No matter how digital we’ve become in the B2B enterprise, we still talk to each other. A lot.

SiriusDecisions discovered this in its “2015 B-to-B Buyer Study.” B2B buyers interact with sales representatives at every stage of the buyer's journey, the research firm reported after it surveyed 1,000 B2B executives.

“Although we knew human interactions were still an integral part of the buyer’s journey I was surprised to see that the split between human and non-human interactions is almost equal at every decision phase, even in an Independent Buying Scenario where the price point is lower,” Jennifer Ross, senior research director at SiriusDecisions, told CMSWire. 

Inside the Numbers

SiriusDecisions surveyed B2B executives involved in a “significant B2B purchase decision” within the past six months. The data represented an estimated half-billion dollars in B2B purchases across North America and Europe.

Think B2B sales representatives roles have declined in the age of digital buying behaviors? Not quite, researchers found. Key findings include:

  • More than half the time, sales representative involvement starts at the beginning of the buyer’s journey
  • The highest level of reported buyer/seller interaction for all buying scenarios occurred during the education phase of the buyer’s journey 
  • Buyers overwhelmingly describe those interactions as positive (in over 85 percent of the buying experiences studied)

Marisa Kopec, vice president at SiriusDecisions, told CMSWire the most surprising thing was that the highest interaction rate between a provider sales representative and the buyer occurred in the education phase, early-stage buying.

marisa kopec, siriusdecisions

“It was really contrary to what most people in B2B believe about the buyer process,” she said.

Kopec and Ross told CMSWire the results proved their theory there are three distinct buying scenarios. Buying behaviors and interaction patterns change, they added, based on the buying scenario which is described by the attributes: price point of offering, the number of buying centers and individuals involved in the purchase decision.

Know Buyer Behavior

So where do B2B sales and marketing teams go from here?

SiriusDecisions officials told us the biggest mistake they see are critical marketing and sales investments decisions being made based on a limited understanding of buying behavior. Or, even worse, industry hype.  

Learning Opportunities

“We set out to find out if it was true that the sales rep was being dis-intermediated by digital marketing because we see a lot of huge organizational design, resourcing and spend decisions being made thinking that sales reps don't matter anymore,” Kopec and Ross said. “And, our perspective was that sales did matter.”

And B2B marketers must create and facilitate, on average, between 11 and 17 distinct buyer interactions to enable a purchase to occur, the researchers found.

“In fact, people matter, not just sales reps, but also the subject matter experts from the provider organization,” they said. “The product manager, executive and customer service rep. All play integral roles in the buying process.”

B2B companies need more insight into their specific buyer personas and buying scenarios that is shared across marketing, sales and product teams to develop a go-to-market approach that aligns to their buyer’s journey, the researchers added.

They should spend “less time trying to isolate how an individual tactic influences the buyer’s journey and take a more holistic approach that considers their buyers interaction patterns and the arc of activity that is common to their most successful deals.”

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by Fran Devinney.

Simpler Media Group, 2015