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How B2B Buyers Buy: It's Not How You Think! [New Research]

[fa icon="calendar"] 19-Sep-2017 10:00:00 / by Iliyana Stareva

How B2B Buyers Buy (1).jpg

Would you say that B2B buyers talk more to sales reps than B2C buyers do?

Many believe that B2B purchases are too complex which is why B2B customers avoid digital channels to make decisions. 

According to new research by McKinsey, that's not really the case. 

B2B buyers require both the help of sales reps and the power of digital to purchase, however, what determines the channel of choice is whether or not the buyer is making a first-time purchase. 

What's also interesting is that industry sector is not a factor in customers’ decisions to turn to a digital channel rather than a traditional one when deciding what to buy.

Let's look at the first learning. 

As you can see in the table below, if it's a brand new purchase, B2B buyers would prefer to talk to someone but when this becomes a repeat purchase, that number drops significantly. 

how B2B buyers buy.jpgWhat's more, 46 percent of buyers would be willing to buy from a company’s website if the option were available and the service efficient but only 10 percent actually buy online today. 

That's a pretty big disconnect and the reason lies in the experiences of B2B buyers online and specifically the efficiency of online services. 

When it comes to online (and offline) channels, B2B buyers want: 

  • an immediate response
  • ease of use 
  • ability to find information effortlessly
  • the information needs to be accurate and highly relevant to their needs in accordance with where buyers are in their buyer's journey

In reality, though, these expectations are not being met. 46 percent of B2B buyers say that they find it difficult to compare products online, they are frustrated because they cannot complete a repeat purchase easily and what's worse for them is that they can't get a quick response when they need it. 

In fact, slow response time is what bugs buyers the most: 

slow responses kill B2B buying.jpg

My key learning from the results is that buyers want a personalised experience that suits better the way they make decisions and what to buy heavily depending on whether it's a new or repeat purchase. It really is about them, not you so your whole approach (from digital channels to workforce) needs to be built around your buyers' expectations and needs. 

Here are a few things you can do that will help your buyers but your salesforce too. 

3 Quick ideas to improve the B2B buyers' experience online 

  1. Immediate online chats (not 15-minute long queues as no one will wait) allow for quick responses and personalised communication. 
  2. Automatic email reminders e.g. for expiring subscriptions or renewals drive repeat purchases. (According to the survey, half of all B2B buyers rely on sellers to remind them when to reorder, but many sellers fail to do so.)
  3. A CRM that stores customer journeys on the website and previous queries allows for speedier and more customised help from sales reps as they will know where and how to spend their attention. Analytics can prompt real-time information on how to price offers, where the biggest pains are, what other reps or companies have done etc. 

Data and technology are a power you can't avoid. 

What does this mean to you? 

If you are in the B2B business, you have work to do to meet buyers expectations online in order to make their journey more efficient and helpful and to make your life better as well. When buyers can buy quickly, they will buy more. That's how you can reap the rewards of digital. 

In addition, you should be clever about where you put your salesforce's attention. Maybe you make your most experienced sales reps focus only on new buyers who have never bought a similar product or service and your junior reps should then take care of repeat buyers because that involves less expertise and effort. 

As McKinsey says, companies should see their digital investments "as the glue that holds together a powerful multichannel sales strategy." 


Topics: Marketing

Iliyana Stareva

Written by Iliyana Stareva

Iliyana Stareva is the author of Inbound PR - the book that is transforming the PR industry. She's also a keynote speaker and a consultant in inbound and digital for fast-growing companies and agencies. Currently, Iliyana is Chief of Staff to the EMEA President at ServiceNow. Before that, she held global and EMEA-wide positions at Cisco and HubSpot. She is also certified by the PMI as a Project Management Professional (PMP)®. In her free time, you can find Iliyana writing for her blog, dancing salsa or travelling the world.

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