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Simon Futcher – Veolia

Simon Futcher – UK Regional and Local Sales Director – Veolia

How are you adapting to the change in B2B buyer attitudes, post-pandemic?

I think what we’ve learned is that we’ve put a degree of self-sufficiency on the buyer, more than we’ve done historically. We are providing a more obvious route for buyers to validate what they’re looking to purchase, to define their buying principles, and to go through the procurement process in a digital way, ticking those off, one by one.

I think we need to be very clear not to make assumptions about customers who might have a very strong understanding of what they need to purchase. We’ve concentrated very much on making sure there is still a consultative element to the process so that customers can ask relevant questions about what they’re purchasing and why.

What role do you think human beings will play in customer acquisition, in an increasingly digital buyer journey?

Firstly, organisations can make a very sweeping assumption that customers know what they want – and that can be dangerous. A lot of the time, human interaction helps define the customer’s needs and empathise with the challenges within that organisation.

We are starting to see some of the behaviours associated with B2C commerce in B2B, with almost a comparison website approach to buying. If we’re going to give customers the ability to build and buy a package themselves, putting whatever they want in the shopping basket without any consultation or validation, that is dangerous.

There’s a lot less differentiation between products in many sectors today, and the human interaction is going to be the differentiating factor. Organisations that go through a consultative process and are asked open, analytical questions will be able to validate what they want and get the functionality they need.

There’s a lot less differentiation between products in many sectors today, and the human interaction is going to be the differentiating factor.

What’s important is providing customers with an easy way to understand more about us as an organisation.

As a sales and marketing leader, what does a digital mindset mean to you, and how do you cater for it?

If we analyse a digital purchase, do we see an expedited process where that customer goes from zero to sale at a faster speed? Not necessarily. We’re still seeing an element of apprehension at some point in the process, where the customer needs to be supported. That’s possibly because what we are supplying is meeting some – but not all – of their buying criteria, and so we need to cover those gaps.

We’ve seen digital tools increase exponentially in the past couple of years, and our use of LinkedIn is greater than ever. Our ability to identify customers that are reaching out to download information from us before going into the procurement or tender process is also increasing.

What’s important is providing customers with an easy way to understand more about us as an organisation. It’s about developing sophisticated nurturing programmes that help buyers through their journey, assisted with human interaction, and automation to increase conversion ratios.

In a world of ever-increasing digital dominance, do you think human engagement will be a point of competitive difference in your market?

Yes. Over the past couple of years, as we’ve spent more time trying to build our digital journey, it’s also led us to invest more money in developing individuals, so the training and development programmes we’ve built are the best we’ve ever had.

Our people are our key differentiator, and that’s why we’re going through a more structured training and development programme for the sales team, linked to the digital journey.

I tell my teams to imagine our customers are using GoCompare. It’s a very simple, efficient process but you get to the end, and you’re given options. Then, all of a sudden, it’s back on me as the buyer to make a decision. How do I choose if the price is exactly the same? It has to be because it’s a brand name I know, someone you know versus someone you don’t. There has to be something that’s going to make me feel more comfortable going with A over B, and the human factor will play a large part.

There has to be something that’s going to make me feel more comfortable going with A over B, and the human factor will play a large part.

We developed a robust process from a digital standpoint where we look at the propensity and likelihood that an organisation will need our services.

We are getting better and sharper all the time. We’re not just using digital to sell more. We’re using digital to sell more effectively.

What tools and techniques are you currently using to select your target audience? And what innovations do you anticipate in the coming months or years?

We are a Google organisation, so it has been relatively easy for us to move to a more digital, virtual way of working.

We have developed a robust digital process for looking at the propensity for an organisation to need our services and we’re making sure that we spend more time working with those organisations that are more likely to purchase.

Today we’re able to present information to the marketplace and make it very sector-specific – we’re seeing organisations reach out and grab that and sit with it for a period of time. We get to watch that percolate, and once we see them do something with the document we can step in and something digital will follow. So we might say, thanks for downloading that white paper, we have some case studies for organisations in your industry that might be useful, would you like us to send it across? From an industry perspective, in terms of focusing on the right opportunities, digital is helping to increase our conversion ratio.

We use Salesforce to identify and log those organisations, it’s very complex. Our mantra is that if it isn’t in Salesforce, it doesn’t exist. We also have full integration with LinkedIn and Showpad.

We get live news feeds from LinkedIn straight into Salesforce against a lead. So if I’m a business development manager and I’m looking at a particular prospect in the education sector, and something relevant happens in the news and it’s shared by someone in the prospect organisation, it will pull that feed through digitally, and give that business development manager the compelling reason to engage.

We are getting better and sharper all the time. We’re not just using digital to sell more. We’re using digital to sell more effectively.

Veolia Group is the global leader in optimised resource management. The organisation designs and provides water, waste and energy management solutions that contribute to the sustainable development of communities and industries. Through its three complementary business activities, Veolia helps to develop access to resources, preserve available resources, and to replenish them.

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