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The Journey to B2B Technology Purchases – B2B Team Buying Thickens the Plot

by Hank Barnes  |  September 30, 2014  |  Submit a Comment

As a big believer in the importance of customer experience, I spend a lot of time thinking about how we, as technology marketers and sellers, can make it easier for our customers to make their purchase decisions.   One technique that gets a lot of support, and that I agree with in principle, is mapping the buying journey.

Journey mapping has been applied extensively in consumer purchases, particularly for “considered” decisions.  I’ve also seen examples in a B2B environment, but most of those leave me uncertain of the value.   My big concern is that most journey maps focus on the needs of one buyer persona.  But our research shows that B2B technology purchase decisions are made by teams.   Fulfilling the journey of a single buyer may not get the job done.

Think about it.  When you are working in a B2B environment, you will almost always be dealing with a buying team.  The size of that team tends to grow as organizations get larger, but regardless of size there are a number of dimensions to the buying decision, often with different people having the lead responsibility in each area.   Understanding that team, their roles and decision areas is critical.

Serious Business Buying Team

For example, many teams will include people that “own” and need to be convinced of different things.

  • The Business Buyer – Do you solve their business problem?
  • The Financial Buyer – Do the overall costs make sense given the potential return?
  • The Technical Buyer – Is the technology is sound?
  • The Risk Buyer – Are the potential risks worth the reward?
  • The “User” Buyer – Will I, and others like me, actually use the product?

And potentially others.  These are not personas, so you shouldn’t map in this way, but they do reflect all  the people  and decisions that need to align to win business.

If you think about, B2B Buying is a lot like The Wizard of Oz or other similar quest oriented stories.  You have one lead character (the champion) who is the focus of the quest—without that person, there is not story.    But she is joined by others on the journey.  They want different things.  While supporting the main character, they will also follow some different paths.  Some may join for a brief period and then leave (anyone every have to deal with the “IT Standards Team” who show up for a meeting late in the process to “bless the alignment of your solution with their standards” and then disappear?).

As this mix of people journey forward, a roadblock for one often stymies the others.    The same tactics don’t work for all.   Some journeys have to complete before others progress.

I still remember an opportunity from years ago where I was part of a selling team that was about to close a major deal with a large company.  We’d convinced the business buyer.  We’d wowed the technical teams.  The users were excited.  The deal was ready to close.  Then, out of the blue came the, “You guys are not on our approved vendor list.  We have to make that happen, and it can take 3 to 6 months, before we can buy.”  Momentum destroyed.     We never won that business.

As a technology marketer and seller, it is crucial to understand all the players on buying teams and what decisions they are responsible for.  You need to understand their buying process in detail. (If we had asked the right questions about what it takes to buy, we might have been able to address the approved vendor issue earlier in the process and helped our champion accelerate the process).  There will be commonalities across customers, but some unique attributes for each one (everyone’s quest is a bit different).  You should ask them what their buying process is.   Then make sure you are addressing all of the sub-decisions that have to be made, by different people, to get to the final decision.

At a minimum, thinking about things from your buyer perspective should change the way you think.  We just received the results from our regular marketing influences survey (which you can expect to see more research and blogs about in the coming months) and one of the interesting results was that just 1/3  of buying process activities  involve the buying teams interacting with providers (either live interactions or reviewing materials you provide).   The remainder of time is spent on internal processes and interacting with peers and influencers.

If you consider that most buying decisions involve the consideration of  at least 2 or 3 potential providers for most of the effort, you are probably involved less than 10% of the time in your prospects buying process.    It is clearly not about you; it is about them.  Recognizing this, and expanding your focus to how you can influence, assist, and simplify the other efforts for buyers hold a key to creating a great buying process and accelerating decisions.

Is this something that can be captured in a single journey map?  Or a collection of them that inter-relate?  I’m not sure.  One good idea is to map the journey of the persona of your internal champion.  That persona is the most invested in seeing the purchase move to completion.  As part of their journey, they’ll want to understand and assist other’s in completing their work.   You may find you then need to map the journeys of other key players, but the “champion map” becomes your lead.

Have you taken this approach?  Or a different one? I’d love to hear about successful approaches for B2B Journey Mapping(please share via comments to get the discussion started).

Similarly, if you have a good list of all the sub-decisions that your customers make along the way, please share them here.  A better understanding will help both buyers and sellers not waste a lot of time and expense on selling efforts and the corresponding buying efforts that get derailed along the way.  Is there another way to track these sub-decisions that would complement journey maps and allow us to improve both the buying and selling experience?

 

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Category: future-of-sales  go-to-market  

Tags: b2b  buying-journey  buying-teams  customer-experience  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio




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