Inside the Mind of the B2B Buyer – New Paths to Purchase

(Editor’ s note: This article is the all-time most popular article at Fearless Competitor.)

Dinosaur cometsGreat insights presented by Genius and DemandGen Report, in the webinar Inside the Mind of B2B Buyers: New Paths to Purchase.

There’s been lots of discussion about how the B2B buying cycle has changed, but this presentation used actual data — they surveyed B2B buyers. I’m a bit of a data junkie.  Love hard facts.  Hope you do too.

Should this matter to YOU?

Only if you care about revenue results, such as a CEO, Board Member, Head of Sales, or Head of Marketing.

Let’s share a few takeaways — which I show as false assumptions, but first I’d like to share a bottom-line observation:

This is not your Dad’s (or Mom’s) world of sales.

The way he sold back in the 70’s and 80’s or even 90’s for companies like IBM, SAP and Unisys is over.  Done.  Kaput.

Just like the comet took out the dinosaurs, a comet (named “the Internet”) forever re-engineered the way people buy.  Unless you want your business to go the way of the dinosaurs, take note.

How You Sell How I buyThe problem is that so many things we did in the past — that worked well — no longer work.  Let’s look at these:

  1. Assumption: Get to the decision-maker to win the sale.
    Reality: Lots of people are involved in the decision today.  For details on this, check out this great blog post on “Looking beyond the decision maker” by Ardath Albee of MarketingInteractions.
  2. Assumption: If we contact enough people, we’ll find plenty of sales opportunities.
    Reality: 9 out of 10 of buyers say, when they are ready to buy, they find you.  Cold calling never worked well, but today it’s on life support.  If you’re still cold-calling, you’re competing for table scraps. Social calling (research before calls on Linkedin, using iSell or SalesView, etc. commenting on blogs, etc.) does still work fairly well. (In one study, it was found cold calling was vastly worse that PPC for new leads, but the few deals found were bigger, so the dollars netted out. But inbound leads closed MUCH faster.
  3. Assumption: If we optimize our website for search, we’ll attract prospective buyers.
    Reality: 7 out of 10 buyers say they start their buying process at vendor sites, not Google.  This means the relationships you build and trust you develop is critical. (Lead Nurturing).  You need SEO and PPC, but it’s not all you need.
  4. Assumption: A nice website and case stories will get people’s attention.
    Reality: Over 9 out of 10 buyers consumed content on their way to purchase — especially white papers, eBooks, webinars, podcasts, and more and more, video clips.  What kind of content worked best?  Content personalized to them — their industry, their title, their stage of the buying process, their consumption device (iPhone, Blackberry, laptop, iPad, etc.)  To compete today, you need great content well-mapped to buyer personas.For more information, check out this webpage from Avitage on Think Like a Publisher.  Also, check out this great resource called Junta42 by the co-author of Get Content, Get Customers.To learn about buyer personas, read this article by David Meerman Scott, Chairman of HubSpot and author of many books in his article “How Well Do You Know Your Buyer Personas.”
  5. Assumption: Qualify.  Ask about budget, access to power, needs and timeframe. (BANT) Then walk them through the sales cycle — with a demo, proposal, etc.
    Reality: Those days are gone forever.
  • Formal budgets each year — gone.
  • Neatly moving though a sales cycle — gone.
  • Answering Requests for Proposals (RFPs) — gone.

The reality is that buyers move back and forth though a buying process and come up with budgets in an ad hoc approach.  The nice and neat process of the past is dead.

Assuming you read this far, and you are responsible for revenue results, you’re thinking “Wow!  The world has really changed.  What should I do now?”

I think you should learn as much as you can about B2B lead generation.

A good starting point is the free Education page at Find New Customers. Spend some time there reviewing the well organized content.

For even more, I suggest our white paper (free) How to Find New Customers.  You should also check out blogs like Buzz Marketing for Technology and MarketingInteractions.  There are many others and I ask readers to suggest their favorites and recommendations.

In addition, you ought to learn about content marketing and content personas.  Pick up the great book by Ardath Albee called eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale.  Inbound Marketing by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah is also highly recommended.

What do you think?  How has your business changed?  What are your concerns?  What are you trying now?

I want to hear from you.

Please note that our wonderful free “cheat sheet” on lead nurturing “The 7 Keys to Lead Nurturing Success” is a small taste of what you get in our terrific white paper, How to Find New Customers.

Jeff Ogden is President of the B2B lead generation consultancy, Find New Customers. We help companies with between 150 and 5,000 employees who sell complex products to businesses to implement world-class lead generation programs. As companies struggle to create quality sales opportunities, they turn to lead generation companies like Find New Customers.


16 thoughts on “Inside the Mind of the B2B Buyer – New Paths to Purchase

  1. Jeffrey: It’s OK to re-run an article, but please redirect the old URL! I’ve just given a broken URL to 1000 newsletter readers, and sites like – er – Google are doing the same!

  2. Some interesting insight, however, in my view the cold call shouldn’t be proclaimed dead just yet – relationships have to start somewhere – it’s how you qualify the lead in the first place then how you nurture it that counts. So, highly targeted cold calling should remain part of the overall marketing mix. By all means stop cold calling, it’ll leave us with more new friends to make on the way to the next ‘YES’ 😉

    1. Very good point, Neil and thanks for writing. The phone does play an important role in relationship building. Maybe I didn’t say it well, but it is “naked cold-calling” that’s dead in my mind.

  3. Pingback: 2010 in review |

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