the rise of Millennials in the buying process are threatening many popular business strategies and practices of B2B organisations.

“It’s not enough to understand these dynamics: leaders need to assess the new expectations of their buyers, orient their revenue engine to those expectations, and prioritise actions with the biggest impact to have any chance of thriving in these challenging times.”

Today’s B2B buyers are now demanding a different kind of experience and relationship with providers — they want more control and self-service, they want to be treated as equal partners, and they expect experiences that are increasingly open, connected, intuitive, and immediate.

These emerging expectations fall into four categories:

* Open. Buyers expect more visibility and easier access to relevant information, such as pricing, business practices, policies, and market feedback. Openness reduces buyers’ frustration and establishes trust and affinity.

* Connected. More than 60% of buyers now say providers that are knowledgeable and address their needs have the most positive impact on their buying decisions. Buyers will gravitate toward providers that work hard to understand their goals throughout the buying journey. Connectedness creates lasting partnerships through empathy and commitment.

* Intuitive. Buyers expect that knowledge of their personal journey is persistent in every experience pre- and post-sale. Being intuitive means providers must invest in the people, processes, and technology to gain greater insight into each buyer and create inviting and personalised experiences. Intuitiveness demonstrates deep customer knowledge and understanding.

* Immediate. Buyers, based on their experiences as individual consumers, will expect a streamlined buying process across their preferred channels and touchpoints. B2B companies must understand that immediacy requires being present and proactive at welcomed moments; it also delivers realtime and frictionless experiences that streamline buying.

These emerging buyer expectations present a unique opportunity to both reinvent go-to-market (GTM) motions in a buyer-friendly way and drive greater revenue efficiency using digital channels.

Forrester recommends three actions that organizations can take to better understand buyer expectations, build credibility with them, and reduce operating costs:

* Ensure that GTM functions pursue the same prioritised target market.

* Utilise more digital self-service touches throughout the buyer’s journey.

* Invest strategically in sales resources.

Forrester has also launched the SiriusDecisions Buyer Empowerment Model, which guides B2B organisations on how to navigate evolving buyer expectations and adjust their approach to marketing, sales, and product management accordingly.