The b2b buying process is the journey your potential customers take as they move from interested prospects to paying customers.
At each stage of the b2b buying process, customers have different needs and expectations.
As a b2b marketer or salesperson, it’s your job to understand these needs and help guide your customers through the b2b buying process until they’re ready to make a purchase.
In this complete guide, I’ll discuss how the b2b buying journey is evolving, the b2b buying process from start to finish, and give you practical tips on how to market and sell to b2b decision makers at each stage.
How the B2B buying journey is evolving
The purchasing process is no longer about solely building sales teams and face-to-face interactions.
According to Forrester Research, 90% of the b2b buying journey is complete before a buyer speaks to a vendor.
For b2b marketers to stay ahead of the curve, they need to understand how b2b buyers are changing and what steps they’re taking in their b2b buying process.
The B2B buying journey is dynamic.
The b2b buying process used to be linear, but now it’s more like a loop.
Customers may start at any b2b buying process stage and move back and forth between stages as they learn more about your product or service.
This is why it’s so essential for b2b marketers to create content that meets their typical buying group at every stage of the b2b buying process.
Buyers are well-researched.
Nowadays, b2b customers are more informed than ever before.
They’re doing their own research online long before they ever talk to a salesperson.
The b2b buying process now starts much earlier than it used to.
Customers begin their research much earlier in the process, and b2b marketers need to guide them.
Creating content, reports, ebooks, and blog posts that help b2b customers understand their options and make informed decisions is essential at every stage of the b2b buying process.
It’ll also help you get found where 89% of all research starts, which is through SEO and Google.
Buyers value a simplified purchase process.
Due to digital transformation, much of the purchasing decisions are now made by business buyers themselves.
This means b2b marketers need to focus on making the b2b buying process as simple and streamlined as possible for their customers.
The best way to do this is by creating a b2b marketing strategy aligned with the b2b buying process.
When your b2b marketing strategy is aligned with the b2b buying process, you can create content and lead nurturing programs that guide customers through the b2b buying process until they’re ready to purchase.
This will simplify your customers’ b2b buying process and help you win more deals.
Buyers leverage referrals for b2b purchasing decisions.
B2B buyers rely on peer-to-peer recommendations and are more connected than ever through various digital channels.
Referrals happen through dark social (social media DMs, Slack communities, etc.), word of mouth, and review sites.
B2B marketers need to be aware of this and take advantage of it.
Make sure you’re monitoring what’s being said about your brand online and quickly address any negative sentiment.
Encourage customers to leave reviews on popular b2b review sites like G2 Crowd and Capterra.
And take advantage of dark social by creating content that can be easily shared through these channels.
The B2B buying process
1. Awareness Stage
The b2b buying process usually starts when a potential customer realizes they have a problem that needs to be solved and starts researching possible solutions.
Problem identification and requirements gathering
At this point of the b2b buying process, customers are trying to identify their specific problem and understand what they need in order to solve it.
During this stage, b2b marketers need to provide customers with helpful resources that will educate them about the b2b buying process and help them understand their options.
Businesses conduct research, talk to experts, survey their currently satisfied customer base, and evaluate their options.
B2B marketers should focus on creating content like ebooks, blog posts, and webinars that help businesses understand their options and make informed decisions.
2. Consideration Stage
At this stage in the b2b buying process, customers have identified their problems and are now considering possible solutions.
At this point in the process, multiple suppliers have been identified as potential b2b buying options.
The brands that better provide resources that b2b buyers discover in the awareness and research stages are the ones that b2b customers will include in their consideration set.
B2b marketers need to focus on creating content like case studies, product demos, and free trials that help b2b customers understand how their products or services can solve their specific problems.
At this point, b2b buyers will contact potential suppliers’ sales team to get more information about the b2b product or service.
Sales teams need to be prepared with resources like pricing sheets, product information, and case studies to help b2b buyers make an informed buying decision.
3. Decision Stage
At this stage in the b2b buying process, b2b customers are ready to make a purchasing decision.
They’ve gathered all the information they need and are now comparing b2b suppliers in order to choose the best one for their needs.
B2b marketers need to focus on creating content like ROI calculators, product comparisons, and customer testimonials to help b2b customers make the best decision for their business.
Consensus and approval
The b2b decision-making process can take several weeks or even months to get to a final decision.
During this time, b2b customers will need to build consensus among their team and get approval from upper management before making a purchase.
B2b marketers need to be patient during this stage and continue providing b2b customers with helpful resources that will solidify their decision to choose your brand.
At this point, b2b buyers will have to discuss and confirm terms with company representatives before finalizing the purchase.
It’s essential for b2b sales teams to be available and responsive during this stage to answer any questions or concerns b2b customers may have.
There is always some risk involved that they can still back out of the deal, so the b2b salesman needs to continue providing value and reassurance up until these contracts are signed.
After the lengthy b2b decision-making process, b2b customers will finally sign contracts and make their purchases.
Once the contracts are signed, b2b sales teams can begin to work on fulfilling the order and delivering the product or service.
B2b businesses need to focus on creating content like user manuals, onboarding guides, and FAQs to help b2b customers get the most out of their purchases as soon as possible.
The more you can reduce friction with the onboarding process; the more likely b2b customers are to continue doing business with you in the future and be satisfied with their decision to purchase from your brand.
4. Post-Purchase Stage
The b2b buying process continues after the purchase is made.
B2b customers will still need support from the b2b supplier in order to ensure that they’re getting the most out of the product or service.
After b2b customers have received and used their purchase, they will conduct a post-purchase review.
The purchasing manager will want to know if the b2b product or service has helped solve their problem and if it was worth the investment.
This is a critical stage in the b2b customer lifecycle because it will determine whether or not they continue doing business with your brand.
B2b marketers need to create content like satisfaction surveys, customer success stories, and impactful case studies to show b2b customers the value they’re getting from your brand.
If b2b customers are satisfied with their purchase, they will become loyal advocates for your brand and continue doing business with you for years to come.
The post-purchase review is also an excellent time to upsell b2b customers on complementary products or services that can help them get even more value out of their purchase.
Support and relationship building
Even after b2b customers have made their purchase, b2b marketers need to continue providing them with support and building relationships.
B2b businesses need to focus on creating content like how-to guides, video tutorials, dedicated account representatives, and email sequences that help b2b customers get the most value from their purchases.
How to leverage the evolving B2B buying journey
The b2b buying journey comes with its challenges, but understanding how b2b customers make decisions can better position your brand to win their business.
As the buying process evolves, b2b marketers need to be adaptable and adjust their strategies accordingly.
Here’s how you can leverage the evolving b2b buying journey:
Create solutions to shorten the buying process for B2B decision-makers
Buyer enablement can shorten the buyer’s journey by making it easier for b2b decision makers to find the information they need to make a decision.
Leverage automation, CRM optimization, and content distribution strategies to make it easier for b2b customers to find the answers they’re looking for.
The goal is to make it as easy as possible for b2b decision makers to get the information they need so they can make a purchase quickly and efficiently.
Support B2B buyers with an omnichannel approach
There are other digital channels outside of Linkedin and Google that b2b marketers can use to reach their target audiences.
By using an omnichannel approach, b2b marketers can connect with b2b buyers on the channels they’re using to research and make purchase decisions.
This could include meeting them where they are with account-based marketing (ABM), creating engaging content for specific channels like Snapchat or Instagram, and utilizing industry influencers when it makes sense.
Make sure your website is optimized for B2B SEO
As b2b customers move further down the buying journey, they will turn to search engines and Google to research potential solutions to their problems.
This is why b2b businesses need to have a website that’s SEO optimized.
Make sure your website includes the keywords and phrases that b2b customers are using to search for solutions and that your site is structured in a way that makes it easy for Google to find and index your content.
You can set the narrative, show social proof, and control the buying experience.
As b2b marketers, you must understand that you have much control over the buying experience.
You can set the narrative by creating content that educates and informs b2b customers about your brand and solutions.
Focus on the gaps that have the most significant impact
Utilize the 80/20 rule to focus on the 20% that will get you 80% of the results.
When it comes to the b2b buying journey, a few key areas have the most significant impact.
By focusing on these areas, you can make the most significant difference in the buying journey.
An innovation consultant can help you focus on the right areas and ensure you’re making the most impactful changes.
Use a buyer-driven B2B marketing strategy
Individual customers have different buying journeys.
Your marketing strategy should be based on that, and sales reps should be focused on helping the customer through their unique buying journey.
It’s essential to understand the needs, wants, and pain points of each customer so you can create a personalized buying experience that meets them where
A buyer-driven marketing strategy will align your sales and marketing teams, so they’re working together to support the customer throughout their purchase.
Make the buying process as simple as possible
Providing customers with a simple and easy-to-use buying experience will make them more likely to purchase from you.
Utilize technology to reduce friction in the buying process.
The more you can make the buying experience convenient and easy for buyers, will increase conversion rates and reduce the length of the buyer’s journey.
How is technology changing the B2B buying process?
Technology must be embraced in order to make an impact on the b2b buying process.
By understanding how technology is changing the buying process, you can change your strategy to stay ahead of the curve.
Some ways technology is changing the buying process include:
- Increasing transparency and access to information
- Making it easier to find and compare products
- Simplifying the purchase process
- Providing more personalized experiences.
As a b2b marketer, it’s essential to stay up-to-date on the latest technology trends so you can make changes to your strategy as needed.
An innovation consultant can help you understand how technology is impacting the buying process and what changes you need to make to stay ahead of the curve.
Here’s how technology is changing buying process:
Business buyers have higher expectations
Gone are the days when you could wait 24 to 48 hours to get a response from a sales rep.
With the internet, business buyers have access to information 24/7 and they expect you to be available when they need you.
This means that you need to have systems and processes in place to respond quickly to inquiries.
You also need to make it easy for potential buyers to find the information they’re looking for on your website.
If you don’t, they’ll go to a competitor who does.
More opportunities to increase customer satisfaction
Technology can help you automate repetitive tasks and processes so you can focus on more important things.
It can also help you gather data about potential buyers so you can create more targeted and personalized marketing campaigns.
This data can be used to improve the buying experience and increase satisfaction.
It’s important to track customer satisfaction metrics to see how your changes impact the buying process.
If you do not see the results you want, make adjustments to your strategy until you find the right mix.
If a competitor’s content is ranking higher than yours in search results, they’re getting more traffic and qualified leads.
And if your content is ranking higher than competitors, they have access to more data than ever to outrank you, find gaps you are not filling, and improve their overall strategy.
This is why it’s also essential for b2b businesses to keep an eye on their competition and see what they’re doing well so they can stay one step ahead.
By understanding these changes, you can make the necessary changes to your buying processes so you’re providing buyers with the best possible experience.
What’s next for the b2b buying process?
The most noticeable strategy to come is speed.
The buying process must be quicker than ever to satisfy customers who demand faster results from their buying decisions.
In the past, b2b businesses could get away with a longer sales cycle because the decision-makers were not the end-users.
Now, with more buying decisions made by end-users, the need for speed is greater than ever.
B2b businesses need to focus on reducing the time it takes to get from inquiry to purchase.
The goal is to make the buying experience as convenient and easy as possible for buyers.
By doing this, you’ll increase conversion rates and reduce the length of the buyer’s journey.