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Research Says B2B Buyers Want Strategic Partners

David Dodd | Nov 20, 2017 145 views No Comments

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For decades, the basic approach to B2B marketing and sales has been to identify a prospect’s “pain points,” and then demonstrate how your product or service can alleviate the pain. New research now suggests that many buyers look beyond immediate pain and take a more strategic approach to B2B buying.

A recent study by the Aberdeen Group (in collaboration with PJA Advertising and Marketing) indicates that B2B buyers are looking for vendors who can help them achieve strategic company goals, improve competitive differentiation, and identify new growth opportunities. The What Do B2B Buyers Want? report is based on a survey of over 250 B2B buyers from a range of industries and company sizes.

When survey participants were asked to select two factors (from a list of nine) that play a role in their buying decisions, the three most frequently chosen factors were:

  1. Total cost of ownership (45% of respondents)
  2. How the vendor/solution supports our company’s goals (42%)
  3. Efficiency gains (ROI) (40%) 
When survey participants were asked what other factors they consider when they make buying decisions, 68.2% of respondents said the vendor can help sharpen our competitive differentiation, and over half (55.7%) said the vendor can help me identify new possibilities and avenues for revenue.
Viewed together, these survey responses make two points. First, B2B buyers are still focused on cost and ROI, and those economic factors remain at the core of B2B buying decisions. And second, many of the buyers in this survey panel appear to be taking a more strategic approach to buying decisions, once basic financial criteria are satisfied. 
It’s noteworthy that when survey participants were asked how they usually know when they need to buy something, over two-thirds (67.2%) of the respondents said, “When our business strategy calls for it.”
The Aberdeen study also found that B2B buyers are looking for vendors who can help them think through the business issues they are facing, and who are willing to challenge their current business practices. When survey participants were asked if they are more likely to work with a vendor who challenges they way they currently do business, almost two-thirds (65.4%) of the respondents answered, “Yes.” So, the Aberdeen research provides support for the approach to B2B marketing and sales advocated by CEB in The Challenger Sale.
The Aberdeen study could be good news for B2B marketing and sales professionals, if the survey findings reflect the attitudes of a significant number of B2B buyers. The traditional “pain-solution” approach has a serious limitation because, at any given point in time, most potential buyers are not experiencing enough pain to take action. The Aberdeen research indicates that some business buyers are willing to look beyond the absence of immediate pain and consider longer-term strategic issues.

Illustration courtesy of Naval Surface Warriors via Flickr CC.

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