Understanding B2B buying decisions and who make them B2B buying is unique.
Never apply B2C assumptions to B2B buying patterns, you’ll end up frustrated and client relationships
can suffer. You need to offer a ‘consumer styled experience’ in terms of care, attention and creativity
but be very aware that there is a formal process that cannot be ignored.
What’s the difference?
Much of B2C buying is impulsive, simple, cheap and low-risk. It requires little organized process or
planning, and delivers results quickly. This is the antithesis of B2B buying which is:
Most businesses make purchase decisions methodically, moving through the distinct stages of the
B2B buying cycle with forethought and planning. Multiple decision influencers try to persuade the
decision maker of their point-of-view. Budgets are large and the desired results are larger.
The implications of making a bad decision are definitive and potentially career limiting.
The bigger the budget, usually, the bigger the final decision. This means more time spent on
analyzing options, checking references, and testing hypotheses. Once a decision is made, the real
work often begins with coordinating delivery and implementation of the solution.
Most businesses buy in cycles. This means they plan ahead, set aside budget, and go through the
stages of buying. It is nearly impossible to make a business buy something it has not planned for,
unless it is an emergency. You need to understand these stages and coordinate a sales and marketing
process that alleviates the ‘painpoints’ of purchasing and utilize messages that target the needs
of the decision- maker and key influencer.
There are six stages in the B2B buying cycle that nearly every purchase goes through:
1. Problem identification
In this stage, the business realizes it has a problem it must address.
2. Criteria creation
To solve the problem, decision-makers and influencers render opinions on what they think
will solve the problem, how much it will cost, and when a solution should be implemented.
Businesses begin to search for solutions and providers based on their established criteria.
When an adequate number of solutions have been identified, decision makers and influencers
evaluate which solution will best solve the problem.
5. Test and selection
Often some type of test or limited use of the solution will lead to a final selection.
In this final stage, POs are cut and the final implementation begins.
Play the percentages
Do your homework and understand what most businesses in your target market actually need to hear.
Perform custom research or hire someone else to. Identify the audience and then profile them within
a CRM database. You can never know enough about your target profile client. Tool your sales & marketing
messages and deliverables to these pain-points and their needs. If the business has 2–3 decision
makers then consider how you target each one according to their ‘needs’ when considering a solution.
Consistent, constant, creative content
Above all, if a business has decided to buy a solution that you offer, then you need to have the business
narrative ready and available to seal the deal. Some call this content marketing- but it is simple marketing
best practice. The more a customer can see you are ready and capable of delivering, the greater the
likelihood you’ll get the deal. Remove simple obstacles to making a decision.
Be brand aware and raise awareness consistently. At any given time, you never know how many businesses
in your target market are in the ‘search’ phase. If your business is not the recognized leader, don’t make them
go through the hassle of finding you, they won’t do it if the leading competitor is removing the need to do
that because of the quality and power of their marketing.
Get in early and shape the business conversation. The more you can do to define the idea of what success
and quality means, then the more you can influence purchasers to favoring your services and deliverables.
Establish credibility through your brand. Credibility leads to confidence which makes a buying decision easier.
So, keep your confident brand at the center of your sales and case-studies. Think of the IBM maxim. It’s tough
to be fired for choosing an IBM solution.