5 Statistics that Will Change Your View of the B2B Buyer’s Journey
By: Jen Garofalo | 07/22/2016
We know that B2B customers have become empowered information seekers. Business buyers want valuable advice during the purchasing process. They search online, compare products, read reviews and white papers, and talk with each other, especially through social media, often before speaking with a sales representative.
Buyers are not the only ones using digital technologies to determine how, when and with whose input they make decisions. Companies are looking hard at digital and traditional channels. They also are learning more about customer behavior and how that impacts purchase decisions. Organizations are analyzing the buyer’s journey to find trends and to develop new ways to respond to them.
Here are 5 telling statistics about how customers are making decisions and how organizations are responding to customers’ behavior as they move from discovery to purchase.
1: 90% of C-Level Prospects Ignore Cold Outreach.
A 2012 Harvard Business Review article reported a survey finding that “more than 90% of C-level executives said they ‘never’ respond to cold calls or e-mail blasts.”
Who else is ignoring cold outreach?
Baylor University reported similar low results for cold calling from their 2012 study. MBA students partnered with Keller Williams Realty International agents who made 6,264 cold phone calls. Agents called prospects selected at random from a geographic region that they had not marketed to before. Less than 1% of calls resulted in an appointment or referral.
What about more recent B2B insights?
In 2015, Kevin Scott, head of Sales Solutions at LinkedIn EMEA reported, “90% of B2B decision makers never respond to any form of cold outreach, while 75% of them use social media in their decision making process.”
Whether cold calling is dead or not is up for debate. But what is clear is cold outreach strategies have become very tough to execute successfully, and social strategies may have more potential.
2: 84% of C-level and VP-level buyers use social media interaction to influence purchase decisions.
Social media significantly impacts executive level purchase decisions. A white paper sponsored and published by LinkedIn states “75% of B2B buyers and 84% of C-level or vice-president level executives use social media to make purchasing decisions” (Social Buying Meets Social Selling, Kathleen Schaub, April 2015).
Why the strong preference for advice from online colleagues and friends? The research shows that buyers enjoy greater confidence and comfort with decisions informed by peers. They value how quickly friends in a social network respond — there is almost no wait for a social connection to respond to a request concerning business. In the buyer’s experience, online professional networks are the number one preference of B2B buyers in the final stages of the buying process, according to the report.
3: Only 42% of marketers agree they can measure the ROI of their social media activities.
In a 2015 survey of 3,700 B2B and B2C marketers, the Social Media Examiner asked about the top challenges marketers face in using social media in marketing. They found that 92% of marketers surveyed agree that social media is important to their marketing. However, measuring the effectiveness of their activity is a persistent challenge. 88% of marketers surveyed said they want to know more about how to measure the return on social media marketing investment.
4: More than half (52%) plan to make more than half their purchases on e-commerce platforms in the next 3 years.
More B2B procurement is moving to the web. Procurement professionals find that buyers value and seek the speed and smoothness of the ecommerce experience, according to a 2015 Forrester report.
The spending of B2B buyers online has recently doubled. The number of B2B buyers who spent 90% or more of their budget online grew from 9% in 2013 to 18% in 2014, says Accenture.
5: B2B buyers see just 20% of sales representatives as valuable. Engagement is five times more likely for sales reps who add value in the prospect’s view.
According to SalesForce, (with data from Corporate Visions),”just 20% of sales people are currently seen as valuable by their buyers, ” but 74% of buyers choose to work with the sales representative who first added value. For buyer engagement, it is increasingly important to provide information that buyers see as relevant and in line with their own priorities.
However, the perceived value of the sales rep may depend on the type of product or service being purchased.
Forrester’s Lori Wizdo finds that in the discovery process for “Mobile Devices, Apps, Platforms and Management Software” the in-person sales rep is the fifth most influential resource, behind peers, technology analysts, IT forums and technology publications.
After the discovery process moves to the exploratory process, the sales representative can become the most influential resource depending on the type of technology involved. When exploring “Business Intelligence and Analytics” services, Wizdo found the sales representative was seen as the most influential channel.
On the buyer’s journey, direct, unsolicited outreach doesn’t appear to offer enough value to be worth the buyer’s time. Engaging on social media is more likely to help sellers find warmer introductions, for instance, through peer-to-peer connections. While active on social media, many organizations are finding it tough to define meaningful measures to track the success of their activities.
The ease of online buying, with chat or phone support available, is the experience that growing numbers of B2B buyers want. Interaction with sales or procurement isn’t necessarily seen as the most valuable or desired way to buy. However, it is important not to over-generalize from the numbers — input from sales representatives may be the most valuable to buyers for certain categories of products or services.
B2B buyers are proactive in seeking information. Your brand’s social media presence, web resources and representatives are more likely to engage buyers and influence them by adding value that helps them feel confident and informed in their purchase decision. Buyers place trust in the recommendations they get via social media, and even busy C-level executives will rely on peer input to influence their purchase decisions right up through the final stages.