A B2B Buying Process Timeline Indicates That Vendors Can Engage Buyers Early

July 25, 2018

Almost half of B2B buyers indicate that they’re spending more time researching purchases, according to Demand Gen Report’s 2018 B2B Buyers Survey Report [download page]. But separate results from the study suggest that the timeline hasn’t elongated too much, and that vendors should engage with buyers early on in their buying process.

The survey asked 259 B2B marketing executives to estimate their timeline for taking a variety of steps in the buying process.

Fully 69% of respondents indicated that they spoke to and engaged with a sales representative from the vendor they selected within the first 3 months of the process. This is yet another indicator in a string of recent research that buyers are open to engaging vendors early on, as noted in the following stats:

  • Virtually all buyers (90%) are open to engaging with sellers earlier in the buying process (Source: CSO Insights);
  • Almost 9 in 10 buyers agree that they’re open to engaging with vendors when they are identifying a need for a product/service (88%), and 86% likewise agree that they’re open to interacting with vendors when they’re exploring options (Source: ValueSelling Associates);
  • Marketers are almost as likely to say that buyers reveal themselves early in their journey (37%) as they are to say they reveal themselves mid-way through their journey (45%) (Source: ion Interactive / Demand Metric); and
  • Some 71% of buyers said they want to hear from vendors when they’re looking for new ideas and possibilities to drive stronger results to improve their business (Source: RAIN Group Center for Sales Research).

In fact, the Demand Gen Report research also finds that two-thirds of buyers developed an informal list of potential providers within the first 3 months of the buying process, including 30% doing so within the first month.

Additionally, 72% collected preliminary information on pricing/costs within the first 3 months. As it turns out, easy access to pricing and competitive information is critical to B2B buyers, two-thirds of whom said it was important information for them to see when they visited the website of potential solution providers for a purchase.

Recent research also indicates that vendors considered very influential by buyers were more likely than other vendors to have worked with buyers on pricing and packaging.

Beyond pricing, B2B buyers are also concerned about implementation, according to the Demand Gen Report study. Fully 77% said that deployment time and ease of use was very important to them when evaluating a set list of solution providers. In fact, research from Lavidge suggests that for B2B tech buyers, ease of use is a bigger priority than cost.

Winning Vendors Demonstrate More Knowledge

The Demand Gen Report research also confirms another point about the sales process: vendors need to demonstrate knowledge of the buyer. Indeed, 73% of buyers said the winning vendor demonstrated a stronger knowledge of the buyer’s company and its needs than did the other vendors, and 66% said the winning vendor demonstrated a stronger knowledge of the solution area and the business landscape.

A MarketingCharts report on B2B digital marketing likewise revealed that buyers feel salespeople are most likely to earn their trust by demonstrating high levels of knowledge about their products and services (74%) and the buyer’s organization (52%).

And in research released last year, about two-thirds (65%) of B2B buyers said they’re challenged by vendors and sales reps who are more interested in selling their products and services than listening to the buyer’s needs.

Social Plays A Role

A slight majority (54%) of B2B buyers rely on social media to assist in their research, per the report. The most common ways in which buyers are using social media are:

  • To browse existing discussions to learn more about the topic (47%);
  • To ask for suggestions and recommendations from other users on social networks (38%);
  • To connect with individual thought leaders to ask for their opinions (36%); and
  • To connect directly with potential vendors (36%).

With regards to social media, LinkedIn was cited as having the biggest impact on the research process.

Finally, almost two-thirds (65%) of buyers said they rely more on peer recommendations/review sites. That tallies with TrustRadius research, in which peer recommendations were found to be influential to buyers, who also increasingly recognized the effectiveness of review sites.

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