How to increase B2B sales? B2B customer purchasing process – the latest report

In today's dynamic business world, the success of B2B (Business to Business) sales depends largely on a deep understanding of what the purchasing process is. Companies that are aware of this and are able to look at sales through the eyes of the customer (instead of the traditional approach focused on the sales process of their own organization) better adapt their sales activities. As a result, they increase conversion efficiency.

In this article, we will look step by step at what the B2B customer purchasing process looks like. We will present what marketing strategies are worth using to increase sales effectiveness. The starting point for this study was the latest report on purchasing processes in the Polish B2B sector, prepared by the Institute for Sales and Marketing Development (IRSM)*. The aim of the mentioned study was to identify the factors taken into account by companies at each stage of the purchasing process.

How does the B2B purchasing process work?

The B2B customer purchasing process is a series of steps that a company takes to purchase products or services. Understanding this process is the foundation for developing an effective sales strategy. Having knowledge of what prompts the customer to start the purchasing process and what path he follows, we can create precise marketing messages tailored to his expectations.

Each purchasing process in the B2B area varies depending on the industry and country, but several stages can be distinguished that occur most often. These are:

B2B sales, purchasing process

Stage 1: Problem/Challenge

The initial step in the customer buying process is understanding the presence of a problem or development challenge , which is the basis for starting the process. According to the IRSM report, the most common motivation to initiate the purchasing process is to identify an organizational problem in the company (39% of responses). The second important factor is the challenges the company faces, such as entering a new market or increasing competitiveness - 30% of responses. 34.1% of respondents indicated the purchase to simultaneously solve both current problems and future challenges.

It should also be noted which sources of information were used by company representatives at this stage. These are:

  • Google (61.6%),
  • information from employees (33.8%),
  • traders (33.4%),
  • recommendations from friends (23.8%),
  • LinkedIn (21.3%).

Stage 2: Concept

In the second stage of the purchasing process, the customer is looking for a concept to solve a problem or meet a development challenge . Actively seeks ideas by asking general questions and finding out the approximate costs of various solutions. Also at this stage, the most common source of information search is Google.

According to the conducted research, Polish companies take into account at least two (35%) or three (34%) concepts. It usually takes them 1-2 weeks (35%) or 3-4 weeks (31%). When making a choice, they focus primarily on understanding how a given concept will improve their business.

At the stage of analyzing various concepts, the following factors were the most important for the surveyed companies:

  • noticing business effects (38.2%),
  • understanding a given concept (good marketing materials) (34.5%),
  • use of such a solution by competing companies (30.7%).

It is worth noting here that only 10.7% of respondents indicated low price as an important factor when considering various concepts. This shows that at this stage, convincing with a low price will not be effective.

Data from the conducted research show that many decision-makers are involved in the purchasing process. The purchasing committee in a company usually consists of two (35%) or three (22%) employees who participate evenly in the entire purchasing process.

Stage 3: Education

At this stage, the client tries to obtain as much detailed information as possible about a specific concept that will allow him to make a decision about meeting a specific need. Company representatives use the following sources to compare product specifications or the scope of services:

  • Google (74%),
  • traders (35%),
  • recommendations from friends (24%),
  • information from employees (18%),
  • trade press (18%).

Most often, it takes companies from 1 to 2 weeks (38%) or 3 to 4 weeks (26%) to expand knowledge about available solutions. As in the previous stages, several people in the company are usually involved in the education process. As many as 74% of respondents indicated the involvement of 1-3 people, with the vast majority (40%) indicating 2 employees. Therefore, it is good to take this fact into account in your sales process and marketing communications.

Stage 4: Selection

The selection stage is the moment when the customer already knows which solution he wants to use . He knows exactly what he wants to buy and for how much. However, this does not mean that he has already chosen a supplier. It is worth noting that at this stage the customer usually makes the decision himself, based on marketing materials. Well-prepared materials (containing key information, including an understandable price list, business benefits, comparisons) should convince the customer that he has made the right choice.

Stage 5: Purchase 

The last stage of the purchasing process includes selecting the offer and making the purchase . The customer is looking for the best supplier because he already knows what he needs. So what factors determine whether a person chooses a specific offer and purchases a given product or service?

As the results of the IRSM report indicate, the most important thing here is to match the offer to the company's situation and the quality and value that the purchase of a product or service brings. Interestingly, the price was only in 11th position.

What problems do B2B customers encounter when choosing an offer?

According to a study conducted by IRSM, most companies encounter difficulties in the B2B purchasing process. Only 21% of respondents rated the process as easy. This shows how much there is still to do. Companies that implement solutions that make purchasing easier for their customers will achieve a competitive advantage on the market. Therefore, it is worth, first of all, looking at the problems that customers encounter at particular stages of the purchasing process.

B2B customers, purchasing processThe IRSM report shows that at the concept search stage, the most frequently indicated factors that made the company reject the considered concepts included:

  • unknown purchase/investment costs (39.5%),
  • uncertain business benefits (37.6%),
  • awareness of insufficient budget (28.7%),
  • long implementation time (28.3%),
  • no references (21.7%).

In turn, more than half of the respondents (53%) at the education stage needed additional information necessary to make a decision after getting acquainted with the data found on Google or other sources they used. In such a case, to complete the missing information, they most often turned to a salesperson (82%).

At the stage of making the final decision, the companies saw the biggest problems in:

  • lack of answers to key questions (34.3%),
  • failure to meet the deadlines promised by the supplier (32%),
  • illegible or incomprehensible offer (31.3%),
  • lack of constant contact with the supplier.

For a large number of respondents (42%), the lack of understandable price lists in the sales offer was also a significant problem.

See also: Why run social media for a B2B company?

How can marketing help you acquire B2B customers?

By understanding the problems companies encounter when choosing an offer, we can adapt specific marketing strategies to each stage of the customer's purchasing path. For this purpose, the concept of a B2B marketing funnel may be useful, i.e. a graphical representation of how a customer interacts with a brand.

 

 

TOFU

The top of the funnel (TOFU) , or awareness stage, is the stage at which organizations become aware of existing problems and begin to look for solutions. At the early stage of the purchasing process, you should focus on reaching the widest possible group of potential customers with your offer. content marketing comes in handy . Providing valuable content to your audience significantly contributes to increasing your brand awareness.

It is worth expanding the published content with messages that make it easier for customers to notice problems in their company. Free industry reports based on independent research may be useful. It is also advisable to inform about new trends in the industry in publications. This becomes particularly important when the offer is addressed to large companies and your product or service may become an important factor in their development.

At this stage, it is also important to include Google in your strategy. This is where Polish B2B companies most often look for information on solutions to their problems. Therefore, it is worth improving the visibility of your company for key phrases related to the products or services offered. For this purpose, you can use SEO activities , i.e. website optimization for search engines and paid Google Ads advertising activities. Running a Google Ads campaign can significantly help increase brand awareness and reach a wide audience.

MOFU

The middle of the funnel (MOFU) is the consideration stage. The client is already aware of his problem and is actively looking for solutions. At this stage, it is crucial that your offer stands out from the competition. In your marketing content, highlight the unique benefits of your product or service, explaining why it is the best choice for buyers. Remember that your prospects buy to improve business results and gain a competitive advantage.

When promoting your offer, focus on how you can help your target group achieve their goals. If the offer is intended to solve a specific problem, it is worth presenting a case study. You can describe how your solution has helped increase profitability or what potential losses could occur if it is not implemented.

purchasing process, promotion, B2B marketing

Remarketing activities (e-mail marketing, retargeting ads) will be perfect here, their task is to reach people who have read the offer and ultimately convince them to make a purchase.

BOFU

The bottom of the funnel (BOFU) , or decision-making stage, occurs when a customer has shortlisted several offers and is ready to make a purchasing decision. At this stage, companies expect a clear and understandable offer that will answer their key questions.

It should be emphasized here that the substantive value of the offer is of key importance in the decision-making process. At this stage, the offer should be personalized and include specific business effects discussed in the previous stages of the purchase. It is advisable to include a clear price list in the offer, so that the customer clearly understands what the final price will be and what it entails.

At this stage, it is also worth ensuring that you maintain constant contact with the client. You can use newsletters for this purpose, which will inform you about a new offer or special promotion.

Summary

Although the B2B purchasing process, due to its specificity, differs from B2C (Business to Consumer), many activities of a business customer begin to resemble consumer behavior. Just like B2C customers, business customers also expect convenient, intuitive solutions that will facilitate their purchasing process. It is therefore advisable to base your marketing strategy on creating positive Customer Experience in contact with the brand. It is also worth understanding what problems companies most often encounter in the purchasing process and answering them at every stage of the B2B customer's purchasing path.

* The article was based on a report by the Institute of Sales and Marketing Development, https://irsm.pl/badania-irsm/jak-kupuje-b2b-w-polsce/

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