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October 28, 2011

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The New B2B: Belief System-2-Belief System

Traditionally within B2B transactions, buyers were dependent on sellers to provide expert advice; ultimately leading towards courtship, evaluation, and acquisition.

 Of course they could pay consultants or purchase analyst research but ultimately all roads lead back to the seller; even in the Google era search results returned vendor controlled content.

 Conversely social networks promote a free and open exchange of information which continues to drastically impact traditional buyer-seller-relations and associated engagement models.

In other words, the rise of social selling and customer service will not jettison marketing, sales or support organizations however it will create significant challenges. This will happen in the early stages of development where competitive separation, trust and credibility would have been previously established directly through these channels, and in many cases, face-to-face.

 Add to this the record breaking rate at which mobile apps have invaded our work and home lives, or as Rick Segal, Worldwide President at Gyro HSR puts it, making both “a state of mind”; and you begin to get a sense of the broader shifting landscape.

 “(Technology) has changed the way we talk to business decision-makers. Being at work is no longer a place; it is a state of mind, a kind of continuing oscillation that people are making between their work life and their personal life.” – Rick Segal

 Managing home-work boundaries is a continuous effort for many of us, a separation which obviously needs to be maintained; at least until “Generation Z” arrives.

 I’m “GenX”, part of a generation born between the 1960’s and late 1970’s.  Unless your Dad worked at NASA you did not have a computer in your upbringing.

 My nephew on-the-other-hand is “GenY”. 

 He and his friends grew up watching extraordinary innovation change the world.  In fact, as part of a 2007 Strauss and Howe study of Y-students, it was revealed that 97% owned a computer and 94% owned a cell phone. They also found that 76% used instant messaging, of which 92% reported multitasking at the same time.

 And then there are my kids, “Gen Z”; born in the early to mid-1990’s through the early turn-of-the-millennium.

 Generation Z is highly connected, with lifelong use of communications and media technologies, earning them the nickname “Digital Natives.”  They carry smart phones in grade school, text more than talk, and prefer technology for communications; communications which are abbreviated, highly transactional, and out in the open. 

 Gen Z’s don’t think of innovation as their predecessors do; a utility to make life more efficient. Instead, and which makes them extraordinary, they see it as basic need, “Maslow-like”; food, clothing, shelter, and technology. 

 Gen Z’s  currently fall into the age range of 11-21; placing the eldest within the workforce as both buyer and seller later this year, where they will not gasp at the thought of conducting critical b2b discussions socially, nor will they wonder if work-life-balance is out of whack.

 Instead, paired with their Gen Y management team, they will move at speed of Z, ignoring those who cannot keep pace; driving permanent change to B2B and the most fundamental of systems – the belief system.

Maybe this is where we are heading, or maybe not. Regardless, today’s customers have options, they are no longer relegated to call or email a business to gather information.  

Instead they engross themselves in real-time conversations, through various business and social networks seeking answers through peer driven conversation, engaging our business’ as part of their process – at any time, from any device – never hesitating to outwit, or simply ignore our master plan for them.

I suppose this evolution has put us all in a position to make some tough decisions, less traditional, even outside of our own personal comfort zones, possibly way outside. 

Yes, in order for our business to remain accessible, available, knowledgeable, hip, and most importantly competitive; I believe that this is exactly what is going to have to happen.

Or I suppose, we could just put it off for a couple of years and let our kids deal with it.

 

-Tom Scontras, VP of Sales & Marketing, Glance Networks

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