Targeting Today’s B2B Buyer – Why Your Pipeline Could Be Lying to You

Targeting Today’s B2B Buyer – Why Your Pipeline Could Be Lying to You

It’s 9am, the year is 1898. Elias St. Elmo Lewis, advertising magnate, arrives at work, removes his top hat and places his cane in the umbrella stand. That day, he put the finishing touches to a model that would go on to define marketing campaigns the world over (for at least the next century). That model, was the original sales funnel.

123 years on, times have changed. Buyers have changed. But many marketers are yet to catch up. They still see the B2B sales journey as linear – a step-by-step approach, moving their buyer from one stage, to the next. They create content to answer key milestone questions. Little do they know, buyers are coming up with on-the-fly questions that are going unanswered.

Gartner’s CSO Update shines a light as to just how wide a gap there is between this age-old understanding of a B2B buying journey, and the reality.

Put yourself in the shoes of the buyer.

You have four core tasks to achieve before you can be confident in the knowledge that you’ve gathered all the facts – each of which must be validated, then consensus must be gained with your fellow stakeholders.

Gartner 2021 – The New B2B Buying Process (https://www.gartner.co.uk/en/sales/insights/b2b-buying-journey)

Around six months ago, we were targeting accounts for one of our clients when we came across a situation where we could disrupt the buying cycle. The company had identified a problem, dutifully explored the market and established their requirements. They were on the verge of selecting their supplier.  Which is right where we stepped in.

The technology from the current vendors would have been deployed entirely on site. This would have been fine, but our client’s approach meant that it could be deployed in the Cloud. In doing so, the client’s customers could engage and share information more easily, the client would also be able to automate elements of the processes. All in all, this meant that our client could deliver a far better commercial model.   

Clever us!

At least that’s what we thought. Turns out, while the prospect invited our client to tender they had also started the process all over again (their procurement process insisted on being able to compare with two other similar solutions).

Suffice to say then, the B2B buying process of the modern day takes a sizeable amount of time. Not least because buyers revisit most of those steps (often multiple times over).

  • 76% revisit the very first step – identifying the problem.
  • 79% reconsider the solutions they’re considering.
  • 80% return to look at their requirements.
  • 79% change the suppliers they’re considering.

This all means that a buyer’s journey could now look like this…

Gartner 2021 – The New B2B Buying Process (https://www.gartner.co.uk/en/sales/insights/b2b-buying-journey)

“B2B buying doesn’t play out in any kind

of predictable, linear order. Instead, customers engage in what we might call “looping”

across a typical B2B purchase, revisiting each of those six buying jobs at least once”. – Gartner (2021)

Validation to identify if something is the right solution, or even if the requirements have been defined correctly, can happen at any time. Now that your B2B buyer isn’t following a linear journey, you need to realign,  matching what you deliver from an information point of view to what the buyer needs.

The Modern Campaign Kick Off Meeting Might Run Like This…

“First, marketing – you generate and nurture demand through early-buying stage content placed on digital channels. Your job is done when you have qualified opportunities to hand over to sales”.

“Then it’s over to you, salespeople, for one-on-ones with the warmed up leads you receive”.

Time for a Pipeline Review Meeting

“The number of opportunities stuck in sales stage 5 are high. Marketing is working. The sales reps aren’t. They need retraining. Don’t they?”

In fact, the marketing exec has been misled. The old linear pipeline has misdiagnosed reps as the issue, when in fact those prospects in your pipeline aren’t ready to progress, because new information has led them to revisit one of those four key buying jobs.

Mixing up job completion and sales progression is a fatal flaw that will lead you to overlook the biggest problem your prospect has – wading through copious amounts of information.

Your Sales Reps – Time to Rethink Their Job Description?

We have good news, and bad.

The bad news – today’s information abundance in B2B selling delays in-person interactions.

The good news – content provision is mature. 90% of B2B buyers feel they encounter information that is high quality. Yet 50% also feel that the information they encounter is overwhelming.

At the same time, buyers no longer have a preference as to whether they receive information via a digital channel, or from a sales interaction. So where are your sales reps best placed?

“Sales reps most likely to win in this world are far less focused on demonstrating personal expertise by dumping yet even more information into customer interactions, and far more focused on helping customers sort through information already available — acting as a kind of “information connector” to provide the frameworks and tools customers desperately need to efficiently organize and align their thinking”. – Gartner (2021)

Incognate can help you to navigate this Brave New World that Elias St. Elmo Lewis wouldn’t recognise, supporting you as you adapt to today’s buying complexity. We can help you to generate direct sales leads, but also carry out lead nurturing. We can ensure that your sales team are connecting with your buyers at the right time, with the right detailed information to help you to get the right sales results.

Call us now on 01844 211 690 or get in touch and we can organise a meeting to chat through our approach.