Why B2B Buying Cycles Are So Long

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(The following is a post I published about two years ago. Since then, the number of people in the average B2B buying group has increased, and buying cycles are getting longer. New research by the Aberdeen Group explains why long buying cycles are still a fact of life for B2B marketing and sales professionals.)

The Original Post

New research reveals what influences B2B buying decisions and explains why the B2B buying process is getting longer.

Earlier this month, Demand Gen Report published the findings of the 2017 B2B Buyer’s Survey. The 2017 research was based on a survey of 283 C-level executives, VPs, and Directors across several B2B industries. Each respondent in this study was qualified to have been involved in a B2B purchase decision within the 12 months preceding the survey.



The 2017 survey findings reveal that B2B buyers’ journeys are becoming longer and more complex. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said that the length of their purchase cycle had increased compared to a year earlier, while only 10% said that the length had decreased.

Other findings explain why the buying cycle has gotten longer.

  • 52% of respondents said the number of buying group members had increased significantly.
  • 77% agreed that they conduct a more detailed ROI analysis before making a purchase decision.
  • 78% agreed that they “spend more time researching purchases.”
  • 75% agreed that they “use more sources to research and evaluate purchases.”
The 2017 study also found that content continues to play a vital role in B2B buying decisions. When surveyed buyers were asked why they selected the winning vendor over others, 75% said that the winning vendor’s content had a significant impact on their choice, and 89% said that the winning vendor “provided content that made it easier to show ROI and/or build a business case for the purchase.”
The Demand Gen survey also asked participants to rate how important eleven factors became once they were at the point of evaluating a set list of possible vendors. The table below shows the percentage of respondents who rated each factor as very important.
Research regarding the attitudes and behaviors of business buyers can be extremely valuable to B2B marketing and sales professionals. However, it’s always important to examine the details of any research study and ask how applicable the findings are to your business.
For example, the respondents to the Demand Gen survey represented a variety of industries and a mix of company sizes. However, more than half (53%) of the purchase decisions those respondents participated in involved computer software, and another 16% involved IT hardware. So, this study is particularly relevant for companies that sell software solutions and other technology products, but some of the specific findings may be less relevant if your company sells other types of products or services.

Update

Recent research by the Aberdeen Group (conducted in collaboration with PJA Advertising & Marketing) shows that business buyers are still struggling with buying decisions, and it provides several insights regarding how B2B marketing and sales professionals can help buyers navigate the process. This study was a survey of more than 340 B2B buyers. Sixty-six percent of the survey respondents were VP level or above, and 75% reported being “the decision maker” in B2B purchases.



Fifty-three percent of the respondents in the Aberdeen survey said they halt the purchase process or postpone the buying decision on at least half of their purchases. And it’s easy to understand why. For one thing, many buyers simply don’t know what they need. Fifty percent of the respondents said their needs are either partially, not well, or poorly defined when they are involved in a purchase.

Beyond poorly-defined needs, the two most common reasons for cancelling or postponing a purchase were:

  • Buyers saw no differentiation between the prospective solutions (66% of respondents)
  • Buyers decided that no vendor/solution met their needs (57%)
The Aberdeen study also found that most business buyers reach out to prospective vendors fairly early in the buying process. Forty-seven percent of the respondents said they speak with vendors “when we’re beginning to research and explore our options,” and 26% said they talk with vendors “when we’re defining needs and requirements.”



More importantly, 38% of the respondents said they are more willing to talk with vendors earlier than usual in the consideration process if the vendor can “provide me with objective information and help me frame my decision.”

The good news is that B2B marketing and sales professionals can have an impact on the length of the buying cycle. Two-thirds (66%) of the buyers in the Aberdeen survey said that when a vendor shows them a new way to solve a problem, it shortens their buying process.
Top image courtesy of Dafne Cholet via Flickr CC.

2 COMMENTS

  1. David – this article provides some great insights. In my view making purchasers feel “safe” is vitally important and something that many vendors miss. I think some of the stats in your article illustrate that. We constantly strive to create proposals that speak to the purchaser’s world view and demonstrate that we get it. Also, and this might not always work in our favour, we make the proposal document itself educational in nature, perhaps challenging the purchaser’s beliefs around what they need.

    d

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