How Suppliers Must Adapt to The New Indirect Buying Cycle

In today’s B2B remote work environment, buyers have fewer opportunities for face-to-face sales calls and developing relationships than in the past. Instead, establishing and building relationships depends more and more on digital connectivity tools and media.

Coincidentally, tech-savvy millennials are making more B2B purchase decisions. And they are more inclined to rely on communications technology for their interactions with product and service providers. These time-strapped managers are more likely to visit supplier and peer review websites and more likely to attend supplier-hosted webinars before ever meeting with a sales rep.

    A Longer Buying Cycle

    Together, these phenomena have led to an indirect B2B buying cycle that takes longer, complicates the journey, and involves multiple stakeholders. The onus is on suppliers to monitor these new- generation buyer trends, adapt their marketing and sales strategies to fit user preferences, and continuously gauge performance as buyer preferences change.

    In this digital business world, a vendor’s digital channels – website, social media, search engine and banner advertising – are more than likely the impetus for a buyer to meet with a sales representative. So, aligning marketing and sales tactics to create a single, synergistic strategy is critical. More than at any time in the past, Sales & Marketing” must be more than a perfunctory department name.

    Winning strategies will require hiring and training sales in data and predictive analytics. Likewise, marketing experts in effective technology adoption and implementation will ensure digital marketing generates both brand awareness and leads.

      A New Generation of Buyers

      Above all, understanding this new generation of purchase decision-makers and their buyer journey using advanced technology is the starting line for every business. Outreach, a sales execution specialist firm that helps companies grow using AI and machine learning recently commissioned Forrester Consulting to explore the new buyer preferences and the buyer journey.

      The results of the study confirm that buyers value a consultative, collaborative, and efficient sales process. Training suppliers will follow millennials’ digital interaction data trails to engage them creatively and effectively.

      According to the report, buyers expect vendor sales representatives “to answer questions in the moment, lead with data, and guide them through the buying process.” To effectively follow the buyer’s digital journey, a supplier’s marketing and sales must operate in concert, leveraging the same data to deliver the seamless, personalized, and insights-driven experiences buyer’s demand.

        Setting Selection Criteria

        When creating a Request for Proposal (RFP) for marketing services, several vital criteria and components need to be incorporated:

        • Project Background and Goals: Clearly define your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and goals.
        • Scope of Work: Provide a detailed scope of work.
        • Budget: Disclose your budget.
        • RFP Timeline and Vendor Deadlines: Specify the RFP process timeline and vendors' deadlines.
        • RFP Requirements: Include minimum qualifications as well as submission and evaluation criteria.
        • References, Project Portfolios, and Case Studies: Request for references, project portfolios, and case studies.
        • Technical Capabilities: Evaluate the technical capabilities of the vendor.
        • Vendor Experience: Consider the vendor's experience in the field.
        • Vendor Approach: Understand the vendor's approach to the project.
        • Total Price & Breakout: Consider the total price quoted by the vendor with an unbundled breakout of costs by service.
        • Customer Success Practices: Evaluate the vendor's customer success practices.
        • Reputation and Customer References: Check the vendor's reputation and customer references.

        Suppliers in every industry operate differently, so there's always the chance you won't be able to find a marketing service or product supplier that perfectly checks every box. Know which traits are dealbreakers and which are expendable to help you quickly separate the wheat from the chaff.

         The key to a productive marketing services RFP is clarity. Be clear about the goals and define the specific KPIs and SLAs. The more accurate and complete the RFP, the more likely vendors will respond in kind.


        Whether employing an RFP or pursuing a less formal method, "best practices" in selecting a vendor begin with developing a list of criteria the vendor will need to meet.

        The right suppliers can transform an organization's performance. Companies that rely on the best strategic partners have been shown to generate significant competitive advantages. A cutting-edge vendor can help companies differentiate their products and boost their market share.

         In a changing economy where product and service lifespans are getting shorter, fleet industry suppliers need the ability to rapidly identify and onboard new, more flexible supplier partners who understand the specific market conditions.

         With all bids in hand, the business must compare each supplier's RFP to determine which meets the defined budget needs and quality standards. A vendor that overcharges cuts into the profit margin. However, a vendor that misses deadlines, or whose quality does not meet expectations, also negatively impacts ROI.

        In most cases, a chosen vendor decision is only the beginning of negotiating the contract terms. Agreed-upon projects, the vendor account team, tactical timeframes, KPIs and SLAs, and more must be put into writing. If this process drags on, a short-term contract or a specific tactical pilot program might become an intermediate step.

        Monitor Supplier Performance

        Establishing KPIs and SLAs sets up an early-warning system for under-achievement by a vendor. Use this data to work with the vendor to improve processes and quality. If that fails, termination of the contract can alleviate a drawn-out unsatisfactory relationship and speed up hiring a new, better vendor.

        Monitor cost efficiency over time. Just because the deal you negotiated a year ago was good doesn't mean it's a good one now. Be candid with the vendor about changing needs and performance metrics. Most vendors will be willing to work with a business to re-negotiate a deal that satisfies both parties.

         Learn more about "best practices" that should be adopted to find the best fleet industry marketing vendor for your business targeting the fleet industry; reach out to the only fleet-specific marketing team, Fleet Management Weekly's Brand Acceleration, by clicking here or calling Ed Pierce at (484) 957-1246.

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