A recent study about B2B buying habits has shown that customers frequently rely on digital marketing and sales representatives during the customer journey. This finding challenges the common industry perspective that B2B sales representatives’ roles and importance are declining due to a disintermediation by digital buying behaviors.
The study, conducted by SiriusDecisions (a global business-to-business (B2B) research and advisory firm) examined the buying behaviors of more than 1,000 B2B executives who were involved in a significant B2B purchase decision within the past six months. The data collected represents an estimated half-billion dollars in B2B purchases across North America and Europe.
"While the cognitive buying decision process is linear and sequential, we found that how buyers consume content and interact with provider organizations is not linear – in fact, the interaction patterns are much more episodic," explained Marisa Kopec, Vice President and Group Director at SiriusDecisions. “For example, a buyer can perform a single search on Google or go to a sales meeting, and that one interaction might provide all the information they need to inform each of the decision gates they need to get through in order to make a decision to buy.”
The study’s other key findings included the following:
- The price point of an offering affects the number and type of interactions that occur between a buyer and provider.
- As the price point of an offering goes up, human interactions between the buyer and the provider also increase. But even at low price points, there is evidence that human-to-human interactions occur.
- More than half the time, sales representative involvement starts at the beginning of the buyer’s journey. In complex buying scenarios, sales rep involvement starts at the beginning of the journey two-thirds of the time.
- The highest level of reported buyer/seller interaction for all buying scenarios occurred during the education phase of the buyer’s journey (the first decision gate in the purchasing decision process).
- Not only do buyers interact with a sales representative from the winning provider organization in all phases of their decision-making process, but they overwhelmingly describe those interactions as positive (in over 85 percent of the buying experiences studied).
"We found that buyers interact with representatives during every stage of the decision-making process at least half the time, and that the type of decision – or buying scenario – greatly impacted the number and types of interactions," said Jennifer Ross, Senior Research Director, SiriusDecisions.
“The new way to think about B2B buying is that human interactions still occur and matter, and that the rise of digital marketing doesn't mean those interactions go away,” Kopec said. “It just means that buyers and providers are interacting in new digital ways. Just because buying behavior is done digitally does not mean that sales representatives are no longer required to instigate or facilitate a buying process.”
When embarking on a Journey Marketing campaign, it is important that a company consider every component that impacts its customers’ buying decisions, even those components that are unrelated to the digital marketing initiatives, such as human interaction.