According to a Gartner survey in 2021, 43% of B2B buyers prefer not to engage with sales representatives while making their buying decisions. For millennials—who are expected to form nearly half of the US workforce by 2025—this number goes up to 54%.
This indicates the abrupt shift in B2B buying preferences and processes. Today’s buyers rarely go through the traditional sales funnel with a clear handoff point from marketing to sales. Instead, they take non-sequential steps to complete the purchase digitally, making it harder for B2B sellers to influence their buying decisions.
To win this new B2B buying dynamic and get ahead of the competition it's more important than ever to understand the gap between traditional and new buying journeys and shift your sales strategies accordingly. Here we will compare the two journeys and provide tips to effectively engage with B2B buyers with an entirely new mindset.
Traditional Buyer Journey
In the traditional B2B buyer journey, buyers will take linear steps before making a purchase decision on a product or service from a company. This concept was developed in 1898 by E. St. Elmo Lewis to illustrate a theoretical customer journey from the moment a product, service, or brand attracted buyers’ attention to the point of buying.
Here is an example of a typical sales funnel:
Awareness is the first stage of the sales funnel. In this stage, buyers recognize a product, service, or brand. Getting in front of as many buyers who are exploring solutions that are similar to your offerings is the goal at this stage.
In the interest stage, the buyer starts to form trust with a seller. Buyers are more likely to favor the insights, opinions, or even promotional messages coming from the company that they trust. So, nurturing the leads with various educational content is the key to moving them down the funnel.
In the consideration stage, buyers will research deeper into technical specifications and benefits. Various decision-makers review their requirements and look for alternatives. Providing them with product comparisons or any information that highlights your competitive advantages is the key in this stage.
In the decision stage, buyers typically meet with sales representatives. Since 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience, it’s important to create a seamless customer experience through the funnel they can decide with confidence.
After getting the consensus from the stakeholders, a company will purchase a product or sign up for a subscription.
This traditional journey is based on the assumption that sellers can take charge of moving buyers through the funnel by providing them with the right information at the right time. However, now that there is overflowing information available online, it has become nearly impossible for B2B sellers to direct buyers through the funnel.
New Buyer Journey
In the new buyer’s journey, buyers take non-sequential steps to complete purchases. Generally, it looks like a road full of twists and turns with many ways to enter and exit. Today’s hyper-connected society allows B2B buyers to find, interact easily, and form relationships with companies digitally. Buyers are more in control of buying decisions and consume digital content at their disposal.
Here is what the new journey would look like.
For example, let’s say you are the seller for an onboarding software company. Here are a few example scenarios of how buyers will decide to do business with you.
- An HR specialist saw your company from her friend’s post on Twitter.
- She starts exploring your blog posts and shares the links with the operations manager.
- The operations manager downloads your whitepaper talking about “Why You Need to Upgrade Your Onboarding Software” and shares it with the CEO.
- CEO does his own research.
- CEO approves for a certain budget to upgrade their software.
- Next time the HR specialist sees the paid ads from you, she decides to book a free trial.
- A business owner engages with your paid ads.
- He asks his operations director to look into further research.
- The operations director and her team collect information from your website.
- They contact you via social media for additional questions.
- They like your customer service and decide to buy your product.
In both cases, you notice many stakeholders will view your content for multiple purposes at any point in the buying stages. In the real world, the B2B buying decision is far more complex than the above. The typical buying group for a complex B2B solution involves 6 -10 decision-makers, each gathering four or five pieces of information independently and deconstructing the information with the group.
So it is crucial for you to create content that helps various stakeholders in the B2B buying center complete their functions in buying. For example, here is a good illustration from Gartner about the jobs performed during the buying decisions.
“Our sales reps have roughly 5% of a customer’s time during their B2B buying journey. Lack of time with buyers coupled with rapidly shifting buying dynamics, fueled by digital buying behavior, is reshaping the strategic focus of sales organizations.”
Like much of modern life, technology has altered the traditional buyer’s journey—it’s no longer linear. Unfortunately, too many companies have failed to grasp this new buyer journey and are missing out on opportunities. If B2B buyer dynamics have changed, so should your sales strategies. Although B2Bsellers will have less influence in the buying decision process, it is easier for your company to be found online. The key is to keep in mind that your content will be seen at any point by any person that influences the B2B buying. By creating as many touchpoints as possible, your brand will be top of the mind for your buyers.
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