Deals in B2B are increasingly complicated and more likely to be scrutinized by top executives and the finance department
“Buyers now exercise more due diligence than ever before, conducting more research and engaging in more conversations with vendors and third parties,” according to Forrester. “More people are involved in today’s buying process as well, with executives playing a greater role than in the past.”
That analysis is how the research firm sets up a paper that compares the results of several surveys over time. Forrester conducted a “buyer’s survey” in the years 2017, 2019 and 2021. Each survey polled at least 800 people making B2B purchases.
The comparison over time illustrates how the buying process in B2B is changing. While the research firm attributes much of this to the pandemic, I wonder how much of this was already in motion when the pandemic hit.
Below are three points that stood out in the paper.
1. B2B buyers require more interactions from sales and marketing
B2B buyers engaged in an average of 27 interactions with a vendor over the course of making a purchase decision in 2021. That’s up from 17 interactions in 2019.
Those interactions are composed of both human and digital touches. The Forrester survey data breaks it down into an average of 15 digital interactions and 12 human interactions. Moreover, buyers value both types of engagement.
“Buyers may need guidance after conducting self-guided research,” according to the report. “They also crave interpersonal connection – perhaps even more so during the pandemic.”
This is counterfactual to the notion that B2B buyers are all but done with their buying decision by the time they speak to sales. If B2B vendors all look and sound the same in marketing, it makes sense that buyers need to talk to sales to understand the difference.
2. Leaders and finance more likely to scrutinize buying decisions
We know from mounds of research (and experience) that B2B sales cycles are involving more decision-makers – and the Forrester report adds additional context. Specifically, Forrester finds executives and the finance department are more involved in B2B buyer’s journey:
- 75% of executives were buying decision-makers in 2021 – up from 58% in 2017; and
- 51% of finance shops were buying decision-makers in 2021 – up from 35% in 2017.
A key to this statistic is that solution providers can’t just think about convincing their intended users to buy a product – they must convince finance and executive leaders too:
- What should those stakeholders know about your product?
- What content have you developed for those stakeholders?
- What sales enablement tools have you given to your sales team to help with this?
3. Sales complexity continues to grow
The statistics above make sense because “buying scenarios” are becoming more complex, according to Forrester. Technology today is both more complicated and more important to business – so there’s simply more riding on such decisions.
According to the Forrester survey data, the volume of “buying scenarios” that are considered “highly complex” grew to 43% in 2021 – that’s up from 24% in 2017. At the same time, those scenarios deemed “simplest” – “involving just one or two people” shrank from 41% in 2017 to 18% in 2021.
Advice for managing more interactions, scrutiny and complexity
Among the recommendations Forrester offers in its paper include this:
“Provide a mix of digital content assets, including case studies, articles, reports, and interactive tools to reach buyers who are seeking information online.”
“Prioritize enabling not only sellers, but also customer success managers, product managers, engineers, and other roles that discerning buyers are keen to speak with.”
I’d hastens to suggest spending a little more time simplifying your message: make sure it’s easy to understand what you do and why you are different.
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The full report has more to offer and is freely available for download with registration from Forrester: How the Pandemic Transformed B2B Buying.
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