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What Does It Take to Sell to the New B2B Buyer?

It’s never been easy to sell to B2B buyers. Today, however, there are new challenges making it even more difficult. The number of people involved in B2B purchasing is rising, the B2B sales cycle is lengthening, and expectations for salespeople are increasing, just to name a few. I checked in with Demand Gen Report’s latest B2B Buyers Survey to see what insights it offers on how to sell to B2B buyers. Here’s what you need to know.

More people are involved in the B2B buying process

There are between one and six people involved in the purchase process at 79% of companies that were surveyed, and 44% have formal buying groups or committees that review purchases. When you’re selling to a group, it’s harder to “sell” them on your product or service than it is with just one buyer. How can you deal?

Realize that in any group, some people’s opinions matter more than others. Using social media, online research, and real-world connections, dig up as much inside information as you can about the people involved in the buying process. The more you can learn about each person’s demographics (such as age, seniority, etc.) and psychology (challenges, attitudes, pain points), the more you can understand what they care about and what they’re looking for in terms of a solution. After identifying the most influential buyers in the group, get them on your side and they can persuade the rest of the team to buy your product or service.

B2B sales cycles are getting longer

It takes time to sell to B2B buyers, and some 61% of those in the survey say their sales cycle has gotten even longer since last year. No wonder: 45% are spending more time researching purchases than the previous year; 45% are using more sources to research and evaluate purchases (45%); and 41% are conducting a more detailed analysis of ROI before they make a purchasing decision.

Your B2B buyers now do a lot of their initial research online before they ever reach out to a salesperson. To capture their attention at this stage, develop content tailored to each type of buyer and each phase of the sales cycle. B2B buyers in different roles care about different things—for example, a CFO will be worried about cost, while a CIO will focus on technology. Different people also have different preferences for consuming information. For instance, millennial buyers might want to see videos, while baby boomers might prefer white papers.

Slow sales cycles don’t eliminate the need for speed

The B2B sales cycle may be longer than ever, but that doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels. B2B buyers say the bulk of the research, outreach, and evaluation involved in making a purchase occurs during the first three months of the sales cycle. In addition, 41% say their companies frequently accelerate purchases (or put them on hold) as a result of rapidly changing business priorities.

Still, two-thirds of B2B buyers say the timeliness of a vendor’s response to inquiries is a key factor in where they buy. Even if your prospective customers are dragging their feet, you need to be on the spot with messaging and content tailored to each buyer’s needs, industry, and challenges.

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Just like consumers, B2B buyers “shop” on social media

Increasingly, B2B buyers are acting like consumers: When shopping for vendors and solutions, they look at peer recommendations and review sites (65%) and social media (54%) more than they used to. LinkedIn is the most influential social media channel, used by 52% of respondents; 42% use blogs to learn about solutions. B2B buyers use social media to read existing discussions and learn more about an issue, get recommendations and suggestions from other users, contact individual thought leaders for their opinions, and reach out to vendors directly.

To get a competitive edge on social media, your salespeople should be proactive. Watch conversations, share ideas, and answer questions. Being helpful on social media without an agenda will show you’re accessible and will build communication. Develop social media-specific content to share, such as online videos of customer success stories or roundups of your online reviews. Try these tips to get the most ROI from your B2B content marketing.

To sell to B2B buyers, know what they want

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of B2B buyers want vendors who demonstrate knowledge of their company and offer insights into their problems; 62% want salespeople to demonstrate experience with and knowledge of their industry.

With so much information available online and on social media, there’s no excuse for not coming to your B2B buyer encounters unprepared. Before you ever reach out to a prospect, do your homework and find out what they care about. Demonstrating that you have a firm grasp of their industry and their needs will show you can be a valuable ally, not just someone pitching a product.

Be ready to hand B2B buyers the information they need

B2B buyers can easily be overwhelmed with information when researching solutions. More than three-fourths say it’s very important for vendors to share relevant content that speaks directly to their needs. The following features are very important for B2B buyers visiting your website:

Easy access to pricing and competitive information (67%)
Website that speaks directly to the needs of our industry and shows expertise in our area (66%)
Easy access to content (no long registration forms required) (64%)
Vendor-focused content such as case studies and product data sheets (62%)

Creating buyer “personas” can help you tailor your content to specific concerns. (Learn how to develop B2B buyer personas.) After B2B buyers actually make contact with your business, be there to guide them. Help them pinpoint what is important to them and offer possible solutions. Be prepared with case studies about businesses like theirs that benefited from your product or service, as well as specific demonstrations of ROI.

Stay with your B2B buyer

Today’s B2B buyers think far beyond actually making the purchase. They want to feel confident that your business will be there for them after the sale. How easily can they integrate your product or service into their business operations? What type of support do you provide? What happens if there are problems along the way?

Be ready to demonstrate how your business will work with them as customers to ensure they succeed. By following the guidance in this post, you can give your business an edge in wooing the hard-to-get B2B buyer.

RELATED: Tips to Make Your B2B Email Marketing More Effective

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