The B2B Buying Process Explained: 9 Influencing Stages & Factors

B2B Buying Process

It’s no secret that B2B buyers operate on a very different level from B2C buyers. Sure, B2B buying behavior is changing rapidly due to the pandemic and the onset of technological advancements. The B2B buying process still has five distinct stages and four major influencing factors that have stayed the same. Read on to discover them right now in this article!

What is The B2B Buying Process?

The B2B buying process refers to the 5 essential stages that B2B buyers and buying groups go through to purchase from a supplier. Overall, the term refers to businesses buying from businesses, a much different process than a business selling to consumers (B2C.)

B2B Vs B2C Buying Process: What’s The Difference?

The B2B buying process vastly differs from the B2C buying process for many reasons. The most significant is probably how the purchasing decision differs.

B2B buyers are process-driven. Subsequently, they want to improve a particular process by purchasing the solution. In comparison, B2C customers are emotion-driven and buy solutions to satisfy a specific need. The other ways in which they differ are detailed below:

B2B Buying Process

  • Longer buying cycles: B2B buyers take much more time to carefully review business problems, analyze solutions and arrive at a collective and optimal solution.
  • Proof is everything: B2B products are often much more complex than B2C. That’s why proof devices like testimonials, case studies, videos and demonstrations are essential in the B2B buying process.
  • More decision-makers: B2B buying often involves multiple people and decision-makers influencing the buying decision, from buying committees with purchasing agents to various department leaders and potential users. 
  • Complicated Payment Process: Not only does payment often take a lot longer for B2B sales, but it also often requires lengthy paperwork.

B2C Buying Process

  • Individual Buyers: Consumers usually buy individually or at most as a couple, which means the buying process involves a one-on-one interaction between prospect and company. 
  • Emotional Motives: While both sectors’ buying decisions involve emotion, the B2C buyer is mainly motivated by emotion. Those in the B2C sector must show much more empathy and understanding with these types of customers to build a trusted rapport. 
  • Individual Buyers: Consumers usually buy individually or at most as a couple, which means the buying process involves a one-on-one interaction between prospect and company. 
  • Easy Payment Terms: B2C payments are often as easy as payment upfront or straightforward financing for larger sales.
B2B Vs B2C Buying Process: What's the difference?

The 5 Essential Stages of the B2B Buying Process

The B2B buying process comprises five distinct stages and is driven by the strategic decision-making necessary to run a profitable business. Let’s delve into each of the stages of the B2B buying process below:

1. Recognising a Problem or Need (Awareness)

The first stage of the B2B buying process sees the business identifying a specific problem that needs resolving. Often one that needs solving to continue to grow the company. B2B buyers can trigger this first stage of recognizing a need or problem in several ways. For instance, lack of stock, unreliable suppliers, or noticing bottlenecks and inefficiency.

2. Commitment to Change

Once the organization identifies its need or problem, the next step of the B2B buying process is to commit to fixing the problem. At this point, the main focus for the buyer is usually determining the proper budget to address their needs. Then identifying whether a solution would impact other areas of the organisation.

3. Investigating, Evaluating & Comparing Solutions (Consideration)

Now the buyer is looking at their options. Generally, their first research stage will start with broad search terms as they explore their options, and then they’ll turn to educational resources, reviews, case studies and testimonials.

By doing so, they can begin to filter out suppliers and solutions that don’t meet their needs and start to search for more specific terms. They’ll also seek to clarify desired outcomes, identify which stakeholders need to be involved, and draft an RFP to create a budget.

4. Asking Suppliers to Submit RFP

All potential suppliers now receive an opportunity to complete an RFP. Also known as a request for proposal. It’s a business document that announces a project and receives bids from several contractors to complete it. Responses to the RFP are evaluated against the company’s specific needs and criteria so that they can choose the best solution.

5. Choosing a Supplier (Decision Stage)

Now, B2B buyers have to secure a unanimous buy-in from upper management. To persuade their c-suite managers, they’ll start by collating content about the solution’s pricing, ROI, and how it will improve the business’s bottom line.

At this stage of the B2B buying process, buyers will contact the supplier’s sales reps to ask specific questions about why they should choose your agency to solve their problem.

5 Essential Stages of the B2B Buying Process

Why is the B2B Buying Process Changing?

As technology improves tenfold, B2B buyers are starting to expect a B2C-like customer experience throughout every stage of the sales process. As a result, B2B sales teams must stay one step ahead.

1. Buyers Have More Information

B2B consumers do plenty of research before deciding on a purchase. As much as over 70% of business buyers watch videos to complete their product research. But realistically, customers are only a click away from your competitor’s content. So by focusing on becoming known as the organization that provides this information in the first place, you’ll quickly find yourself way ahead of the competition.

2. Buyers Want Personalised Experience

In a digital-first, self-serving world, you can no longer define your business by the product. Instead, your biggest revenue sustainability option is maintaining excellent customer satisfaction and retention.

As such, customer-centricity marks the new shift in the B2B sales process as you use customer data to develop an experience-led approach to every stage of the buyers’ journey.

3. Buyers Prefer Referrals

Whether you’re a small business or a sales professional, recommendations are vital to your company’s growth. More so, referrals, whether from a friend or colleague, are essential to B2B customers.

ThinkImpact reports that referrals create 65% of new B2B business opportunities, and 78% of B2B referrals create viable customer leads for the business.

This means many B2B consumers are beginning the buying process based on referrals. Consequently, it’s important to highlight this social proof from your currently satisfied customer base on your website and other digital channels.

Also read: 13 Top B2B Sales Trends to Watch This Year (2022)

Who are B2B Decision Makers?

A decision maker is a person who makes a final decision and approves a purchase. A typical B2B buying group usually includes 6-10 decision-makers, who all have to reach an agreement and get buy-in from the organization’s leader.

As a result of more stakeholders than a B2C buying decision, there are many more opinions to consider. More so, their job position, level of influence and department in the company can potentially affect their decision and input.

Hence, making the decision-making process longer and more complex, and external stakeholders may also influence the purchase.

Additionally, B2B purchases are often more expensive and involve more significant quantities of goods than B2C purchases, hence is more risk involved.

Consequently, there are a few main types of stakeholders that will likely be involved in a B2B purchase decision:

  • Decision-Makers: make the final decision on purchases, so carefully considering their motivations and needs is essential.
  • Recommenders: research solutions and evaluate them to recommend them for or against a purchase. 
  • Influencers: opinion and relevance can affect the choice of the decision maker.
  • Buyers: have more influence in the final purchase decision because they control and approve the budget. 
  • End-Users: interact with the product or service daily.

4 Key Factors That Influence B2B Buying Decisions

Overall, four key factors influence the B2B buying process and propel B2B buyers toward a specific purchase decision. Let’s explore them in detail below:

1. Organisational Factors

Business goals, strategies and objectives are the organization’s roadmap to success. As a result, decision-makers must present a compelling reason why they believe a new purchase will help the company achieve specific goals or milestones. Buyers influenced by organizational factors want to ensure that any product or service they purchase is compatible with existing processes, technology and systems.

2. Interpersonal Factors

The type of interpersonal relationships between people in the buying centre can slow down and even restrict the buying process. That’s why companies want to ensure that all members in the buying centre trust each other and operate under full disclosure together.

3. Individual Factors

Even the personalities and characteristics of people in the buying centre can affect the B2B buying process. For instance, factors like age, education, nature, employment tenure, and position within the company all play a role in influencing the buying process.

4. Environmental Factors

Naturally, as industries grow, the operational landscape becomes much more competitive. While these competitive conditions can help a company’s short-term success, organizations are constantly searching for ways to differentiate themselves:

4 Key Factors that influence B2B Buying Decisions

Final word: Go from top to bottom of the sales funnel with SOCO/®

Thanks to the ongoing effects of the pandemic, B2B buyers’ behavior is changing rapidly—a problem exacerbated by the growing need for virtual interactions and purchases.

As a result, running a productive and profitable sales department depends on having the right employees with the knowledge they need to do their jobs effectively. Members must continually update their selling skills to get the most from your sales team. With SOCO/’s B2B sales training, you can grow your company faster than you thought possible.

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