New B2B Buyer Behavior: What Sellers Need to Know
As a B2B seller, are you finding it hard to adapt to your customers' new buying behavior?
According to a recent study by Forrester, 62% of B2B buyers say they can now select suppliers, benchmark and decide to buy online, without ever speaking to a sales representative. This worrying statistic underlines the need for manufacturers to rethink their sales approach and adapt to new market trends. B2B purchasing behavior has evolved considerably in recent years, forcing manufacturers to understand more precisely the changing needs and expectations of their customers. To remain competitive, nothing can be left to chance. So it's vital to fine-tune your strategy for approaching B2B customers.
Table of Contents
- I. Key stages in the B2B purchasing process
- II. New trends in B2B purchasing behavior
- III. The need for sellers to adapt their sales strategy
I. Key stages in the B2B purchasing process
The digitalization of B2B buyer behavior has made traditional sales strategies obsolete. B2B buyers are increasingly informed, autonomous and demanding, forcing sellers to adapt their approach accordingly. To succeed in this context, it's essential to understand the key stages of the B2B purchasing process and buyers' expectations at each stage.
Identifying the need
The B2B purchasing process begins with the identification of a specific need, which can be triggered by a variety of factors, such as company growth, the implementation of a new project or the resolution of an existing problem. At this stage, B2B buyers seek to clarify their needs and determine possible solutions to meet their expectations.
Research and evaluation of different options
Once the need has been identified, B2B buyers begin to research potential solutions by evaluating the various options available on the market. They often turn to search engines, social media, forums, reviews by other buyers, comparative studies and blogs to gather information on products and services. According to a study by CEB & Sirius Decision, over 67% of the B2B purchasing process takes place online. It is therefore entirely in the interest of sellers to be present on these channels and provide accurate, useful information to meet buyers' research needs.
The purchasing decision
After evaluating the various options, B2B buyers make a purchasing decision, choosing the product that best meets their needs. They also take into account other criteria such as price, quality, reliability, delivery times and so on. Sellers therefore need to be able to provide informative, clear content that can be understood quickly (such as infographics, videos, webinars, podcasts, etc.) about their products, and ensure that they are well positioned in terms of price and quality.
Following their purchase, B2B buyers evaluate the quality of the service and the relationship with the seller. They also evaluate the effectiveness of the product and how well it meets their expectations. It's then up to sellers to be attentive to buyers' comments and ready to answer their questions and concerns, in order to maintain a relationship of trust and loyalty.
II. New trends in B2B purchasing behavior
Research and preparation prior to purchase
B2B buyers are spending more and more time researching and preparing before making a purchasing decision. And most of this time is now spent online. A 2021 McKinsey & Company market study revealed that 70% of B2B buyers surveyed preferred online shopping to face-to-face interaction with sellers. They seek to understand the products and services available on the market, industry trends and best practices. As buyers are receptive to value-added content and quality storytelling, sellers need to learn how to carefully craft their pitch as well as the content surrounding their products.
The influence of social media and word-of-mouth
Social networks and word-of-mouth have an increasingly important impact on B2B purchasing decisions. B2B buyers rely on peer recommendations and online reviews to evaluate products. Sellers therefore benefit from having a presence on social media and encouraging positive feedback from their customers.
The importance of the customer experience
B2B buyers are increasingly looking for a positive, personalized customer experience. They expect sellers to be attentive to their specific needs and provide quality customer care. Answering buyers' questions and providing ongoing support after the purchase is therefore a must.
B2B purchasing decisions are usually made by a group of people rather than a single individual. B2B buyers seek to involve multiple stakeholders in the purchasing process to ensure informed decision-making. Sellers therefore need to be able to communicate effectively with multiple stakeholders and address their different concerns.
III. The need for sellers to adapt their sales strategy
Trends in B2B buying behavior are evolving rapidly, and sellers need to be aware of these trends if they are going to remain competitive or stand out from the crowd. To do so, they need to adopt a sales strategy that takes account of new trends and buyer desires. Here are some key elements to consider:
The importance of customer knowledge and personalized offers
It is key for sellers to understand buyers' profiles, what discourages them and what triggers them to make a purchase, so as to propose a personalized offer that meets their expectations. The development of buyer personae (typical buyer profiles) is a prerequisite for converting prospects into buyers. For this, it's essential to collect data on buyers and use it to tailor the offer to their specific needs. As B2B purchasing decisions are often made by a group of people, manufacturers must be willing to collaborate with the different stakeholders involved in the purchasing process and meet everyone's expectations and ensure informed decision-making.
Developing a content strategy
B2B buyers are looking for clear and precise information about the products you are offering. Sellers must
therefore provide useful and relevant information to meet buyers' research needs. The information provided must be adapted to the buyer's specific context, enabling them to make an informed decision. You have to learn to inform in order to convince, and convince in order to sell.
Using digital marketing techniques
Sellers need to be present on digital marketing and social networking channels to reach B2B buyers. They also need to adapt their sales path to meet buyers' specific needs. Exploiting digital technologies and positioning themselves on the right communication channels is crucial. Online demonstrations and free trials are just some of the avenues you should explore.
Optimizing the customer experience
B2B buyers are looking for a high-quality, personalized customer experience. Sellers must therefore be ready to provide seamless customer service and answer buyers' questions quickly and efficiently. Salesforce market research from 2021 revealed that 84% of B2B buyers surveyed believed that the overall buyer experience is just as important as price.
As digital marketing expert Brian Solis so aptly puts it: "Customers are no longer content to simply buy products or services, they buy experiences." Manufacturers need to focus on meeting emerging needs by delivering a flawless customer experience, tailored to the aspirations of each individual buyer. New B2B buyer behavior requires a sales approach focused on the customer experience to build loyalty and convince buyers to return. Manufacturers who succeed in delivering an optimal customer experience will be the ones to stand out in an increasingly competitive market.
In this context, companies need to be vigilant and focus on high-quality, personalized content. Consequently, it can be very profitable to work with e-commerce professionals, to aim for the right targets and avoid any loss of visibility on the web.
VirtualExpo's services are an ideal solution for manufacturers and distributors seeking to win new international customers. Contact us today to find out how our tools can help you achieve your business objectives.