What You Need to Know About the New B2B Buyer Process

By Sean Filidis

What you Need to Know about the New B2B Buyer Process

Digital transformation is shaking up the enterprise, and with it, the way businesses buy products and services.

Especially when it comes to technology, businesses are moving away from the lumbering, top-down prescriptions of yesterday. Instead, business leaders find themselves sitting on a patchwork of software applications and service agreements tailored to specific functions and teams.

CXOs may have signed off on them, but chances are they didn’t drive the buying decisions.

More than ever, today’s business buys are made by a team. Committees are rewriting the script for B2B, the buying process, and forcing marketers to look beyond the old sales and marketing funnel.

In its place, according to Gartner, are six “buying jobs” that occur in no particular order:

  • problem ID;
  • problem exploration;
  • requirements building;
  • supplier selection;
  • validation;
  • and consensus creation.

Buyers bounce from one to the other, revisiting each at least once before purchase.

“Buying jobs don’t happen sequentially but more or less simultaneously,” the report says. “And if we were to map out a real B2B buying journey, it would look a lot less like a step-by-step linear process and a lot more like a big bowl of spaghetti.”

Marketers need to have assets at the ready to help a diverse group of buyers complete these jobs, regardless of the order in which they take place or whether contact has been established with members of the buying committee.


The new b2b buying process is longer and happening without you

These days, prospects conduct the lion’s share of their research independently. When you hear them — if you hear from them — they are likely to be far along on their buying journey.

According to CEB, now Gartner, b2b buyers are typically more than halfway through their purchasing process before they reach out to a salesperson.

The process is slowing down, too. Demand Base’s 2019 B2B Buyer’s Survey Report found that the time to decision is on the rise across the board, with three-quarters of buyers reporting they spent more time researching purchases in 2019 than the year before.

How are they spending their time?

Not with you.

According to Gartner, only 17% said they are meeting with potential vendors, and that number drops to five or six percent if more than one sales rep is involved. Nearly half said they are researching independently online and offline.

Sales and marketing teams would do well to assume that they are under constant consideration by any number of buyers at any moment. They have a shot at securing their place on the shortlist by furnishing content that greases the committee's independent decision-making process rather than by trying to penetrate it with salespeople.

In their absence, sales and marketing teams should deploy “intelligent” content that tracks the relative effectiveness of each asset and sheds light on buyer intent so that sales teams can reach out to likely buyers at the right time.

In turn, both the length and intensity of the B2B buying process have increased in recent years.

How the B2B purchasing process has changed

Source: The 2015 B2B buyer's survey report


Vendors can add value at every stage — virtually

Buyers need to be able to easily and quickly access information about vendors as they bounce around the various stages of the buying process.

B2B marketers have an opportunity to guide buyers in their search even before they’ve identified their options.

Content should span the entirety of the decision-making process and add value even during product-agnostic buying stages like problem ID, problem exploration, and requirements building.

Marketing collateral should be engaging and easy to find to accelerate the buying process. The best are connected and feed actionable insights back to pre-sale teams.

Ninety-seven percent of respondents to Demand Base’s survey said that it was important that vendor websites offered easy access to content, so think twice before gating it.

97% said that it was important that vendor websites offered easy access to content.

The typical B2B buying process involves 6 to 10 decision-makers.

More people to please

According to Gartner, the typical B2B buying process involves six to ten decision-makers. Each is independently scouring online for five to six content pieces to bring to the table.

These folks could vary in seniority, age, and browsing habits. Marketers would be wise to ensure their content is easy to personalize at scale to meet the needs of a wide array of buyer personas.

Insights report

Time to rethink the B2B buyer journey

A new breed of B2B buyer is rewriting the rules for sales and marketing teams everywhere. Are you prepared?

Get the eBook
Time to rethink the B2B buyer journey
Sean Filidis

Sean is a B2B content strategist specialized in streamlining customer journeys, creating sales and marketing alignment, and producing personalized content experiences that resonate with modern buyers. LinkedIn profile

Want to write for the Foleon blog? Here's how to submit a guest post.

What to read next