Being a B2B Buyer Sucks – Let’s Change That

I am currently trying to buy a couple pieces of technology (true story). I won’t tell you what kind of technology (to protect the innocent). But I will tell you that I am learning how much it sucks to be a b2b buyer. I wrote a little about my experiences and recommendations on the Savvy b2b marketing blog.

It’s really eye-opening to go through the process of trying to buy something in a comparable industry. As I live through my pain, I will chronicle our experiences. (I am including my partner-in-crime Lori Janjigian as she helps me in the buying process and is supplying me with her observations, aka complaints, about the process.)

Here are some important points:

  • “The biggest innovation Marc Benioff made was to allow b2b buyers to buy complex software with a credit card.” (via Scott Albro) I have a couple of witty quotes from Scott on the issue of “ease of purchase.” This is so true ‑ think about how hard it was to buy enterprise software before the cloud revolution. It was big and complicated, and still is for many companies. Now, many “smart” companies make their pricing transparent; you can order without a salesperson or if you do, it’s easy. Here’s one: I just talked to my buddy who works at at a major software vendor where he sells business applications. He told me that he has to wait for legal to approve his contracts and it can take 30 to 60 days. Not exactly “easy to buy”
  • Create “buyer-helpful” content, but don’t forget people also need to be able to actually buy your product. I am the biggest advocate for content that buyers want ‑ particularly third-party content. If you have read this blog in the past, you should know this. On the other hand, the goal here is sell people stuff (sorry, it is). A tip that you can act on right now is to ask yourself one thing: “If someone wants to buy from us, what do they have to do?” I know everyone is going to say “but b2b is so complex.” Sure, but most products are going the other way. Google Apps costs something like $50 per year per user. Pretty complex? I don’t think so. Guess what, there are times when we want to talk to the sales rep and we want to know that this part of the process will not be painful.
  • “A perfect example of a complex product made simple is automobiles.” (via Scott Albro) Scott likes to say, “There is more technology in cars than a data storage box.” He’s right. Consumer marketing is so refined that it’s both marketed and packaged so you and I can understand what it is we are going to buy. Consumer sales is such that I can walk in and walk out with a car in a couple hours, even though it is a gigantic piece of technology and engineering.
  • Oh, and the “contact us” box sucks. I see that, and I just think black hole. The dropdown you provide doesn’t make me feel like I am going to go in the right direction. When you walk into a good store, someone asks, “How can I help you today?” How about taking that methodology to the “front door” of your buying process? As you consider what it’s like to buy, “How do I get started?” is a good question to answer.

Let’s call this my take-away: If someone wants to buy your product, what must they do? Remember that this is not a question about downloading content and so forth, this is about buying. Is it frictionless, easy to understand, easy to find, easy to figure out? That is the question. More on this in upcoming posts.

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter

  • Craig,

    You’re on the same wavelength as Seth Godin this morning. Check out this link titled “Get better at Buying”.

  • What great timing, we had a similar conversation just this morning about the “Contact Us” experience. Thanks for the great post, really food for thought here.

  • Craig,

    Great post as usual and very representative of the buying process. The only issue I see is even acknowledging the existence of a “B2B” buying cycle. Buyers aren’t B2B buyers – I don’t step into my office and start buying things a different way – they’re simply buyers. Some may argue with me there but if you stop and look at the purchases you make in business and compare the process to your personal purchases the steps are normally identical – especially if your married and will eventually need to justify that purchase to the boss. You value certain traits when consuming – be it price, value, status, superiority or whatever.

    Point being we marketers create some of this disconnect with reality. We make websites boring and static, we treat people like job titles, act like we’re selling to P.O. machines, and we treat information like its our secret treasure map – especially pricing info. I might but one of the few consultants to ever post comprehensive pricing online. We love the impact it makes on informed buyers. And it’s our number one qualifier. Our lead score mechanisms wont even get to MQL unless the price page is visited.

    With social communities further blurring the lines between business and personal its only a matter of time before we all accept the fact that we are indeed human – and need to be treated as such.

    Justin Gray, LeadMD
    Email: |

  • editor

    Couple things:

    1. Brian: I am never on the same wavelength as Seth Godin (as hard as I try)
    2. Amy: you should go look at what people do with the “contact us”, it borders on hilarious
    3. Justin: of course, this is true. Eventually they do buy, and that is what I am referring to here. When they do, to make it a pain in the ass.