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The 4 Stages of the B2B Buying Process
June 9, 2020

Over the last several years sales leaders have become increasingly interested in how to make their sales process frictionless. A process where obstacles are removed to provide a simple, painless buying experience for their customers. Using this method to refine your sales process accomplishes two things. First, it enables the potential for increased revenue. Second, it equips you to train channel partners on the best ways to sell your product. To create this frictionless selling experience, you must understand the behaviors of B2B buyers. When you know how these decisions are made, the decision makers involved, and how long the buying process can take, you can tailor your sales process to the prospects’ needs.


Stage 1: The Prospect Identifies a Challenge 

Realizing there is a need to solve a challenge within the organization is a critical stage in the buying process. The prospect may have a need to automate processes or enhance their data to make better decisions with a solution like yours. But how do you create awareness about your solution and create a relationship with the prospect?

For example, let’s say the VP of Sales at Wayne Enterprises realizes that they’re not able to accurately grow their partner program due to insufficient data. He factors in that 80% of the organization’s revenue comes from partners or indirect sales. The VP decides to solve the issue and sets out to find a solution. 

When the prospect commits to solving the problem, they’ll begin thinking about the budget needed to address the problem adequately. They build a case for solving the issues at hand and determine how this new software could impact other areas of their organization.

What it means for you: When qualifying prospects, understand where they are in the problem-identification sales stage. The typical “BANT” (budget, authority, need, and timing) rule is a good way to understand if they’re ready to engage with your sales team. 

Tip: If you’re speaking to prospects who haven’t committed to solving the issue, they may be a good candidate for a drip-nurture campaign rather than a sales demo. If they’re further along, you may be able to find out what kind of budget they’re working with and determine if the conversation would be mutually beneficial.


Stage 2: The Prospect Begins Researching Options

Once the prospect has committed to finding a solution to their problem, they’ll begin the research phase. At this point, the decision-maker may go back through old emails or social messages sent by sales reps trying to sell them the solution they weren’t ready for at the time. A Google search will usually be their first line of defense. Their search results will often lead them to content such as case studies, review websites, white papers, webinars, and testimonials. These materials will be published by potential vendors. The research stage can also include talking to sales reps, agreeing to demos, or attending presentations of potential B2B vendors.

At this point, the VP of Sales over at Wayne Enterprises has established that it would make the most sense to implement a partner relationship management software (PRM) system that integrates with his existing customer relationship management (CRM) system. The VP of Sales understands through his research a PRM will help solve his original challenge: inability to optimize Wayne Enterprises’ partner strategy to increase channel growth. 

What it means for you: By becoming a meaningful part of their research process through your content, you increase the likelihood of becoming the vendor they ultimately choose. By creating original, search-optimized content consistently, your content will drive brand awareness while building out your marketing funnel.

Tip: How do you create awareness for your product at this stage and where are you prospects “hanging out” online? Be sure you can be found on review sites like G2Crowd or other top review sites in your industry.


Stage 3: Request for Proposal (RFPs) are Sent

Once prospects evaluate different options, they’ll likely create a “short list” of the top solutions that fit the organization’s needs. Here, buyers narrow down their choices and start to consider the potential vendors more seriously. For our example, this could mean deciding between two different PRM vendors or deciding whether or not to build their own partner portal. The vital part of the RFP process is the customer must justify their decision to upper management or other stakeholders within the organization. 

What it means for you:  Understand your competition. Equip your sales organization to speak to your value propositions and product differentiators. During the demo process, you should gather as much information as possible about what their internal decision-making process looks like. By gaining this information, you can share the most relevant materials with the prospect so they can make their case to other decision-makers. Research shows that prospects are willing to pay for a solution that will solve their need and not necessarily select the least expensive solution. 


Stage 4: The Prospect Selects a Vendor

The final stage of the B2B buying process comes when the buyer is ready to make a purchase decision. From this point, the objective is to provide excellent customer service. This is critical to win their continued business and get referrals. 

What it means for you: So you’ve won their business, the next step is to keep their business and exceed their expectations. This is especially important if your company runs on a monthly recurring revenue (MRR) business model. Providing an unrivaled experience for the customer will also generate referrals, which is the most potent form of lead generation. 


Bottom Line About B2B Buying Behavior

Understanding B2B buyer behavior is critical to creating an effective sales process. Without understanding the various business buying stages, companies create inefficient, cumbersome sales processes that ultimately cost them deals. Sales leaders should continually amend their sales processes to meet the evolving needs and behaviors of buyers. You can set up your marketing and web presence based on where and how companies do their research to find solutions to their problems. Finally, you should understand how vendors are chosen internally and what the deliberation process looks like. Armed with this information, you have the highest chance of winning the business of B2B buyers. 


To learn more about how to grow your partner base, read our articles, Shorten the Channel Sales Process by 61% with PRM and How to Improve Communication with Channel Partners to Skyrocket Sales.


Daniel Graff-Radford