In Episode 86, we begin our series on Advertising and Sales. To kick it off, I have asked sales expert and long-time friend Miles Austin to join us as we explore this interesting trend. In the past, businesses who sold to other businesses had focused strategies that were unique to B2B. But now, in keeping up with the times, they are finding that Business-to-Consumer B2C sales strategies are much more effective.
Listen to today’s show as we learn how this happened, why it happened and what we are seeing both now and possibly, in the future.
We chatted about:
- What sets B2B and B2C selling strategies apart.
- Why we saw this shift in strategies.
- How B2C strategies can benefit a B2B business.
- When corporate and consumer preferences collide.
- Where Miles sees us going in the future with this trend.
Thanks to Our Podcast Sponsor: Bluehost
Bob Dunn: Hey, everyone. Welcome back to the WP Commerce Show. Bob Dunn here, also known as BobWP on the web. Today we are starting our next four-part series on sales and advertising. That’s a broad area, so we’ll have other episodes and series down the roads. To kick this one off, we’re switching over to selling your services.
Yes, selling your services is also part of e-commerce and millions of people are doing this online. Being your own salesperson can be tough. I’ve learned that in my many years, for sure. If you’ve been doing it for a while you may have stuck to the concept of B2B. You know, business-to- business sales tactics. But guess what? Even though you may think that you’re going to stick to your guns, it might be time to start looking at B2C or, as we call it, business-to-consumer strategies, to sell to other businesses.
To help us explore this exciting trend, I’ve invited my long-time friend Miles Austin, sales and marketing speaker and trainer. Hey, Miles. Welcome to the show.
Miles Austin: Hello, Mr. Bob. Glad to be here. Looking forward to this conversation. I think it’ll be of interest. There’s a lot of exciting things happening.
Bob: As I thought about this more and more, I think I understand some of the concepts but I’m anxious to dive into it and hear your thoughts. Like me, you’ve been in business for a long time. But before we get into this, do can you just tell our listeners a little bit more about yourself?
Meet Miles Auston, Sales Consultant and Founder of Fill the Funnel
Miles: Sure. I’ll give you the condensed version, my friend. I was in corporate technology sales for almost 30 years: selling computers, hardware, software, services around that to large corporate customers. Boeing, Starbucks, Microsoft, those were my customers; and I worked for really big companies like Dell and HP and Toshiba where I would sell their products to these customers. They could be local customers, small businesses, 100 employees or more, all the way up through the Microsofts and the Boeings of the world, with their massive structure and decision- making, etc.
About 10 years ago I finally sold my last technology company. I left Dell about 13, 14 years ago. Moved back to Seattle and started my own company called FilltheFunnel.com. I started writing and sharing about sales tools and the technology and the impact it was having for all of us in the sales profession, whether it’s selling to corporate or selling to individuals. It didn’t really matter because selling is selling. There always will be some kind of human interaction.
Bob: Yeah. I know that you’re really into the tools. People sometimes get a little too dependent on the tools and they say, “Hey, I just have to use all my tools. I don’t have to be a salesperson. I don’t even have to interact with people anymore.” I think that’s a big mistake for a lot of them.
Miles: Oh, it is. I have an expression I use all the time in my speaking. I talk about what you need to do is ‘tech’ the tedious, the things that are repetitive, that are redundant. That’s where tech is a really good application, when the same form has to be filled out over and over, when you can automate a series of steps. Those things are great for technology, but when it comes down to human-to-human interaction, that’s still where the magic is and that’s where the biggest success comes from, whatever and to whom you’re selling.
What are the main differences between B2B and B2C selling?
Bob: Let’s start with the basics. There’s always been aspects of make B2B and B2C stand out from each other. Can you just share some of those main differences?
Miles: Absolutely, Bob. I think the key here is that we have to understand who it is we’re selling to. Not the individual as much as the decision- making structure. When I’m selling to a company, let’s just use Boeing as an example, when I’m selling a product or a service to Boeing their decision- making is going to be slow, tedious, multi-level, multiple signoffs, etc., just to be able to present what we’d like to offer to them.
Contrast that to an individual or small company, where I’m making the same presentation, I’ll still have to present my value to them as a customer, but I’m talking to the decision maker. In most cases he or she can decide at that point, “Do I want it? Do I like it? Do I need it?” or not.
Back to the Boeing example or to corporate America they’re going to have to go to multiple people, they’re going to have to have a committee, there’s going to be multiple proposals, and when it all comes out right down to it, in a word, the main difference in B2B versus B2C, the main keyword here, is speed.
Bob: Okay. That’s really what it boils down to and that’s probably what you’ll be getting into as far as the benefits of starting to use that B2C versus B2B or integrating the two together?
Miles: Absolutely. I think the truth is that when we’re trying to make a decision as a consumer, as an individual, it’s, I know what I know, I know what I need, I know what I want. When you’re making buying decisions as a company, as a corporation, you now have a whole lot of other people that you’re thinking about in the back of your mind. Will the president like it? Will my boss like it? What if I make a bad decision? Will it taint me? Will it taint my reputation? Will it hurt my career if I make a wrong decision?
What all that says is the big company needs to slow it down, double check everything, and instead of being willing to move forward quickly to implement and get a solution that they really need, you’ll end up slowing this thing down. And you and I both know the speed of the internet. By the time a big company makes a decision, that product or service might already be outdated and no longer a good fit. It could be six months or a year in some cases, or even longer, to sell when you’re selling to an enterprise- type organization.
When did that shift happen, where the strategies are no longer just B2B?
Bob: Yeah. Now I want you to be able to get into some of these strategies and some examples. This may be jumping ahead a little bit but from your experience, looking at this as far as this new trend that’s been going on, what do you think caused this shift, this, “Okay, it’s no more just B2B”? Is there something that you think specifically made this happen?
Miles: Absolutely. It might be the easiest question I’ll ever be asked. The answer to that what caused this shift? You’re going to smile as soon as I say it. The internet. It is that simple in my experience.
Think about this. Before the internet, how would I know what my peers, my friends, others in the market, think about something? What has their experience been? There are studies that show that between 55% and 75% of a buyer’s journey, if you will, exploring and learning about what they want to buy is done before a salesperson is ever engaged.
Now there’s other areas that have contradicted that but I think it’s an example that says, “Look, it’s going to happen. People are using the internet.” When you wanted to go buy a car as a consumer in the past sometimes what you would do is talk to your friends. “Hey, do you like that new car?” Today with the internet, before I ever step foot on a dealer’s lot, I know their cost, I know their pricing, I know their promotions, and I know what 200 of my closest friends on Facebook think about the new Ford Fusion or whatever it is that I’m thinking about.
Really, in a nutshell, it is the internet. Of course, we can tie into that blogs, websites, and of course social media has had a huge impact but that all at the core says the internet shifted the opportunity and moved the power and the capability from a sales role to a buyer role. Now they are clearly in a strong position. Way more so than they’ve ever been in the past.
Bob: That makes a lot of sense. I think of back before I really got into the internet, especially around the time before social and everything, and how I approached it as a designer and offering marketing services, that whole B2B thing, how I approached customers or perspective customers, how I sold all that stuff, and how that did change dramatically as things went more and more online. Then when I was fully immersed online it’s like, bam, it was a whole different world. My approach obviously had to change in order to make it work. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. It was simple. I did smile, even though nobody saw me smile. I did smile.
Miles: We heard you smile, Bob. We heard you smile.
What B2C sales strategies can a B2B business benefit from?
Bob: Now I’m going to sit back and let you run with this a bit here. I want you to really share some thoughts on some of the strategies B2B can benefit from in how B2C businesses actually do their sales. Throw in any examples you might have as well.
Miles: Sure. Probably one, and I’ll give you the real basic structure here, is that I’m convinced … I see this in my own business dealing day to day, and I primarily do sell to businesses. Not to individuals. There’s a mix in there, but primarily it is to businesses. Here’s where I see them moving towards more rapidly and starting to implement more rapidly than ever before.
Remember, I believe so strongly that speed in business, especially in a business environment, speed is money. I think most people will accept that today. In the past, as I said, you might take literally months to get proposals and presentations from a whole bunch of people. The beauty today because of the internet and because of the way we’re able to deliver value and communicate our messages and our value to our customers is that there’s four key steps that we always emphasize.
The four steps are trial, test, implement, and measure. If we think about that now more than ever you can go out and in many, many cases as a company, not just as an individual, can go out and try in a trial, no cost, no obligation scenario, and try in a trial environment, two weeks, three weeks, a month, whatever it might be, a solution that you think might be an answer to what your need is.
You can trial it. You can test it in your environment. Does it work? Does it do what it says it will do? Will it fill the need that I have? If so, your next step usually can be a click or two. There doesn’t even need to be, if you’re online presence is setup properly, the funnel if you will, is the ability for that customer on their own, in the middle of the night, no matter what time zone they’re on or what country they’re in, in theory, can be able to click a button and convert that trial and the testing they’ve just done into a full blown paying customer.
The key then is to make sure that you’re giving guidance and the tools to that customer to measure. We always tell people that the sooner you begin the measurement, the sooner you’re going to get real results. They’ve gone through the trial, they’ve tested it, they like it, they’ve clicked the button that they’ve implemented it, and said, “I want to purchase this as a solution.” If you’re measuring it all along you can see instantly that the success that I hoped for is being achieved at 50%, 150%, it doesn’t matter, because with that capability you can now measure against the goals that you already had.
If you trial, test, implement, and measure and then at the end of that measure cycle it could be a day, a week, it could be five years, you’re going to repeat that cycle again. If you go through each of those in every need that you have as a business that will continue to give solid, positive results. If you think about it, think about on a personal level … I’ll use one that probably most of us have been through.
I was in the corporate world coming up on about 10 years ago now when the iPhone was introduced to the world. In a corporate structure all of us in that corporate world had a different device. Do you remember what it was?
Bob: Is it the Blackberry?
When corporate and consumer preferences collide
Miles: It was the Blackberry. Exactly right. In a corporate world that is what was accepted, that was tested, proven, implemented. There was some comfort with that because that’s what everyone was using. As the iPhone rolled out it was not able to work originally with your email client from Microsoft. All of a sudden, Outlook, the mail program that virtually every large company was using, wouldn’t work with an iPhone.
That kept it out of the corporate world. That whole trial, test, implement, and measure. Over a short period of time people were saying, “I don’t care what you buy for me, company. I love this iPhone. I’m going to use it.” In many cases, me included, I ended up with a phone in each pocket for a while. I had my Blackberry and I had my iPhone. I loved my iPhone.
Fairly quickly, through the testing and implementation that Apple was doing, and there were third-party solutions as well, I was able to integrate Outlook. Then guess what happened? The corporate structure fired up again and said, “Hold on a minute. We are a command-and-control structure. You’re not allowed to use an iPhone in our environment.” Why? Because our IT department hasn’t tested it, and we’re not able to use it because we think there could be problems with this.
Guess what happened? The consumers said, “That’s cool. I’m going to keep using it.” They kept using it and using it and using it to the point that it drove a movement in the corporate structure to invent that whole concept called bring-your-own tools, or bring-your-own tech, BYOT. Finally, after several years of this, companies realized, “We’re fighting a battle that we are never going to win.” The consumer has spoken. The consumer, the individuals, have spoken.
Why not let them pick whatever phone they want to use? It’s our job to support that in the IT department to make sure that, yes, we have structures in place, we have rules in place, but you pick whatever phone you need. I remember those days. I was president of a company at the time and I remember the impact on me. All of a sudden I started smiling. I’m going, “Wow. I’m not providing Blackberries for my employees anymore.” That was the standard, right?
Now if you want to go buy an iPhone and use that? Go right ahead. What did that do? It cut my costs as a business owner. That’s one example I think that shows the power of consumer preferences. We know what we like as individuals. Too many times a company will, first of all, say no to whatever that change might be. Change is happening fastest and first in the consumer marketplace.
Think about Facebook. That wasn’t a business platform, was it? That was consumer-based. That was for all of us individuals and family and friends and obviously, originally, just students. As time went on, as individuals, we started to say, “Wow. If I could connect with Bob on Facebook that would be really helpful.” Yes, there’s LinkedIn and others but let’s fast forward to today. The advantages, in my opinion, of LinkedIn versus Facebook for business use, are dramatically moving rapidly in Facebook’s favor.
The ability to connect, to share files, to share information, to have live chats, to have live video, to have meetings with multiple people live with video and/or audio, file sharing and just Facebook Messenger alone, just blows away the potential opportunities that LinkedIn is offering. That corporate structure of LinkedIn is getting eaten up because the consumer is saying, “The power, the capabilities, and the use is much stronger for me as a person in a business climate if I’m using Facebook.”
All of a sudden the growth of Facebook pages and Facebook Messenger and Facebook Live and all of those activities—Facebook groups. It’s really funny but I do a lot of work with companies and individuals that want to train and sell training and education courses online. Do you know that now you can create a group and set that group as a school or class and actually be able to sell your course and deliver your modules of training in a private Facebook group if you set it to a school or a class?
Bob: Oh, interesting.
Miles: It’s just one step after another. What I tell businesses, especially businesses in an early or startup mode that are in that business corporate space, and that’s maybe where their customers are, is pay attention to your employees, pay attention to the consumer marketplace, pay attention to what they’re doing.
Bob, you’re in a prime example of this with the strength and the depth that you spend on WordPress and on a website and on WooCommerce. If you look at all of that, it’s all designed to say, “Let’s enable it so that any customer at any time …” You don’t differentiate and say, “Here’s a button if you’re a B2B and here’s a button if you’re a B2C customer” right? I don’t think you do. Do you?
Miles: Right? You say, “Here’s a solution. Here’s something that’s working.” If you’re an executive, you’re in a buying role at HP, let’s say as an example, if I go to you as an employee of HP and I say, “I want to write, I want to blog, I want to share posts on Facebook.” Not too many years ago they would have said, “What are you smoking? You can’t do that. We have a corporate PR department for that.” That is no longer the case. Those companies that held out and wouldn’t allow, if you will, wouldn’t give permission in some cases …
Here’s a great example. The state of Washington, in the employment division, the people who were there to help residents in Washington gain employment after they lost a job, many people would say one of the primary places they should go spend time on is LinkedIn.
Here’s what’s amazing to me. This was only two to three years ago. The employment department at the state of Washington not only was not allowed to talk about LinkedIn and suggest it as something that job seekers should use. They literally were blocked. They could not access it from a state computer down in our state capitol. That’s changed now because consumers said, “What? Are you kidding me? As an individual I need access.”
Again, back to the answer of the internet. We now have access to all this information. I no longer really need a salesperson to present to me and give me the source of all of my product or services information.
Bob: Basically with all this changing in technology everybody has got to pay attention. The consumer, the power is there and it’s like you hear people say, “Oh, this company is left behind. Why don’t they come to the 21st Century?” Really, it’s a matter of taking note of what consumers want, what they need, listening to them and no longer putting up those barriers.
Miles: 100% agree. In fact, very honestly, that’s kind of the core of what the whole Fill the Funnel website and what my business has been. I always tell people whatever business you’re in, whatever industry, whatever product niche you’re in, whatever level of experience you’re in, as someone who needs to make product and service buys, you have to find one or a few at least, a handful, of trusted sources of innovation, of information, and of guidance that apply to you, to your business, to your customers, and then, when you find those, stick to them.
You don’t have to read everything on the internet. What you have to do is find a few trusted sources that you know, they understand you, they understand your market and your needs, and what you do. Then you need to deliver on a day-to-day basis good information to that customer. Those are the people then that are following you as a trusted source.
If you have three, four, or five people that you’re following their websites, their blogs, their social media posts, whatever it might be, and usually some combination of all those, and you’re following all of that, you’ve learned to trust them. Now when I have a need for X product or X service, I go to that person or people. You have that small trusted group online. I’ll either search for it, I’ll go and see what’s in their feeds, and when I find something that they say, “This is what I’m using right now. I’m working with it. We’re finding good success with X” and then what do you do? You go back to the trial, test, implement, and measure process.
I think too many times people are overwhelmed. There is so much information out there. Technology is so vast and far-reaching that you end up with what I call a tech headache. You sit there, maybe as listeners we’ve all had this feeling, I know I have. You’re sitting at your desk, your head is in your hands, you have a headache. You’re looking at the screen and all you know is, “I haven’t made any progress for four hours.” That headache is always there.
I always tell people, “What are you good at?” If you’re a dentist or a graphics artist, go be you. Don’t get tech overwhelm. That’s my job. Give me the headache. That’s just what I do. Each of us, as a seller of a product or a service, has to go help them understand. If you develop that trusted relationship early on through quality, through honest information, sharing, writing, speaking, et cetera, now they now, “All I know is Miles is going to give me the information I need. I trust what he’s looking at. He understands what I do and how I work. If he says go with the purple flower with green leaves, I’m going that way.”
That doesn’t mean go blindly. Go back and test that pure flower. See if it’s working well. Then, if it is, implement it and measure the results. Then you’ll always be in a position of being able to move quickly. Remember speed is money. Otherwise, you’re in that state of flux, thinking, wondering, researching, hesitating. In the meantime, one or two or more of your competitors have already done that. They’ve blown past you. They’re already onto the next thing because there will always be a next challenge down the road.
Any predictions as far as trends in the B2B to B2C movement?
Bob: Exactly. Now for the last question. I know you’re a crystal-ball kind of guy and you follow the trends closely and you foresee a lot of time what’s coming around the corner. With the topic we’ve been talking about, what prediction do you have as far as this shift from B2B to B2C? Anything specifically?
Miles: There’s three keywords that I’ve been using since the first of the year at least. Those key technologies and words and movement are video, video, and video. Video, Bob, I’m telling you has made such dramatic progress. There is no better way to connect to another human being than face to face in real life. Would you agree with that?
Bob: Right. Exactly.
Miles: You can read them, you can feel, you can really communicate at a deep level and quickly come to an understanding if there’s value there or not and if they’re someone you can like and trust, et cetera.
Video is going to be the prominent, almost exclusive on some platforms, way to communicate to your customers, whether it’s things like Facebook live. It can be a live conversation with someone. There are technologies today that when you click on a link on a site and it brings up a live video window that I can talk to you, Bob. You can say, “Hey, Miles. I’m looking for something that does this.” I can say, “Let’s talk about it. Well, here’s what I think. There’s probably two ways to go. Let me show you these two really quickly.”
With the click of a button I’m now showing you one or two or however many, but show you an option or two to solve the problem or the need or answer a question that you might have. Video is going to be very effective. The art of relationship has never gone away and technology is not going to change it in the world of selling our products and services. Relationship will always matter.
Some people are really good writers. Some people are really good speakers. Everyone, when you put that face on a video and now I’m seeing visual, I’m hearing audio, and I’m watching a face, face to face, the power of that is unmatchable in any other way.
I would say video, video, video. Right behind that is messaging. Not email. Don’t get me wrong. Email is still the number one source for me and for most people on how to communicate to a group of people who have said, “I have an interest and I want to learn more about you, your products, and services.”
Messaging, like Facebook Messenger, like text messaging. Another example. That was a consumer-based solution that has now moved dramatically into a business-to-business core requirement to communicate quickly and effectively on the products, the services, and the solutions that we offer to those customers.
Bob: Yeah, I agree, the video, and also what you just spoke about because I can’t tell you how many times people contact me through Facebook Messaging. I find myself using it more and more. It’s easy. You happen to be in there. It’s like, “Okay, I’m going to shoot you a question,” or whatever. Sometimes maybe it leads to email but it’s a great way for that instant connection. You know me, I hate the phone anyway. Anything but the phone, please. Messaging, yes. Do it. Send me a text.
Miles: Absolutely. In fact, if you go and look at Fill the Funnel there’s a little icon that pops up on the right side in my widget area, and you click on that. It opens up a Facebook Messenger window to send me a message. Right there. Most people get 100 to 200 emails a day if they’re in business of any kind. On average, in that range.
I go through them a couple times a day. I’ll scan through them. I’ll go delete, delete, delete. I don’t even open them. I can usually tell by who they’re from and what the title. I miss a few that are really important but generally you scrub out your email that way. I’ll guarantee you when I log in and I hit my on button and I come on on my phone or on my laptop or my desktop, wherever I might be anywhere in the world, I open it up and there’s a little blue indicator that says I’ve got messages on Facebook.
I’ll tell you right now. I’m opening them and I’m looking at them. That is nowhere near going to happen any time in email. It’s going to become less and less relevant in the instant fast quick communication. That’s why I still use a phone, Bob. Many times I just want to call and say, “Hey, Bob. What about this?” I’ll get a quick answer and, boom, I’m done. I can do the same thing with Facebook Messenger and many of the other apps. You have to find what works in your industry and in your niche so you can communicate with your customers most effectively.
Again, I’ve just found that Facebook Messenger is another example of power that came from a consumer B2C base and is now literally driving communication at the corporate world.
Bob: Well, this has been really cool. I know that myself having been in B2B for years and years, I find this whole topic fascinating. What you said is something that our listeners are going to also find fascinating because it’s technology, it’s consumers, it’s all the power behind those.
How can we connect with Miles on the web?
Okay, if anybody wants to connect with you on the web, you’ve mentioned your website and you can reshare that with us as well. What are the other best places to connect with you?
Miles: I’ll tell you, my base, my home base, and everything I do is always started on FilltheFunnel.com. Anything you ever want to know about what I’m up to, where I’m going, what I’m doing, what we’re offering, any tools, reviews, commentary, guidance, rants, whatever it might be, it’s always going to be on Fill the Funnel.
If you want to connect on LinkedIn and Twitter or Facebook Messenger or YouTube channel and all of that, just go to FilltheFunnel.com, click on the contact button up top in the navigation bar, and you’ll see every icon in the world. I made it easy for you. Rather than a form to fill out or anything else, when you go to FilltheFunnel.com/contact, or just click contact in the nav bar, you’re going to see every way you can possibly connect with me, based on your preference and what device you’re on.
If you’re traveling and you happen to be in Europe and you want to know, Miles, what’s the application for that interpreter app on an iPhone, send me a message. Click the button. I’ll get it. I’ll pick it up pretty quickly. I’ll see it, I’ll pull it up, I’ll say, “Here it is. Here’s the link.” You’re done. You get an answer. You’re taken care of.
Bob: Perfect. All right. Well, great kickoff to this series. Very excellent information. I’m hoping everybody will tune in to the other three shows as well and of course check out our regularly weekly show as well, every Wednesday. Miles, this has been fantastic. I want to thank you for taking the time to be on our show today.
Miles: It was a treat. Appreciate the opportunity and always love talking about this.