BUNKERED: The Challenges of B2B Sales Today

Wasn't long ago, B2B marketers had rather simple options to reach and engage their most vital customers and prospects.  Options like in-person meetings, phone calls, e-newsletters, co-mingled with email updates were very common, and fortified with trade shows, trade advertising, customer events, a website, and other (easy) sales assets that cultivated business opportunities and growth, for both parties. 

However, these days, reaching many B2B decision-makers (client and agency) has become a Rubic's Cube of sorts, and many sales people today are terribly confused, if not even frustrated, i.e. how best to reach their customers and prospects? and do so efficiently and effectively for the best interests of their contacts?

With so many people 'not available' for in-person meetings, emails going unanswered, phone calls not returned, sales people are often left not knowing if their recipient even received their communication, much less what direction or timing is needed for activity to be planned accordingly.  It's a conundrum, and one that continues circling inside itself with congestion and, as noted, much frustration.

After interviewing more than 30+ B2B sales reps, spanning many business categories, the frustration was the same for all – how do we reach our contacts? and how do we deliver what they need in an efficient and timely manner?  Speaking with one agency media executive, he said he currently has 6,800+ active emails in his inbox, and more every day – he simply can't keep up.  And, though apologetic, he said he's doing the best he can, and – note – he's a very sharp individual who does respond to calls and emails as quickly as possible.

Given all that, and knowing the other 'side' of the equation as well, it's clear that the email 'not responded' just evokes more email asking for an update, and ensuing phone calls as well, all living inside a mounting number of emails unanswered, i.e. questions left unattended, and the frustrations on the side of the 'planner' are real and legitimate, and conversely, the sales person is left in a state of frustration (and confusion).

The common thread of all interviews yielded the same frustrations from ALL of these major corporate clients, and the difficulty today determining how best to reconcile the missing link, and yet, still left not knowing what's the best means current day to affect the greatest impact with the least intrusive mechanisms.  Client's goals are simple, to fortify their customer relationships in such a way to evoke a positive result, not even counting a 'sale' specifically ... simply knowing they delivered what's needed in a manner that informs and educates, for future opportunities when ripe.

Words that come to mind for this game-changing future (i.e. now) are ... inviting, available, easy access, no-hassle updates, and gentle persuasion based on hyper-targeted recipients who are – at least mostly – the exact and correct person/s for the products/services being offered.

Most every marketing and sales executive interviewed, based on this B2B survey, confirmed ... they're not sure what's working best (or even at all), and they're a bit mystified regarding how best to structure future delivery of company info in such a way that it yields the necessary information for the intended recipient/s, in a timely fashion that's both useful and effective.

There's no magic bullet yet, and all those interviewed said yes, please help us with better alternatives.  The constant inbound of 'all-things-digital' (they believed) was an overpowering drain of constant attention-getting mechanisms which, they all agreed, was/is part of the problem itself, and only further cultivates more spinning downward cycle of overwhelm.  At the very least, they'd embrace more options, better answers, to ENGAGE prospects without offensive intrusion, to collaborate without contempt, and ... most importantly ... to fortify both customer and prospect relationships with what's needed, by when, and without the stigma of overwhelm.

The term 'bunkering' was phrased for what's happening, and sales contacts are now 'bunkered' in such a way that it's no longer the traditional 'gatekeeper' who's their biggest challenge.  The new gatekeeper is an onslaught of options to avoid, ignore, and/or block, and the B2B marketer is left with only the option to be more intrusive, which sends the recipient even further into the abyss of overwhelm.

Feel free to comment below, as we'll continue to cultivate this dialogue with our clients and agency partners, looking to elaborate even more effective and engaging options, fortified to deliver the most effective non-intrusive and inviting messaging options for our marketing partners.

Many thanks for your interest, and/or your shared ideas and comments.

Paul Kostial

Audience Innovation ~ Magazine Cover Wrap Marketing Boutique, 102 Westlake Drive, Suite 104, Austin, TX 78746