The Evolving Journey of the B2B Buyer
Daniel Heimlich posted the following photo on his LinkedIn page. Not sure who the conference speaker was, but the five statistics represented on this slide — from well-respected organizations like Forrester Research, IDC and Harvard Business Review — are a good representation of how B2B prospects are behaving on their “buying journey.” I’ve seen many of the statistics (or close approximations) individually, but not in one spot like this. And since my team and I make our living by connecting B2B buyers with B2B sellers, we are vitally interested in how the buying journey is shifting over time.
Let’s make this discussion actionable by taking each of the buyer journey stats and discussing what we can do to take advantage of specific trends:
- 74% of B2B buyers conduct more than half of their research online before talking to a salesperson. Companies that ignore this fact and adopt a sales-centric approach to the front end of the buying journey do so at their own peril. Prospects no longer can be considered sheep to be sheared according to your selling process, but rather individuals with unique experiences who want to chart their own path. In other words, they want to you help them buy, not sell them.
- 5.4 people are now involved in the average B2B buying decision. This stat can be a bit misleading: Some companies may involve 10 people in a decision and others just one. But the point is, you need to know the correct number for each prospect, as well as their names, titles, and influence on the buying process. It’s also important that you implement the right technology to monitor what each of these influencers is doing before they engage with your sales force. Many deals are lost because the sales rep is surprised that someone from the prospect’s company appeared at the last minute and stopped the sale. Don’t let this happen to you.
- 75% of B2B buyers use social media to research vendors. While this quote from IDC doesn’t specify what they mean by “use social media,” the point is that the vast majority of prospects do search for what others are saying about you and your competitors, particularly when it comes to product specs, pricing, ratings and reviews. Make sure you are well represented in all online media likely to be looked at by prospects during their buying journey.
- 90% of B2B buyers say they never respond to cold outreach. Harvard Business Review got this one right. If 90% of potential B2B buyers are reluctant to even have a conversation, it makes the job of the cold-caller, cold-emailer, etc. much tougher. This is why you should shift some of your marketing initiatives from push to pull marketing. Conversion ratios will be higher and your selling cycle will be shorter – two very good things.
- 74% of buyers choose the sales rep that was FIRST to add value & insight. My reading on this is that you want to make sure of two things. The first is obvious: Hire and train reps who can add value plus insight. The second is not so obvious, but equally important: Make sure your value-add reps get a chance at the deal because your online presence supports the 75% of prospects who do their research online before engaging with a rep.
By the way, I am by no means a blind follower of statistics. As Mark Twain said, there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. But these particular stats are backed up by our experience and data working with many B2B companies. By understanding the B2B buyer and preparing for the new buying journey, you will be much more effective in finding and closing business.