What is the b2b decision making process?

The best way to connect with potential customers, market your product or service effectively, and demonstrate that you've got what they need to resolve all their requirements is to spend a bit of time understanding the decision-making process behind procurement.

It's no longer a race to the bottom or a case of relying on the nearest supplier!

Online research, market competition, global industries and greater knowledge mean a buyer will go through a markedly different series of actions than even a few years ago.

Let's take a look at how the decision-making process normally works for any buyer purchasing a B2B product or service that will directly impact their company performance.

What is the b2b decision making process?

It's no longer a race to the bottom or a case of relying on the nearest supplier!

Online research, market competition, global industries and greater knowledge mean a buyer will go through a markedly different series of actions than even a few years ago.

Let's take a look at how the decision-making process normally works for any buyer purchasing a B2B product or service that will directly impact their company performance.

In B2B sales, It's no longer a race to the bottom or a case of relying on the nearest supplier! ”

1. Recognising a Need

First, a buyer needs to acknowledge that they need a product, or a service, to fulfil a business requirement.

This initial stage is why establishing pain points and using marketing techniques to demonstrate how you solve them is crucial!

If your business supplies B2B clients with things that are 'nice-to-haves' or not particularly necessary, it's never going to be top of their procurement list, so identifying a demand or problem that you can remedy is key.

This phase doesn't necessarily mean that a buyer is innovating or thinking of replacing an outdated model - it could be as simple as seeing that a competitor is doing something better and looking for ways to compete.

Shaking up the status quo and buying something completely new can be perceived as a considerable risk, so the buyer needs to have a compelling reason to act.

2. Collating Research

Now your buyer knows they need something - but what? 

This step involves information gathering, looking at the range of solutions on the market, and comparing options.

Much depends on whether they need to shore up a gap in their infrastructure, improve efficiency or productivity, or want a technical item or software package.

Buyers might look at:

  • Cost comparisons for producing something in-house and buying it in.
  • The scope of the project, defining which resolutions fall inside that bracket.
  • Long-term answers vs short-term options.

If all the answers out there turn out to be too expensive, there's always the possibility that a buyer will decide it's not worth the investment, in which case the decision-making process stalls.

Where they are committed to solving the problem, they'll use the research space to define the type of solution they prefer, weighing up the benefits and disadvantages of each route.

3. Deep Diving Into the Alternatives

Once we get to this stage, our buyer has a defined scope, has decided to proceed with sourcing a new service or product, and has considered whether it's more viable to select a third-party option or work on it internally.

Now, they're going to assess all of the alternatives, finessing the product or service specification so they can evaluate specific plus points on each possible option.

For example, the buyer needs to be exact in outlining what their company wants:

  • What the new product or services need to do.
  • How much they anticipate it costing.
  • Adherence to company or sector requirements - such as regulatory factors.

We're usually dealing with one buyer at this stage, but they'll often need to involve senior decision-makers and stakeholders later on.

4. Reviewing the Information

After a buyer has collected all the information about the feasible directions they can take, they'll need to assess each factor to move forward.

On a company level, buyers need to be confident that whatever they select won't just be functional and meet the basic need but will add to the reputation and success of the business in a broader way.

Here we get into the territory of evaluating competitors, so having great marketing resources, solid social proof, and an outstanding brand reputation will feed into the analysis, which is about more than solely cost.

Decision-making will refer to a huge range of variables, such as:

  • The ease of installing, introducing or using the new product.
  • Quality of customer service and technical support available.
  • The perception of the product's reliability and standard.
  • The simplicity of placing an order or buying the product.
  • Company reputation and brand presence in the market.
  • Pricing models, overall costs and value for money.
  • Lead times, timescales, or implementation delays.
  • Regulatory compliance and innovation benchmarks.

A buyer won't want a supplier they can't rely on, so if you are involved in any information-gathering exercises, now is the time to put your best foot forward and showcase all you have to offer.

5. Making a Buying Decision

After an in-depth assessment, the buyer will choose their supplier - but it's rarely that straightforward!

A big issue exists around decision-paralysis, where there are so many people involved it's all but impossible to reach a consensus and get things moving. 

There are, on average, a whopping 68 people involved in each buying decision, which contributes to this process taking about 20% longer than it did a decade ago.

Exact approaches vary, so that might involve:

  • Calling together procurement colleagues to weigh in with an opinion.
  • Building long lists and shortlists, gradually narrowing down the options.
  • Making decisions by committee, usually based on seniority.
  • Going out to tender and having a group to evaluate the responses.

However the process works, the customer will pull together everything they have learned about each prospective vendor and the solutions offered, comparing them against their criteria and product scope.

The result is that the buyer chooses whom they'd like to go with and places their order.

6. Actioning the Procurement

Implementation is slightly different from making the buying decision and is the moment when the customer actions the change, converts from a prospect to a client and gets the ball rolling.

The supplier needs to live up to everything their new customer is relying on and go the extra mile with onboarding, customer support, delivery and getting to know the way their client operates.

7. Verifying That the Decision Was Correct

As we mentioned a little while ago, buyers can be under a tremendous amount of pressure - and their job may even be dependent on making informed, strategic buying decisions!

Again, the exact system for reviewing the decision and evaluating whether it was commercially sound will depend on the organisation.

Still, the buyer needs to identify whether they have resolved their pain point, how the procurement impacts their business, and see how well it all meets their original expectations.

Buyers may be asked to justify each decision to senior decision-makers or present a case to management to showcase what they have achieved as an outcome.

Sourcing Information During B2B Buying Decisions

We've now got a good idea about the stages and information that goes into making decisions from a purchasing viewpoint. As a B2B supplier, you'll want to look at how the buyer sources the data that informs the process.

Most buyers use a range of sources, such as:

  • Online data, product information and company details.
  • Word of mouth referrals and recommendations.
  • Third-party reviews and feedback.

Online information plays an incredibly huge role, so if the buyer can answer every question digitally, they're halfway there. 

It's very likely a buyer won't reach out until they've already shortlisted your business as a practicable solution.

About 57% of the whole buying process is over before the buyer contacts you, and something like 45% of a buyer's time is devoted to independent research and information gathering.

Key Sources for B2B Buying Processes

So, where exactly do you need to focus your digital marketing efforts to capture this step in the process and present your company as a viable option?

Here is a list of some (of the many) online sources a buyer might use:

  • Search engines and online review sites.
  • Peer recommendations (about 76% of buyers will choose a vendor in this way).
  • Sector-specific content such as whitepapers, journals and blogs.
  • Social media - with around 75% of decisions incorporating social media research.

The complexity is that the process isn't always quite this defined. Even if a buyer runs through all of these phases, it's not necessarily a specific, systematic approach, but more a general work-through to come to a conclusion.

Getting Noticed by B2B Buyers

Selling to B2B buyers isn't easy. With more people involved in decisions, longer sales cycles and higher expectations, it can be difficult to identify how to get yourself in front of potential customers - and be noticed.

There are several tips and tricks, but the crux is that you need to know what your buyer wants.

If you make proactive sales approaches, prove your skill at addressing issues, and demonstrate experience without being asked, you'll make it onto the shortlist.

Digital marketing plays a significant role, so you should focus your efforts on:

  • Providing easily accessible pricing information.
  • Building a digital presence that shows your expertise in your field.
  • Making content quick to find without registering to read your website assets.
  • Producing content specifically aimed at vendors, such as product data sheets or case studies.

When it's clear that your business offers products or services with seamless integration, exceptional value for money, and ongoing support, you'll be in a great position to insert yourself into the decision-making process, with better prospects for a result in your favour.

Looking to boost your B2B marketing? Get in touch with Tiga Digital Agency in Kent today. 

Related Reading

Find out more about the B2B sales funnel

Segmenting a B2B audience 

What B2B sales prospecting tools? 

Social media platforms for a B2B audience

What is vertical marketing in B2B?