How to drive purchasing decisions in a complex B2B buying process
Reading time:14 m
Let’s face it: The B2B buying process has changed dramatically. There’s no more single decision-maker you can reach out to and sell your products or services.
More and more people are involved in the purchase process: 55% of sales executives encounter a 2–4 person decision-making committee, while 23% have to work with 5 or even more stakeholders. Also, 40% of salespeople note that the number of decision-makers has increased within a year.
The approach to choosing a vendor also shifts. In 2023, B2B buyers already evaluate 3.2 brands on average. What’s more, the sales cycle becomes longer, with decision times growing from an average of 344 days to 350 days.
With this in mind, salespeople have to look for ways to speed up the B2B purchase process. Today, we’ll share the hands-on expertise of our sales department on how to drive the buying intent without pushing hard, followed by some of our success stories.
But first, let’s deal with key things that shape the B2B buying process, like its stages, the people involved in it, and the factors that influence their decisions. You can always skip straight to practical insights on adapting sales strategy to the ever-changing decision-making process.
In fact, it’s much like any other customer journey but with more stakeholders engaged in choosing a product or service. Normally, they go through 4 main B2B buying process steps to pick a suitable solution:
Discovering an issue
Looking for a possible solution
Approving and purchasing
In B2B, there’s no place for spontaneous actions, and the purchase can’t be made overnight. Stakeholders have to evaluate the available solutions to make the final decision. Typically, there are a lot of substages with different departments and people involved, like in one of the B2B buying process examples:
The process doesn’t end with a purchase, though. Ongoing collaboration may require recurring payments and additional approvals for contract prolongation. Besides, stakeholders can circle back to the third step to consider alternatives if they aren’t happy with a solution.
People involved in different stages of B2B buying process
Identifying all decision-makers is crucial, as 37% of our clients addressed us because they struggled to target the right person.
So, let’s dive deeper into who can make decisions on different steps in B2B buying process:
Discovering an issue
Any employee, C-level execs, Top managers
The support team receives a complaint from the customer that he couldn’t pay for his order on the company website. They pass the issue to the development team, which finds out that some payments don’t go through. Upon analysis, they discover that their current payment provider isn’t supported in several countries. They bring the issue to the attention of the manager, who escalates it to top managers.
Looking for solutions
R&D team, Product & operations team
The R&D team looks up and compiles a list of payment providers available in the selected countries.
Product & operations team, R&D team
Financial and legal teams review the chosen providers for compliance with the regulations, while tech teams analyze the complexity of integration and possible changes to IT infrastructure. After that, they pick 2–3 solutions that suit them most.
Approving & purchasing
C-level executives, Top managers
CEO and other top managers evaluate the benefits and risks of the chosen payment providers and decide upon one of them. The legal team steps up here to sign the service agreement, while the finance team takes care of payment.
Product & operations team
The dev team integrates the new provider and monitors whether all payments go through. The end users here are also customers of the company who make purchases via a new payment provider.
Depending on each company’s hierarchy and organizational structure, the B2B buying decision process can involve more or fewer people. As a result, it can either take a few weeks or last for months.
Note: Make sure everyone who should participate in the process is engaged. Otherwise, find them and get them involved. Also, try to understand what priorities and challenges each of the decision-makers have to address those issues on a personal level at each stage.
Finding the right people is one thing. Understanding what drives them can be more challenging and require deeper research. For example, basic factors of the B2B decision-making process you can’t ignore fall into 3 major categories:
Current economic conditions
e.g., A chance of a downturn can make brands look for cheaper options.
Size and organizational structure
e.g., In enterprises, more stakeholders are responsible for the decision-making process, while in SMBs only 2–3 people can be in charge of it.
Personal characteristics of the decision-makers, like their age, experience, job position, and attitude toward risks
e.g., A 25-year-old CEO may be more likely to adopt new technologies, while a 65-year-old CEO may be more risk-averse.
e.g., Timely delivery or carefully thought-out logistics may be crucial for businesses, relying on a smooth supply chain.
Goals and objectives, both short- and long-term
e.g., A company plans to expand to new markets in the future and may pay attention to how scalable a solution is.
Latest technology developments
e.g., An AI rise makes companies consider adopting it.
Policies the company relies on
e.g., Financial or health care businesses can require additional security levels or even on-premises rollout.
e.g., When choosing financial services, you should make sure they operate legally and comply with relevant laws.
The budget allocated for the current year or exact project
Culture and customs
e.g., People from some countries can prefer face-to-face communication.
Another underrated yet important set of factors that influence B2B purchase decisions is interpersonal criteria. This is about the communication of a salesperson with the buyer from the target company and about building meaningful, long-lasting relationships.
Boost your sales and ROI with Belkins experts
A recent study discovered 7 in 10 B2B buyers will most likely purchase from salespeople that studied their background, pains, and needs, as well as show a solution instead of pushing and are ready to listen rather than talk.
Julia Sorokovikova, Head of Sales Operations at Belkins, highlights communication as one of the factors that matter most for the majority of our prospects:
If you’re talking to a client looking to change a provider, they pay most attention to 2 things — prices and professionalism. Based on the communication with SE, the prospect assumes how the whole delivery team (company) would act and how good communication, processes, and documents/templates are. As for the price — I think it’s self-explanatory, but many clients do compare pure numbers (total price). What is important here is to help your client understand their ROI.
Also, if a prospect isn’t looking for a new provider but is ready to talk, you need to impress him and create a wow effect. Here at Belkins, we have different scenarios: a case study from relevant clients (same industry, town/city, or direct competitor they are running against all the time), our due diligence process, or a perfect score on Clutch.
Case in point: Mary, Sales Executive at Belkins, had a prospect earlier this year. After the kick-off meeting, she was sure it was a no-go, as they had some specific requirements we seemed not to meet. Still, Mary convinced them to go through our due diligence process. The prospect was so impressed with the results that they signed a contract with us even though it seemed like we had a deal-breaker at the beginning.
How to adapt your sales strategy to the changing B2B buying process
In addition to all those factors, B2B buyers are now more informed, more digitally savvy, and more involved in the B2B purchase decision process. With all these variables, your sales team should be super flexible when starting communication with each new prospect.
So, how can you help them win opportunities in the ever-changing environment?
Get to know your clients better. Here are a few points for you to consider:
Value. Narrowing down to the bottom line, your solution should either bring revenue or help to reduce expenses. These are the core reasons why businesses actually start searching for external products or services. If your offering doesn’t match any of these, stakeholders will hardly choose you.
Personal touch. Your prospects do need personalization — they are humans, after all. Depending on the stage of the purchase process, up to 72% of B2B buyers want a fully personalized experience.
Shift to multiple channels. Decision-makers use around 10 channels to research suppliers and connect with them. Also, nearly 61% of stakeholders say they don’t see much difference between online and traditional in-person communication. In the United States, China, and India, this number rises to 72%.
Expertise. 25% of B2B buyers say they will more willingly engage with a vendor who is an expert or even an industry leader in the subject. Another 25% from the same study look for valuable consultation, education, or tools from their providers.
That’s a lot to bear in mind, huh? To keep you from getting overwhelmed with all of these, we’ve prepared a list of tips on how to stand out in the B2B purchasing process by meeting your prospects’ expectations.
How to increase your chances of being selected at each stage of the B2B buying process
Providing appointment setting services for B2B for over 5 years already, we at Belkins know how tough it is to grab your clients’ attention when their inboxes are flooded with other emails.
In B2B sales, you never know if you are writing or calling at the right time. Is your prospect looking for a new provider, or have they just recently signed a new contract? Isn’t your decision-maker on vacation for the next 3 weeks?
Julia Sorokovikova, Head of Sales Operations at Belkins
Yet, we’ve worked out a few things that make our prospects choose us over other lead generation agencies.
Define who is who in your target company
This is kind of a preliminary stage, which lays the groundwork for all other steps.
To make your communication more precise and lucrative, start with research:
Try to understand how the decision-making process looks in this particular company.
Gather a pool of people who should be potentially involved.
Identify their roles and responsibilities.
Collect as much information about them as possible, including what factors influence their decisions.
Shape value prop and pitch with each buyer persona in mind.
Without those simple steps, it can be difficult to approach stakeholders and influence their decisions.
Establish your industry expertise
When companies look for solutions to their challenges, they search across the web to find information about matching products and services. The math is simple: Without an online presence, you’re invisible to them.
Here’s the bare minimum social proof you should have:
Company website with clear messaging
Social media profiles — at least LinkedIn and Facebook
Case studies that showcase your expertise
Reviews and listings on external sites
Some more pieces of content that help you build trust might be white papers, research, and studies, as well as webinars on relevant and resonating topics.
For example, to show off our experience in the client’s niche, we always prepare relevant case studies and reviews on external platforms like Clutch or G2 before getting in touch. Additionally, we participate in multiple industry events and panel talks, which makes us more visible and recognizable.
Building brand awareness on LinkedIn helps us stand out among our competitors. Over the past few months, our LinkedIn efforts brought us 23 opportunities.
Pricing matters. To be more exact, the price-quality ratio matters.
People involved in a B2B purchase decision-making process always count money but do not always choose the cheapest option. 66% of potential buyers want providers to demonstrate to them what ROI they’ll get.
This is why we’ve added an ROI calculator to our pricing page and always include the base cost of our packages in the sales decks.
Our pricing along with social proof and commitment convince our potential clients with high-market-value products or services that they can trust us.
Get the ultimate insights on the B2B trends
Before paying thousands of dollars, clients want to be sure they get what they pay for.
To help our prospects feel safe, we’ve developed several options for them to see that we can deliver:
Preliminary TAM analysis. We study the prospect’s niche in detail to ensure there are enough B2B sales leads to work with. If there’s not, we suggest adjusting their ICP by expanding geography, pool of titles, or industries.
20 free leads sample. We look up companies and decision-makers that meet our potential client’s criteria and send them for review.
3-month pilot. In some cases, we negotiate a pilot campaign and commit to delivering a certain number of appointments within 3 months.
All these activities prove to our prospects we can forecast results, reach KPIs, and guarantee stable performance. Earning their trust and keeping it is one of our primary focuses.
Develop a deep understanding of your customer’s needs
Once, I witnessed how a salesperson tried to push the product a lead didn’t actually need. Initially, they came to a demo for another product, but for some reason, the SE decided to upsell without even asking if the lead was interested in a different solution.
To avoid such situations, we recommend gathering as much information about your potential clients as possible (and it’s not only about company size or headquarters).
Research their niche.
Look into what other products or services they are using.
Identify what challenges they face and how they try to solve them.
And only after thorough research, tailor your offering.
Moreover, you can ask your prospect about their pains and needs during the first meeting. Here are some tips from Brian Hicks, VP of Sales at Belkins, who tried the disrupting questions that increased his average sale by 18% and lifted conversions from 9% to 16%:
How do you like being [title] at [your company]?
What do you love most about working at [your company]?
I noticed that you found us on G2. That means that you are probably evaluating several other solutions like ours. Let me ask you this: Do you feel that your time has been well spent speaking with all of these companies? Why or why not?
If I can ensure that you walk away from this discussion feeling positive about our interaction, what would that look like for you?
How did you come to find [your company], and why are you there?”
Build relationships with decision-makers
Finally, focus on meaningful, long-term relations that bring value to your clients.
This is all about keeping your buyers satisfied even after they signed a contract. Check out a few tips to deliver exceptional customer service:
Sync up at least once per 2 weeks.
Provide weekly reports on performance.
Collect feedback at least once per month.
To put it briefly, keep them posted on how your collaboration progresses and ask whether they get what they expect from it.
Sometimes, being able to listen can win you back even lost opportunities.
Case in point: One of our prospects went with a competitor last year after a few meetings with us. Rich, Sales Executive at Belkins, decided not to give up as he saw the potential of this client. He calculated the approximate onboarding time and campaign warm-up and set a reminder to follow up after that. As a result, he closed that deal.
How to speed up the B2B purchase process
The tips above already can shorten your B2B buying cycle, but we’ve got even more from our team.
Be consistent. Julia Sorokovikova notes the importance of the systematic follow-up process: “I do believe you can’t make a client sign a contract faster if they don’t really need it. What you can do is remind them about yourself at the right time through regular and timely follow-ups so that they don’t go to competitors. This also helps to keep the cycle length within normal length, especially if the prospect doesn’t have a strict project timeline.”
Be professional before and on the call. Tiny details contribute to the overall impression a lead gets from you. Here are a few tips from our sales team:
Research the client: who they are, what they do, and who their competitors are.
Prepare relevant materials before the call and review case studies in the same industry to back up the pitch with previous achievements.
Send an invitation to the meeting and a reminder.
Join the call 5 minutes early so that the client doesn’t have to wait for you.
Take a quick look at how we’ve arranged our outreach process to speed up the sales cycle:
So, how can you stimulate your potential clients to buy from you and shorten the buying process in B2B? Let’s summarize key points:
Be a thought leader in your niche. Invest in brand awareness so that people know you before you reach out to them. Ask your existing clients for reviews on independent platforms.
Educate your audience. Craft engaging and useful content they can benefit from. Don’t be afraid to share your expertise in public.
Show your prices and ROI. Demonstrate the value your clients will get from your collaboration.
Help your leads feel safe. Secure their money with the guarantees they can rely on even before signing a contract with you.
Dive deep into their needs and pains. Do your research and adjust your further communication accordingly.
Follow up regularly. Our recent study discovered that sending 2 follow-up emails increases reply rates by 49%.
Earn client loyalty. Focus on long-term relationships with timely communication and mutual feedback.
Need help in moving your leads down the funnel faster? Reach out to our experts and get a free consultation.
Share the article:
Co-founder and Managing Partner at Belkins
Michael is the Co-founder of Belkins, serial entrepreneur, and investor. With a decade of experience in B2B Sales and Marketing, he has a passion for building world-class teams and implementing efficient processes to drive the success of his ventures and clients.
Subscribe to our blog Get the ultimate insights on the B2B trends and hands-on tips from sales professionals. Receive updates on new articles and more.