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B2B Sales Cycles are Getting Longer, Study Says

68% of B2B professionals surveyed say it takes longer to complete B2B sales cycles compared to a year ago

They say recessions don’t start trends – they accelerate those that are already in motion. The trend has been more of everything in B2B. On the heels of the current slowdown, it seems it’s going to take still more.

Those are some of the drawable conclusions from a study by the Demand Gen Report. The publication surveyed 212 B2B professionals and found 68% say the B2B sales cycle has increased compared to a year ago.

Is it directly COVID related? According to the findings:

“47% of buyers indicated they had been forced to put off purchases due to budget freezes, but more than half said the current COVID-19 crisis had not disrupted purchase plans.”

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More stakeholders in purchase decisions

There are more stakeholders involved too. Most respondents (61%) indicated the number of stakeholders involved in a purchasing decision had increased. Further, 71% of respondents said their organization “had a formal buying committee” that reviewed purchases.

Nothing prolongs a decision like a committee. Then again, if your spending big bucks on software, that’s not a decision you want rushed if you are the buyer.

Marketing has to adjust to the fact that buying habits and patterns are changing. What’s always worked for you in the past, may not work today.

Buyers say relevant content is key

Relevant content plays a larger role in the new buying cycle. Some 70% of B2B buyers said “relevant content that speaks directly to our company” was “very important” in the survey.

Part of relevancy is speaking to business problems unique to a vertical market. Indeed, 96% of respondents said messaging that speaks “directly to our industry needs” was important.

Getting those things right in content can be a defining factor between sale enablement and coming up short, according to the survey. Three out of four (76%) respondents suggested, “the winning vendor’s content had a significant impact on their buying decision.”

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Sales still closes deals

B2B solution providers can’t just rely on outstanding marketing and relevant content to win over buyers. While there are prominent studies suggesting buyers don’t engage with sales until they are nearly ready to purchase – like Forrester Research said in 2014 – the Demand Gen study found evidence to the contrary:

“76% of buyers said they engaged with a sales representative from their selected vendor within three months of their research, and 36% of respondents said they connected with a salesperson within the first month.”

Those engagements with sales are important too:

“Of those that agreed the vendor was educated and offered valuable information, 81% said their experience with their sales rep positively influenced their decision to select that vendor.”

The product still has to deliver

It’s clear from the study, that a solid product has to back up good marketing and sales. Among the top product factors that influence B2B sales, response listed the following:

  • 73% said features or functionality
  • 72% said price
  • 59% said reviews
  • 56% said employment time or ease-of-use

There’s an old saying that good marketing will make a bad product fail faster. Indeed, if you show up with a half-baked, minimally viable product (MVP) in a space with competitors that have a five-year head-start, the best marketing and sales professionals in the world probably won’t help.

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Demand Gen conducted the survey in May and June of 2020. All 212 respondents work for enterprises with $500 million or more in revenue. I first read about the study in MarketingCharts and the full report can be downloaded here: 2020 B2B Buyer Behavior Study.

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Image credit: Photo by Pascal van de Vendel on Unsplash and respective study

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