Starting a business and handling its operations has never been easy.
As a B2B vendor, you might think that customers are empowered and informed about the current shifts in the market, including what’s trending. However, several studies show otherwise.
Given the array of options and information available, B2B buyers are more uncertain and overwhelmed than empowered. Thus, making the buyers struggle to follow the stages of the B2B buying process.
They’re not sure where to start or where they are heading to. The purchase process is nothing but complete.
The American Statistics website, Biznology, shows that the sales process takes 22% longer than five years ago. Customers might find purchasing difficult due to expanding sets of solutions, information, suppliers, and technology.
As a B2B vendor, it's your job to show them the process of identifying the problem and finding a solution in achieving their goals. Giving them the necessary information can enable businesses to purchase at ease and acquire high-quality sales.
The solution? Learning more about the B2B buying process and finding out how to market your products and services effectively.
But what does this really mean, and what stages are we talking about? Let’s find out!
6 Stages of B2B Buying Process
From the name itself, the buying process is the series of steps that B2B buyers typically follow to make a purchasing decision beneficial for their company.
But due to customer’s expectations and technology taking over, there is a shift within the buying journey. But in general, here's an overview of the different stages in the B2B buying process.
- Problem Awareness
- The Research Stage
- Evaluating Potential Solutions
- Selecting Potential Suppliers
- Making the Final Decision
- Justifying the Decision
Don't confuse this with any other sales process for other industries. The B2B buying journey is much more complex and more intense.
For instance, B2C marketing makes decisions based on one or two people's judgment, while B2B requires a small team consisting of at least 6 to 10 people as decision makers.
Moreover, Business-to-Consumer almost has never-ending options of suppliers. But Business-to-Business requires thorough research and evaluation before buying as the stakes are much higher.
Now let’s dig deeper and learn more about the different B2B buying processes.
Stage 1: Problem Awareness
You might have heard other names for this stage, such as ‘recognized need’ or the ‘problem recognition’ phase. Regardless of its name, the point remains the same.
This is the part where potential B2B customers recognize the problem (or needs) within their business. The problem could be as simple as finding quality producers to order products from, cutting annual expenses, or looking for a way to change or improve an existing product.
For example, a manufacturer producing raw materials in bulk has been missing several calls from their customers.
They have durable products to offer and quantity enough for each customer. Yet, the problem is the lack of time and sales representatives available to answer the call. Thus, it heavily affects the overall performance of the company and is limiting them from closing in more sales.
Likewise, when a B2B company figures out the problem, the need, or the challenges, they should now consider a probable solution.
Best Marketing Strategy: Expand your online presence so you can reach more companies that might be interested in your products and services. Take note that according to Pinpoint Market Research and Anderson Jones PR, 93% of B2B buying processes begin with an online search.
Stage 2: The Research Stage
B2B buyers have the option of whether to solve the problem or not. If they did choose to do nothing about it, then they will have to face the consequences of their decision.
And if B2B buyers decide to take action, the company’s decision makers should be willing to engage in the research process. This stage in the buying journey involves collecting more information about the problem, discovering alternatives, and finding out possible solutions.
Oftentimes, search engines like Google offer the best help when it comes to finding a viable solution. They could search the competitors' strategies, look for a reliable financial advisor, or click on content marketing materials published by companies offering B2B services. They could even attend seminars, training, and other relevant meetings related to their needs.
Going back to our example, the company could either let missing calls happen a couple more times or find a worthy solution to make both their investors and customers happy.
Best Marketing Strategy: Have all the necessary information posted on your product or service page.
Stage 3: Evaluating the Solutions
Now that customers have a clear direction on solving the problem, they could now create a shortlist of top solutions that fit their company needs.
In the company that we mentioned a while ago, they can either train a sales representative to handle calls or outsource to a company that offers telephone answering services.
Undoubtedly, these two options could make a huge difference. However, the first option may take more time and resources from the company than expected.
They could also hire more people to answer the calls, extend the working hours for their existing sales reps, or replace them. There can be numerous solutions for a single problem, and it's on each company to find the best one that can address their dilemma.
But sudden buying decisions is not the best way to solve the problem. The decision makers should consider several factors before finalizing the potential solution.
Some of these factors include:
- Products specifications or the type of product or service to source out
- Pricing and cost
- Amount of the products needed
- Competitor’s solutions and;
- Other ways they think of solving the problem.
In the end, only the qualified supplier could meet all the standards set by the company, which leads us to the next stage.
Best Marketing Strategy: Get a team ready to answer any of your prospect's queries.
Stage 4: Selecting Potential Suppliers
Admit it or not, as a personal consumer, we are always looking for alternatives in the market. before we make a purchase. Does this seller offer a quality product or service? Is it the most affordable one I can find? How long will it take before I can receive the package?
These are a few questions based on the specific criteria that we set. And this is what the fourth stage of the B2B buying process is all about. There are various ways buyers can select a vendor.
Some require lengthy processes, while others resort to short and decent procedures often conducted between small teams.
Most of the time, B2B buyers send out invitations to B2B vendors requesting for proposals (RFPs). This outlines the key features of the products or services, such as the quality, pricing, delivery, and after-sales services.
Regardless of what approach the buyer chooses, they use this information and compare suppliers against one another. This also shows the importance of market research to both the buyer and the seller.
Best Marketing Strategy: Create a presentation that will best showcase the products or services you're offering. Make sure you highlight everything that might help your future client.
Stage 5: Making the Final Decision
Great sales and marketing professionals would do more than just handing out the RFPs or providing basic information about their company.
As a vendor, you need to identify and understand your competitors. If possible, seek more information about their internal decision-making process. From here on, you can share relevant materials from your company showing how you provide value propositions.
In some cases, vendors would present the physical products to the potential customers in sample sizes. Meanwhile, vendors who carried out service can demonstrate how they will be able to carry out their services.
Prospects often find themselves hiring vendors who can solve their problems regardless of the pricing.
Best Marketing Strategy: Do some research on your competitors about their pricing models and set your prices accordingly.
Stage 6: Justifying the Decision
Ironically, the final stage is also considered the beginning of the actual relationship between B2B buyers and their suppliers.
Once transactions are made and everything was settled, the buyer would monitor the results in applying the products or services.
Your goal as the ‘vendor’ or as the ‘supplier’ is to provide excellent customer service. But how can you do so?
There are several ways to win over your buyers. These include ongoing service and support, engaging feedback, promotional offers, and product value. But the most important thing is to consistently attend to their needs and exceed their expectations.
If the senior decision makers and other authority in the company were satisfied, they would continue to engage with your business. This leads to a long-lasting relationship between the B2B buyer and you, as the supplier.
Who knows? This could encourage your partner to generate referrals, a superior move in the business to business industry.
Best Marketing Strategy: Invest in your support team and after-sales team so they can provide the best customer experience to your buyers.
Admit it or not, things could have been a lot easier if there was no process to go after. But would it be effective? Probably not.
Likewise, a well-founded B2B enterprise follows a specific process. An individual or a small group recognizes the problem or challenges within the company. They evaluate the possible outcome if they're going to pursue a solution or not.
Once decided, the business would create a shortlist of the top solutions depending on their requirement and preferences.
Lastly, the company will conduct a post-purchase evaluation and progress monitoring after the transaction was made between the B2B buyer, and the B2B vendor.
Either you follow these processes sequentially or simultaneously, the B2B buying process would allow you to take your marketing journey to the next level!
Suppose you need help selecting the best B2B partner for business services, we offer assistance connecting you to the best B2B companies in the United Kingdom.
You can also call reach out to our customer service team at 020-80599450 for any inquiries that you have in mind.