The Complexity of B2B Buying

How you can help complete your buyer’s jigsaw

For B2B selling, the idea of the ‘funnel’ was a pretty straightforward one. You’d hone in on a challenge within your target market. Generate awareness of your organisation and drive consideration of your product among a select few.

OK, that’s a little simplistic. But, many organisations still work on the basis of the traditional funnel. Marketing helps generate the leads, hands off to sales who then close the deal. The reality of B2B buying has changed drastically.

Sales are just one component through which customers might buy from you. Neither should marketing and sales simply exist as independent functions. They must operate in tandem with one another. But, more on that later. Let’s look at how things have changed.

You no longer own the process

Many B2B organisations are fully aware that around 60-70 percent of the buying process is completed before they even get to speak to a prospect. Highlighting even more how sales is just one channel to market, Gartner research found when B2B buyers consider a purchase‚ they spend only 17 percent of that time meeting with potential suppliers. 

The rest of the time, they’re doing their own research, talking to peers and also discussing amongst themselves with the ‘buying group’.

And, it is a buying group

In the days of old, traditional sales cycles would involve just a few people. Now the process is far more complex, requiring a greater degree of skills and coordination to navigate. 

A typical buying group for a complex B2B solution can involve a multitude of people from a raft of disciplines. All doing their own research. All trying to make sense of the considerable raft of new technologies, products, suppliers and services too.

And that’s before they’ve even come together to discuss their differing points of view, needs and end goals too. So, how does this manifest itself into a process you can feasibly target and be a part of?

Buyers no longer in sequenced stages

Although we might like to think our buyers operate in a predictable manner, we know it’s simply not true. And, you probably know that too. It’s simply your organisation operates that model, because well, that’s how it’s always been. But, it could also hurt your chances of generating truly great relationships and bringing on board new customers. 

Buyers don’t move smoothly from one stage to the next. With a variety of decision-makers and opinions to consider, they leap up, down and from side to side across different functions of the process. It might be a case of two steps forward, one step back – or even three steps to the side, two up, one down. The point is, your organisation needs to be armed with information and responses wherever the journey may lead. And, with whomever you need to influence. Drop off the radar at any given time, and your opportunity is potentially lost.

Highly targeted information is critical

The constant jumping around from task to task means you need to make life even easier for your buyers to complete their own jigsaw. We’re no longer moving buyers along a linear path. It’s about helping your buyer complete these different tasks, and in whatever order they may appear. 

Think about it. Your buyer isn’t and shouldn’t ever feel like they’re on a production line or conveyor belt. That’s customer prospecting in a mass production style.

This is about creating highly personalised items to fill a need. Or in this case, the jigsaw puzzle. And that starts with truly understanding who your buyer is. Personas serve a purpose, but it’s still regarded as a one to many approach. 

To be truly successful, we need to create the one to one, or one to a few engagements. 

B2B selling has become increasingly consumer-like. Your buyers expect you to understand their behaviour rather than their ‘characteristics’ as a CIO or CFO. Your targeting needs to cut across job function and industry to identify trends in behaviour and how individuals think and act. And, this is where highly targeted customer profiling is essential to get you off to a great start, allowing you to craft information to fill each stage of the jigsaw puzzle.

Sales, marketing and brand in tandem

And to do all of this, sales and marketing need to operate in tandem. It’s a coordinated process. Sales is but one channel to purchase. Customers use both on and offline channels to get to where they need to. As such, there’s no handoff from marketing to sales, or digital to in-person. It’s a process conducted simultaneously.

And, as a marketing leader, you have a great opportunity to help drive that process and offer greater value across your organisation.