The B2B buying process is long, arduous, and filled with potential roadblocks.
The current purchase process is painfully slow. It can take weeks or even months to schedule a meeting, secure a purchase order, and finalize the deal. It lengthens the sales cycle and increases the likelihood of lost opportunities and frustration on both sides.
To help you, this article breaks down the complex B2B buying process into easy-to-understand steps so that you can make the sale. We explain how to identify decision-makers, build a case for your product, and close the deal.
The Buying Journey can be Complex: Here’s an overview.
The business-to-business (B2B) buying process is the steps that a company takes to purchase products or services from another business.
What makes the B2B buying journey complex?
- The B2B typical buying group often has around eight decision-makers, each with their priorities and budget considerations. Because the stakes are higher, companies want to ensure that everyone affected by the decision is on board with it. It can mean consulting multiple departments, doing extensive research, and comparing shopping.
- Businesses usually have longer time horizons than consumers, meaning they may be more interested in long-term value than short-term gain.
- Businesses are often much more risk-averse than consumers because they’re buying on behalf of their company rather than themselves. They have more critical buying jobs. So, they have to be very confident in a purchase before committing to it, making the buying process longer and more complex.
- Businesses often require customization or special features that must be negotiated before the sale can be finalized. It can add more complexity to the process and make it even longer.
- Businesses usually have to go through a lengthy Request for Proposal (RFP) process before making formal purchasing decisions, which can be time-consuming and frustrating.
The 7 Stages of the B2B Purchase Process
The entire B2B purchase process can be divided into seven distinct stages:
The problem recognition stage of the B2B buying process is when a business realizes it has a need that it cannot meet with its current resources. It can be triggered by an internal event, such as a decline in sales, or an external event, like a change in the competitive landscape.
The buyer then begins searching for information to help them understand the problem and identify potential solutions.
The second stage of the buyer’s journey entails gathering data and insights about potential options to make an informed purchase decision. It can involve everything from reading reviews and conducting independent online research to speaking with colleagues or industry experts.
The goal of the information search is twofold:
- to identify potential vendors and products that meet your specific needs
- to gather enough information about those options to compare them. In other words, you want a pretty good idea of what you’re looking for before you start reaching out to vendors.
Evaluation of Alternatives
At this point of the sales stage, the buyer enters the evaluation of alternatives. It is when potential buyers compare suppliers and evaluate their options to make the best possible decision for their company.
There are different key factors that influence customer decisions at this stage:
- Buyers need to have a clear understanding of their needs and requirements. What do they look for in a product or service? What are their must-haves? Once they have this information, they can start to narrow down their choices and compare alternatives side-by-side.
- Cost is also a significant consideration during the evaluation stage. Buyers must find a supplier that meets their needs at a price that fits their budget.
- Buyers also need to consider the risks associated with each alternative. What are the potential downsides of each option? What could go wrong?
In the fourth stage, the purchasing decision, the buyer decides to commit to a vendor and a product or service. This decision is usually made by a committee of stakeholders who weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each alternative before making a final decision.
Once the purchase has been made, the business buyers enter the post-purchase stage. During this stage, the company will evaluate the quality of the product or service and determine whether it meets the expectations.
If the company is satisfied with the purchase, it will likely continue doing business with the supplier. If they are dissatisfied, they may seek out a new supplier.
The post-purchase behavior stage is important because it can determine whether a company continues to do business with a particular supplier.
For this reason, the marketing teams need to ensure that every buyer is satisfied with their purchase. Companies can encourage customers to continue doing business by providing excellent customer service and maintaining high-quality standards.
The supplier selection stage is when the buyer looks for qualified suppliers to work with. This decision is based mainly on price, quality, and reputation. After selecting the supplier, the buyer and seller enter into contract negotiations. They discuss terms and conditions, pricing, and other important details.
The final stage of the B2B purchasing process is relationship management. It is when the company and customers engage in building and maintaining a good relationship.
They do this by providing support, services, and information. They also try to resolve any problems that the customer may have. A company might also offer discounts or promotions to keep the customer happy.
If a company can build a good relationship with its customers, it will be more likely to keep doing business with them. Relationship management is not just about selling products or services. It is also about providing value and being a resource for the customer.
Companies can create long-term loyalty and repeat business by building solid relationships with customers.
Now we go to the steps to make the buying journey as convenient and efficient as possible.
How to Streamline Your B2B Buying Process?
The following are valuable sales strategy tips that are indispensable for the success of your B2B buying process.
Be prepared to put your customers first.
Your customers are the lifeblood of your business. Without them, you would cease to exist. It’s important, then, to make sure that their needs are always a top priority.
Reflect on these questions:
- What are they looking for?
- What are their pain points?
- What are their goals?
- How can you help them?
If you’ve got an answer to these questions, you’ll be able to offer all available solutions and create a customer-centric buying process that will make it easy for your prospects to complete buying jobs.
Provide Quality Information
Buyer enablement should be one of your primary objectives when streamlining the B2B buying process.
Your buyers need to be able to find all the necessary information without difficulties. It includes product sheets, case studies, eBooks, how-to guides, blog posts, etc.
Streamline your internal communication.
When your internal communication works well, your team is cohesive, efficient, and effective. But when it breaks down, things can quickly fall apart.
Make sure everyone involved in the process knows their role and what they need to do. Having clear responsibilities will help the process run to plan and avoid bottlenecks. These well-established protocols and lines of communication ensure that everyone in your company is on the same page and that information flows smoothly.
Don’t be afraid to automate where possible.
Automation can be your best friend. It can take the guesswork out of pricing, product selection, and delivery. Automating certain tasks can save time and money and free your employees to do more important work.
There are three main areas where automation can help streamline the B2B buying process: contact management, lead generation, and sales follow-up.
An automated contact management system can save you time and hassle when keeping track of your customers and prospects. By centralizing your customer data in one place, you can easily see who you need to follow up with and when. It can be a huge time-saver, especially if you have a large customer base.
Secondly, automation can help you generate more leads by automating key tasks such as email marketing and social media outreach. By constantly keeping your leads warm through automated nurture campaigns, you’ll be in a much better position to convert them into customers when they’re ready to buy.
Automation can help you stay on top of your sales follow-up. You can ensure that no opportunities slip through the cracks by setting up automatic reminders for follow-up calls and emails. Automation also helps you keep track of important customer details, such as purchase history and contact preferences, so you always know what to say when following up.
Advice for B2B Buyers:
Do your research before you make a purchase.
When buying a product for your business, it’s important to do your research first. That means understanding what products are available, what features and benefits each product offers, and how they compare.
It also means knowing what your own needs and requirements are and finding the products that best meet those needs. Once you’ve done your research, you’ll be better positioned to decide which product is right for your business.
Work with a reputable supplier.
When you look for a supplier, find one that is reputable and has a good track record. You want to be sure that they will be able to provide you with the products and services that you need and that they will be reliable.
It’s also a good idea to get recommendations from other businesses that have used the supplier in the past. Working with a reputable and trustworthy company will give you peace of mind.
Get quotes from multiple suppliers.
Once you’ve identified a few potential suppliers, getting quotes from each of them is important. It will help you compare the prices of the products and services they offer and ensure that you get the best deal possible.
It’s also a good idea to ask each supplier about their terms and conditions, delivery times, and return policies. This way, you’ll know what you’re getting into before making a purchase.
Make sure you understand the terms and conditions of the sale.
Before you make a purchase, it’s important to read and understand the terms and conditions of the sale. It includes things like the warranty, return policy, and payment terms.
You should also ensure that you understand any legalities involved in the purchase, such as who is responsible for shipping costs, import duties, and taxes.
Be prepared to negotiate.
Once you’ve found the product that you want to buy, it’s important to be prepared to negotiate the price. It is especially true if you’re buying in bulk or looking for a discount. It’s also a good idea to know your bottom line price so that you don’t end up paying more than you’re comfortable with.
Streamlining the B2B buying process would make it simpler, faster, and more efficient. It would save businesses time and money and make it easier for buyers to find the products and services. It is a win-win for everyone involved.
Here are other questions related to the B2B buying process that we have not discussed in the article.
1. B2B purchases are usually higher ticket items than B2C purchases. It means that the decision-makers in a B2B setting are often more senior executives with more input into the final decision.
2. B2B decision-makers usually look for products or services that will help their company be more efficient or productive. As such, they tend to be much more interested in the functional aspects of a product or service.
3. Because B2B buyers typically buy for their businesses as opposed to themselves, they tend to be much more price-sensitive than B2C buyers.
4. Most B2B purchases are made through a formal RFP (request for proposal) process. It is in contrast to B2C purchases, which are often made on impulse or with little research. What criteria do businesses use to evaluate potential suppliers? There are a few key criteria that businesses use to evaluate potential suppliers.
The decision-making unit (DMU) of a business purchasing organization is the group of executives responsible for the final decision on vendor selection.
The core decision-making unit may vary in size and composition from company to company but typically includes representatives from various departments within the organization, such as marketing, finance, and operations. In some cases, the DMU may also include external advisors, such as consultants or industry experts.
According to a recent study, the average b2b buyer now spends nearly 60% of the purchase decision researching on their own before even talking to a sales rep. This shift in the buying process has created many challenges for sales reps, who are now under pressure to differentiate themselves and add value at every stage of the sale.
One of the biggest challenges facing sales reps is the sheer amount of information buyers have access to. In the past, sales reps were often the only source of information about a product or service. Today, buyers can easily find detailed product specs and customer reviews online, meaning that sales reps need to offer more than just basic product information. They need to be able to answer tough questions and address potential objections with confidence.