B2B Sales Processes: 5 underestimated Success Factors

Today, purchasing independently covers 41% of the classic sales channel. At the same time, 32% of worthwhile projects fall by the wayside due to the indecision of ever larger buying centers. Moreover, in 18% of cases, purchasing sets too short deadlines and acts against its long-term interests in 30% of cases – 49% of decisions are still strongly influenced by price. Relevant information is missing in 54% of cases and increases the complexity in the cooperation.

Facing all Challenges: The current study by the University of St.Gallen highlights 5 underestimated success factors that enable effective collaboration with purchasing in B2B business.

Digitalisierung – High-Tech with High-Touch

Trend researcher John Naisbitt predicted long before the millennium that personal contact would become increasingly important in the course of mechanization. In B2B business, this statement is confirmed today.

With top performers the customer face time is 9% higher. You take more time for conversations and know your customers long before the business. The current figures also show that 35% of customers make decisions relatively early in the purchasing process and at this point in time already know 53% of the relevant influencers. Influencers are not the only B2C phenomenon here: 37% of purchases are determined by expert opinions, with references, tests and evaluation portals also making a contribution. A total of 64% of the purchase decision is influenced outside the buying center.

Insight 1: Successful salespeople network in more detail. They deal with relevant influencers away from the buying center and take more time for their customers.

Buying Center – Less is More

The complexity in purchasing is increasing significantly. Growing, international decision-making teams now characterize the cooperation. However, a larger buying center and increased standardization in many cases means a step backwards rather than professionalization.

37% of customers formalize their approvals, procedures and tenders. If an individual decision is shifted to a buying center, either a procurement decision remains or the quota is halved. The increasing inertia is particularly evident in the size of the purchasing department, in which an average of 5 people are involved today. Top performers avoid this constellation and usually deal with customers who have a buying center half the size.

Insight 2: Successful sellers focus on smaller and therefore more decisive buying centers.

Customer Needs – Missing Financing Options and Usability

“If the customer wants vanilla, give him vanilla” is an old guiding principle that is often ignored in B2B business: Service offers are compared with the competition rather than adapted to the customer’s situation.

Support and advice is now on the agenda of many sellers. The successes are promising, since 60% of buyers already use the qualified support willingly – a strong differentiation in this field, however, is hardly possible. Service and price, on the other hand, are cited as the most frequent reasons for customers to choose a vendor. Despite this starting point, optimizations in the area of homepage, webshops or suitable financing options are relatively rarely in the company’s focus – a gap and an opportunity.

Insight 3: Sellers can positively differentiate themselves from the competition through better web solutions and financing options

Offer Adjustment – Flexibility Downwards

Agility is still a familiar concept in many business models, but it is difficult to implement in key areas.

Today, customers increasingly expect customized solutions that meet their individual needs. 28% of the orders change a lot before the purchase. In addition, 15% of the cases show a need for adjustment after the purchase decision. The analysis of the purchasing process makes it clear that customer expectations fluctuate greatly or can often only be inadequately stated. A further aggravating factor is an increasing tendency towards further price negotiations before conclusion. Top performers counter this dynamic with flexibility: Their willingness to adjust prices while at the same time reducing performance is 12% above the peer group. In addition, their ability to put the economic benefit above the price is 6% higher.

Insight 4: Successful sellers are willing to dynamically adjust prices, but also services – if you let it come to a price discussion.

Disqualifying – Success Through Exclusion

Successful large companies such as Apple or Salesforce select their corporate partners carefully. In doing so, they willingly forgo unprofitable business.

Good reasons for a better selection can also be observed in the current study: The purchasing department usually compares 4 competing offers. Despite an early selection, the purchasing process is continued by the customer in 35% of the cases until the negotiation phase in order to put pressure on the competitors and to keep all options open. If at the same time the increasing effort for customer acquisition is considered, it becomes apparent that many resources can be saved by an early termination of an already lost purchase process.

Insight 5: Successful sellers should be able to assess the likelihood of closing a deal and find the courage to exit early.