What does the B2B buying process look like now?

Michelle Philippon - Business Development Specialist


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As Mark highlighted in his article this month, people don’t buy the same way anymore. You don’t have to look further than yourself to know that. Think of the last time you were looking for a new restaurant to check out. Did you read restaurant reviews in a local periodical?  Ask a friend for advice? Go to the first place that looked good from the outside? Or did you use the Yelp.com app and compare it with Google Maps on your smartphone in order to choose the closest place with the best prices, most appetizing-looking menu, and highest customer reviews?

Like the B2C buying process, the B2B buying process has changed fundamentally.  You’ve probably heard that we are in what is called the “Information Age.”  There is information everywhere.  You can access it anywhere.  So how does this affect what the current B2B buying process looks like?  And how can you and your company make sure that your sales and marketing processes, content, and procedures follow these trends?

Based on 6,375 online surveys of B2B buyers, marketers, and salespeople from various industries, LinkedIn issued an ebook this year called “Rethinking the B2B Buyer’s Journey” which provides some eye-opening insights into what the B2B buying process looks like today.

Buyers are Happy with their Suppliers

Overall, B2B buyers reported that their relationships with their vendors were quite positive: 28% said that their relationship was “Very Good,” and 56% reported that their relationship was “Good.”

Trustworthiness, Personalization, and Quick Responsiveness Lead to Higher Buyer Satisfaction

ROI and price aren’t as important to maintaining relationships with B2B buyers as you would expect; in fact, the value for money was listed as the least important, as seen below:

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Trust, as it turns out, is key.

Conversely, the main reasons that B2B buyers give for the weakening of vendor relationships are a lack of responsiveness and financial terms.

Buyers Want Knowledge

In the Information Age, buyers want clear, comprehensive, relevant, and easily-accessible information that pertains to them and their company.  In fact, this is what leads B2B buyers to want to even learn more about vendors in the first place.

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IT Leads Buying Decisions

Of the top departments included in the typical buying decision, IT has become the most important, with finance shortly behind:

  • Information Technology: 32%
  • Finance: 31%
  • Business Development: 26%
  • Accounting: 23%
  • Operations: 22%
  • Administrative: 21%

A quick note: this is just an overview and doesn’t translate to all industries; check out the aforementioned ebook (it’s free!) for more industry-specific information.

Buying Decisions are Collaborative

As revealed above, it’s not just one department making decisions anymore.  Many departments are involved.  It’s a collaborative process.  As such, you will want your sales and marketing processes to reach many departments and buyer types—the decision makers especially, but also coaches and technical buyers—and be tailored for relevancy per department.

Buyers Want Product Information, Features, Functions, and Demos More than Other Content

Marketing and sales teams usually have ideas about what the most relevant content is for B2B buyers throughout the stages of their journeys and sales funnels.  “It’s all about thought leadership,” one department might argue.  “No way!” the other will say.  “Buyers want case studies—proof that we’re good at what we do.”

But that’s not necessarily what B2B buyers report that they want throughout each stage of their journey.

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As seen above, product information, features, and functions are reported by B2B buyers as being the most important information they want when evaluating vendors and choosing who to work with.

Putting it all Together

As you’re looking to reach potential vendors, design your sales funnel with different departments in mind.  Only connecting with a few decision makers or one or two specific departments doesn’t cut it anymore.  You need to have a wider outreach and understand the roles that each department has in the buying process for your industry.

Also make sure that the information you produce aligns with the kind of content that B2B buyers actually seek, and then design it for each stage of the buying process.

Lastly, once you’ve got someone signed up as a vendor, have a customer service and retention process that ensures that your vendors feel that they can trust you and have a personal relationship with your company.  Don’t wait to respond.  Be proactive: get back to your vendors as soon as possible.  And continue making innovations on your products, services, or processes—and make sure that your vendors know that you are doing so and that their input is critical in these decisions.

Questions or comments? Please contact Michelle Philippon at mphilippon@teamCOACT.com