Collaborative B2B Decision-making

It’s clear sales at all is becoming more complex – most of my clients and colleagues are just thinking about B2C when I mention topics like social shopping and collaborative decision making – but don’t miss the fact that if we are talking about B2B market buying decisions there is in general no sole responsibility of one person.

The steps of a B2B purchase process (cross-company or cross-departmental) concisely said are …
  • Recognizing that the company has a need that can be solved by purchasing a good or service
  • Describing and quantifying the need
  • Search for qualified vendors
  • Sending each vendor a request for proposal
  • Evaluating of the submitted proposals of the vendors
  • Negotiating or renegotiate of offers
  • Selecting one or more vendors
  • Defining and establishing an order routine
  • Conducting a postpurchase evaluation and feedback to the vendors

and these steps will vary whether the buyer is a
  • First purchaser
  • Daily buyer
  • Periodic buyer
  • Recurrent
  • Reseller
  • Bulk buyer

If we talk about personalization and the need to show the user relevant and meaningful content at the right time at the right place - in the B2C world – we depend on data of different but specific recipients in order to aim and personalize content and features – in addition to this it’s important to know as much as possible about collaborative effects in the B2C area. But in the B2B world it’s not only important it’s indispensable. As described before the B2B decision-making process is a multi-level process and is much more collaborative – these are …
  • Influencer
  • Controller
  • co-decision-maker
  • manager
  • hidden ruler (more or less hidden)
  • etc.

the impact of the expanding number of stakeholders could be or better is in general significant.
As the numbers of involved persons was always high the number of participant will increase in the future - increase in selling complexity …
  • More complex negotiations and deals
  • Higher rate of stalled negotiations and deals
  • considerable expenditure
  • more time-consuming efforts per deal
  • longer and more effortful sales and buyers life cycle

Challenge and intricacy are driven by diverse circumstances, needs, challenges, and aims of each of business client’s participants. As we know it from the B2C retail buyers become more and more difficult and selective.

Each participant in the sales and buyers life cycle assumes and awaits to get just the right content and selling arguments they need to help them make ‘their’ decision.
Having the right argument / content for the unique decision maker is key – and the quality is in the eye of the decision-maker, but all too often neither the online tool nor the sale consultants are having the needed information to deliver the unique value messaging and quantification that each unique decision-maker demands.

That’s why personalization to the individual is very important. As explained above your users can range from one extreme to the next from someone without power to make decisions to someone who just focus on one or a few specific aspects to sonmeone who is the final decision maker and 'THE' important stakeholder, all of whom have differing agendas and motivations. And that’s why tracking, lock-ins, customization and personalization are so important for the B2B sector.

And to do this using personas as design tool ( Why personas matter and how to utilise ... )  throughout the whole concept, development, implementation, testing, and maintenance stages is one of the most valuable tools.

Finally I will mention 5 key factors that make B2B special and different to the B2C  ...

1st _ B2B decision-making process more complex than the B2C

In the B2B environment the B2B marketer is facing a multifaceted and knowledgeable buyer, it is critical that the B2B marketer demonstrates a high level of expertise in all of its interactions with the target audience.

2nd _ B2B participants and stakeholders are more 'rational' than the B2C consumers

Emotional subjects such as trust and security are by all means highly important. This in turn induced special importance and high relevance on brand, reputation, case studies and other factors which convey reliability and consistency over the life of the product or service.

3rd _ B2B products and services are in many cases and aspects more complex

The crucial point for the B2B marketer is to have entire understanding of the products and services. This understanding must cover the presales support and information, the entire product details and so forth to the aftersales support and bug and problem solving.

4th _ Personal relationships have to reflect a different quality and is very important for B2B

The B2B’s focus is on listening, becoming acquainted with, refining, and optimizing a limited number of high quality relationships rather than the more quantity-driven and transactional driven tactic which we know from the most B2Cs

5th _ B2B customers are long-term contacts

The B2B's over a period of years motivation and aim undergird two aspects mentioned before - that we the provider has to know and understand each product and its use in detail and the importance of his good relationship to the client.

In this context I like to point you to this report by Forrester Research, Inc.  ...

Time to refine the B2B Chief Marketing Officer /  CMO job description ...

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