Rodrigo Allen, CEO of a large B2B manufacturing firm, has been feeling that there is a gap in the buying process his company follows. He tried to bring in new technological products in a bid to seal off the difference, but this process persisted. He knew he had to look at the issue from a broader perspective. Soon enough he realized that it wasn’t technology that wasn’t working, but the fact that the buying process had changed immensely. Not understanding it at first threatened to rupture the existing buying process of his organization.
Being a quick thinker, Allen got himself familiar with the new buying process and successfully closed off the gap in the existing version. He analyzed the situation very well and concluded that the B2B buying process has changed. Quick thinking and rapid decision-making allowed him to save the organization from sinking.
The B2B buying process is changing rapidly, and to keep up with the changes (and stay valid in the industry), it is essential you know about the same as well.
The B2B buying process starts with the recognition of a need.
The second step is to search for suppliers that meet the quality criterion demanded by the company. Other factors like price and after sales services also play a pivotal role in convincing B2B buyers in the supplier.
Once the research process is complete, the B2B buying firm chooses to go with a supplier who adheres to the needs and demands put forth by the company.
After deciding on the supplier, the next step is to purchase the product via the B2B buying process, and this is done after negotiating on the price. Only after both the buyer and the seller arrives on a suitable price agreement, the B2B buying process comes to a close.
The new B2B buying process has proven to be useful for B2B companies; hence slowly but surely all B2B organizations will adopt this new B2B buying process.
As a business, we have experienced few significant changes over the past year; primarily the process undertaken to do business with our clients. When we started, we fell into a similar pit of uncertainty in the way we conducted business. But, by implementing and adapting to the constant changes, our company has been able to make some spectacular progress.
Drawing from our experience, we have summarized these six changes in the B2B buying process which will change the way business is conducted.
1. The Decision Making Power Has Shifted
A few years ago, talented salespeople were the point of contact between the client and the company, and much of the process depended on how they conducted it and the information they provided.
With the emergence of the Internet, and more so for its accessibility, clients have the power to decide (after conducting thorough research) about the product and whether they should invest in it. And all this happens before they contact your company. This has reduced the time required to complete the B2B buying process. According to marketing research major, Forrester, 70% of customers prefer to search independently for more information about the company and the product before investing in it.
So, hiring talented salespeople is not the answer; it means that you have to shift your focus to a new B2B buying process.
Forrester also states that 60% of all users wouldn’t like to communicate with sales representatives to gather necessary information about the company, skipping certain parts of the process altogether.
The buyers today do not want to meet your skilled salesperson and listen to their excellent product/service description. They would scour through the internet and read from many sites about the dependency and the authenticity of your product/service before reaching out to you.
The B2B buying process has shifted sides from the seller to the buyer. The shift in power is a testimony to the changing process.
Thus, adapting to the change is pivotal.
2. More Millennials are Making B2B Purchases
Millennials! Look around you, and you will see that most of the people actively participating in the B2B buying process are millennials.
P.S. Everyone born between 1981 to 1996 are known as Millennials
Millennials are internet savvy and will trust reviews and testimonials than their predecessors, baby boomers. Given that millennials are in the center stage of the buying process, the current number of people who research before buying products/services is likely to increase from the current percentage of 50 to that of the high sixties.
With the internet becoming accessible to all, the customers conduct searches before making an investment plan. This has primarily changed the traditional B2B buying process to what it was yesterday.
Millennials, with their exposure, will research the products before reaching any decision. The product/service has to be relevant to them as well. So before letting the product/service out into the world, take a couple of steps back to understand the needs of the buyer, who in this case, are the millennials. Consider how the product/service will appear to them while they conduct online research before engaging in the B2B buying process.
A study conducted by Google revealed that 70% of the reviews that begin with a regular query are generally for finding solutions to impending problems. They are not looking to buy anything then and care less about your company or what you are offering as a brand. They care if the solution you are proposing is sorting out their issues.
With more and more millennials entering the industry, their B2B buying process comprises research before buying anything of significant value. You as a marketer need to know how they research for your products, what are their search queries, how do they search for your product/service, the device they are using to access your business, and so on. Before they get on with the B2B buying process, you need to consider these criteria to stay one step ahead of your millennial users.
3. The Number of B2B Buying Decision Makers has Increased
The number of people who are in a role that makes B2B buying decisions regularly is growing significantly every year. It is almost impossible to know who is involved in the decision-making process, rendering it all as complicated.
The Harvard Business Review after conducting a study revealed that people who were involved in the B2B buying process has risen from 5.4 in 2016 to 6.8 in 2018. Known as the decision-making unit (DMU), this group of B2B buying decision makers comprises people from varied backgrounds.
As the number of people in the decision making process increases, so does their opinions. And with varying opinions, changes to the process are inevitable. Therefore, a changing B2B buying process is not surprising.
All this has had an impact on the decision-making process. It is crucial for companies to understand this pivotal yet straightforward change to ensure further that they can adapt to it.
Also Read: How to Reach Decision-Makers for B2B Sales
4. The Customers Are Really Into Personalization
With personalization becoming the need of the century, even B2B customers demand a more refined, relevant and personalized buying B2B buying process. The general experience involved in the B2B buying process is getting replaced.
A detailed study for B2B buying process conducted by DemandGen points out that 3/4th of all B2B buyers use personalized content to build relationships. The same survey also revealed that 66% of all B2B prospects want industry-specific content in the websites that they are engaging with.
Personalization leads to better decision-making.
Various researches showcase that half of all B2B prospects want to receive personalized marketing messages and recommendations from time to time. They also want to gain support and customization during the various stages of the sales cycle. This shows that you care about them. Personalization influences the sales process.
5. The Customers Are Now Better Informed
The buyers of today have internet at their disposal, and Forrester estimates that 75% of B2B buyers conduct prior research on a variety of online mediums before moving forward with the decision to make the offline purchase.
Think with Google, the Marketing research arm of Google, after conducting a study concluded that B2B prospects perform a dozen searches before actually visiting the vendor’s website and social platforms.
So, be it about the company or the product/service, the customers today are well-informed. Every information you put out has to be correct, real and should be in sync with their preferences.
This also indicates that the B2B buying process is changing. If they are interested, they will come to you (eliminating the need to influence them further). If they are not, well, we all know what happens after that.
Thus, the complication related to the B2B buying process is diminished immensely.
6. Peers Increasingly Influences the Customers
The B2B Buyers of today are not like the people of the yesteryears where they had to test out the products/services before concluding whether the product/service is worth investing or not.
Data collected from LinkedIn Business shows that more than 50% of modern people rely on peer reviews and recommendations before buying anything significant. An added 76% of the users make a list of prioritized vendors as suggested by their friends and acquaintances. This is a reason enough for more than 80% of B2B purchases happening through referrals.
With platforms like LinkedIn facilitating B2B connections, it is no surprise to see why referrals and word of mouth boost sales. And why the B2B buying process is changing significantly.
The Key Takeaways
It can be deduced that the B2B buying process is changing significantly. Various factors contribute to it including:
- Use of multiple platforms
- Millennials making up for most of the customers
- Increasing influence of peers
- Better informed customers
- Increasing number of decision makers
Businesses should adapt to the changing B2B buying process to boost their sales, just like Rodrigo Allen did to save his organization from becoming obsolete. The competition is tough. To stay afloat, you need to change with the changes. So, if you are losing customers, don’t blame technology. It is time you start considering the B2B buying process.
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