The new B2B Sales Reality

How the B2B Buying Cycle has changed

What do we mean by the buying cycle?

The buying cycle is the process any B2B buyer goes through to purchase any goods or services. The cycle is the same regardless of size of purchase, the change is in the time taken in each stage and the number of people involved.

The Buying Cycle

No big surprises here. The stages are as follows

  1. Problem identification
  2. Explore possible solutions
  3. Refine scope of requirements
  4. Refine Supplier options and select
  5. Validation and endorsement
  6. Internal agreement on selection

When Sales people made all the difference

Pre the digital age if you got your product or service in front of the buyer at stage 2 you had a good chance of winning the business. Success was heavily dependant on the sales person ‘hand holding’ the buyer through the rest of the stages. A good sales person made all the difference.

What has changed?

The requirement for ‘hand holding’ in the digital age has seriously diminished. Buyers now expect to be able to navigate through the stages on their own terms, do their own research, and draw their own conclusions, without being influenced by a sales person. They appear then disappear as prospects as they make their own discoveries.

Where does this leave sales?

Of course sales people still have a critical role, there is still invariably human interaction in stage 4 and 5. But sales people cannot just sit and wait for this to happen . They can still influence buyers at every other stage of the cycle, but the change is in the tools they need to do this. It is no longer calls and meetings... and lunches [those were the days!] Now the job of sales is to  ensure the right information is in front of the buyer when they need it.

Sales working with marketing

For the new sales person to feed a buyer with the right information in the digital world means they need to leverage the same sales and marketing collateral but also thought leadership materials, competitor comparisons, industry benchmarking, testimonials etc. As the buyer contact is online they also need to ensure immediate response which requires automated workflows. This is beginning to sound an awful lot like marketing: and it is, just at an account level.