The study report contains a wealth of data points regarding how business buyers are approaching purchase decisions and how they view the sales processes used by their prospective vendors.
Some of the key findings of the SAP study echo the results of other recent research regarding buyer behavior. For example:
- Sixty-eight percent of the interviewed buyers said they don't need salespeople as much as they once did, and 91% said they have higher expectations of vendors and their sales reps that they did two years ago.
- Sixty-eight percent said they have less time to deal with vendors, and 79% said that the ROI on products and services is generally under more scrutiny.
- Sixty percent said they are generally less tolerant and trusting of salespeople now than they have been in the past.
When asked about their biggest frustration with vendors, 48% of the interviewed buyers said aggressive salespeople, 46% complained about sales reps who lack relevant knowledge about their needs, 44% identified unsolicited approaches, and 43% said too much contact or excessive persistence.
The interviewed buyers identified trust as the single most important factor in purchase decisions. Seventy-four percent said that demonstrating a high level of knowledge about products or services, and 52% said that understanding the buyer's organization are the most important building blocks of trust.
When business buyers were asked how vendors could improve the buying experience, the top three actions they identified were:
- "Speed up the purchase process from start to finish" (48%)
- "Provide a consistent experience regardless of the channel I choose" (47%)
- "Enable me to communicate with vendors/suppliers via the channel I choose" (49%)
Some of the findings of the SAP research highlight the complexities of B2B buying and show why broad generalizations are usually problematic. For example, over two-thirds (68%) of the interviewed buyers said they are waiting longer to contact vendors because they are doing more research on their own, and an amazing 80% said they typically know exactly what they want before they contact a vendor. Yet, 54% also said that face-to-face meetings were their preferred way to communicate with a vendor when making a final buying decision.
These findings show that B2B marketers should keep two important factors in mind.
- First, what you sell has a major impact on how you should structure and organize demand generation efforts. When the products or services you offer address issues or challenges that are well understood, and when those products or services are easy to understand, it's very likely that many of your prospective buyers will prefer a more "self-service" approach to buying. Complex or novel products or services, on the other hand, are likely to benefit from a more high-touch, person-to-person approach.
- Today, B2B buyers will differ significantly in how they prefer to manage purchasing decisions and in how they prefer to interact with potential vendors. To maximize demand generation performance, B2B companies must be prepared to accommodate these diverse buyer preferences.