How to craft a holistic B2B buyer journey in 2023

Marc Grewenig
January 10, 2023

Every business wants to ensure a good buying experience for their customers - something they can brag about to their friends. And at the heart of a good buying experience lies a well thought-out, all-encompassing buyer journey.

Your buyer journey is not only impacting your customer experience but it is also one of the key drivers of your topline growth. Plan out your B2B buyer journey well, and you can accelerate your sales process, delight your buyers and drive revenue. Fail to do so, and a poorly planned, haphazard buyer journey will damage your pipeline and frustrate your buyers.

But when it comes to B2B, buyer journeys are a tough nut to crack. That's why In this blog post, we explain what a typical B2B buyer journey looks like and how you can craft yours to enable your buyers through it. 

What exactly is the B2B buyer journey?

The B2B buyer journey can be thought of as the steps that a B2B buyer goes through to make a purchasing decision. This typically involves researching potential vendors, comparing products or services, getting the buy-in from relevant stakeholders and negotiating prices.

Ultimately, the goal of the B2B buyer is to find the best solution for the business's needs at the best price.

Evolution of the B2B buyer journey

Over the years, sales have used an oversimplified version of the buyer journey comprising of three to five stages. Buyers are expected to follow the stepwise process and move from one stage to another in a predictable manner. However, Gartner’s research shows that the buyer journey can be better visualized as a maze than a linear process.  

This evolution of the buyer journey for B2B can be attributed to several factors, including:

  • The increase in the number of stakeholders involved in a B2B purchase. Ten years ago, buying committees comprised of up to five individuals. Today, the number has increased to 11, and can go up to 20 for complex purchases.
  • Over the years, customers’ preferences have shifted from in-person sales interactions to digital channels to gather information and complete the buying job. Gartner suggests that customers’ usage of digital channels, such as the supplier’s website, social media, and third-party websites for problem identification, solution exploration, requirements building, and validation has increased consistently. 
  • Buyers have started preferring self-service over interacting with sales reps. This means that buyers spend more of their B2B journey gathering information on their own and only 5% of their time with sales. 

All these factors, together with the increased skepticism of the sales push among millennials, indicate the need to make drastic changes to the B2B buyer experience and the seller’s role.

It is high time that Sales leaders acknowledge the buyer’s preference for a digital-first experience and work more towards crafting an experience that can enable the buyer and transform them into champions. 

Let’s see how a business can achieve this. 

How to finetune your buyer journey for buyer enablement?

The B2B buyer experience is not limited to awareness, consideration, and decision stages anymore. There is a lot more involved right from the problem identification stage to the very end when the buying committee has signed off on a purchase. 

To truly enable buyers and have them sell internally for you, you need to enable buyers at every stage of the journey. 

Gartner identifies six key jobs that any B2B buyer performs during a purchase journey. The order of these jobs might change and the buyer will bounce around between them, but together these six stages or actions make the entire customer journey. 

The typical b2b buying journey today is not so straightforward anymore
1. Problem identification

This is the stage where the buyer knows that they have a problem and that they need to do something to overcome it. However, they do not have details about the scope of the problem, who are the stakeholders, and the extent of the impact. 

To help buyers understand the true impact of the problem, sellers need to work in collaboration with marketing and create thought-leadership content that can shape the buyer’s opinion. 

Industry benchmark reports, ROI calculators, poignant whitepapers, and webinars are some types of enablement content that serve best at this stage. 

2. Solution exploration

Once the buyer has developed a full understanding of the problem, they start looking for possible solutions. At this stage, they are not only looking at solution or service providers, but may also consider adopting a DIY approach to have greater control over the process. 

Supplier-owned content is a great resource to learn and evaluate a solution in depth. However, an increasing number of buyers find content hosted on third-party platforms more reliable. This includes analyst reports, user review platforms, expert communities, and social media. 

To enable buyers at this stage, you can share case studies from the client’s industry, pricing and ROI calculators, interactive product demos, datasheets and feature briefs. The goal here is to make sure you inform and educate your buyer not only on your solution but also on the problem that they are trying to solve. Establishing yourself as the thought-leader in the problem they are trying to solve will build trust and make them gravitate to your solution when they are ready to buy.

3. Requirements building

At this stage, the buyer has identified the broad solution category, but they still need to figure out the exact requirements. This is the stage where more members of the buying committee get involved to gather requirements. They may have already reached out to your team or even submitted a request for a proposal. 

Traditionally, sales reps interact with the buyer personally at this stage. However, with more and more buyers preferring all-digital experiences, it is not uncommon to have asynchronous interviews or share screen recordings or product tours. 

In terms of using content for buyer enablement, you can work with your sales engineer to deliver product sandboxes or a personalized proof-of-concept (POC) to the buyer. Buying guides and feature checklists also work great at this stage. 

4. Supplier selection

At this stage, the buyer is ready to evaluate if your solution checks all the boxes on their requirements checklist. Even if your product fulfills all the criteria, you still have to work hard to prove the value of your offering over the competitors’.

Having prior knowledge of who you are competing against can provide you an edge by allowing time to create product comparison sheets. If there is little or no differentiation within the competing solutions, you might want to provide your buyer champion with social proof in the form of customer testimonials and ROI reports. 

5. Validation

You are finally very close to bringing this deal home. However, your buyer still needs some more convincing and due diligence to make sure that your solution is the right answer to their problem. 

Make it easier for your champion to overcome resistance coming from within the buying committee by providing ample technical documentation, detailed implementation plans, and comprehensive pilot project roadmaps. 

6. Consensus creation

Although consensus creation is listed as the last stage here, in most cases, this happens throughout the B2B buyer journey. The entire buying committee, or at least, most individuals stay involved to share their requirements and get buy-ins for their preferred solution. 

For those who are only required to sign off on the purchase, pitch decks that summarize all the findings come in very handy. Other collaterals and research material can be shared in a single collaborative space, such as a digital sales room. 

Using a buyer enablement platform to streamline your buyer journey

As the B2B Sales process relies more and more on self-exploration of solutions by the buyers, providing them with everything they need at each stage to inform their decision is crucial. Your sales and marketing teams can work together to create the most impactful enablement content, but if the entire buying team cannot access it on-demand and seamlessly, you will not get the desired ROI on your efforts.

With a buyer enablement tool, you can streamline your B2B buyer journey by providing your prospects with a unified branded destination that holds all the sales collateral, conversations, and relevant material. This way, you can tailor your journey with the right content for each stage and enable your buyers move through the entire journey within a single space. It also helps you enable your champions so they have everything they need to get the internal buy-in.

Depending on the tool you have, you can do a lot more, for instance: inviting all stakeholders to the same space where they can go through the collateral and initiate real-time chats/calls/video calls and even close the deal with a signature within the same platform. In addition to that, you get the engagement analytics from each buyer so you can further fine-tune your buyer journey and serve the buyers according to their needs. With emlen, you get all that and many more cool features due to be released this year. You can learn more about them here.

So, let 2023 be the year where you focus on creating a buyer journey that enables your buyers to win and see how it fuels your growth.

Marc Grewenig

at
emlen