B2B Buying Behavior Has Changed, Study Finds

buying behavior

Buying behaviors have changed quite a bit recently; what can you expect from B2B buyers now and in the near future? Likely, how they buy and what they expect from sellers won’t be back to how it was pre-​COVID-​19. “…the behaviors that your customers, business buyers, exhibited in the pre-​COVID-​19 days will not be the behaviors that you will find them continuing in the post-​COVID-​19 era,” writes Dale Keipert for Business 2 Community. But, he explains that “developing a clear perspective on what all of your customer segments will want will be crucial.”

He shares some insights from a recent McKinsey survey of B2B buyers that sheds light on new preferences and buying behavior, and he offers tips for adjusting your strategies to align with these behaviors. Here are some highlights:

New buying behaviors, same buyers

  • Self service. Buyers were tip-​toeing into self-​service before the coronavirus outbreak, but they’ve now been forced to plunge in. While some may welcome back traditional sales techniques that require interaction with you at every step, others now prefer a more digital approach. Keipert reports that “39% of buyers surveyed want to be able to self serve. This is up from just 11% last year.” This buying behavior shouldn’t be surprising, consider the slow shift to digital services that occurred before the pandemic; COVID-​19 just pushed it even faster. 
  • Fewer phone calls. The survey found that “53% of buyers want sales reps to stop calling them by phone,” he writes. “This is an increase over last year when 33% of buyers didn’t want phone calls from salespeople.” How can you adjust to this shift to meet the new buying behavior of more than half of buyers now? Think digital again, which goes back to the first finding. Reach out via email, social media, a mobile app (if possible) rather than picking up the phone. 
  • Virtual meetings. Not surprisingly, in-​person meetings are not what buyers want right now. This behavior change has seen the biggest shift from pre- to post-​COVID-​19: 47% of business buyers no longer want to see a salesperson in-​person. “This is an increase from last year when just 27% of buyers no longer wanted to see a salesperson,” Keipert points out. 

These findings reveal just how much companies have shifted their buying behaviors in regards to purchasing. And they aren’t the only ones. As Keipert writes, “It’s not just your buyers that are changing what they want from you. Across decision making and decision influencing job titles, people have an increased expectation of your use of digital channels when you work or communicate with them.” While no one can guess if these shifts will last forever, it’s important for B2B salespeople to adapt quickly to these new buying behaviors that are happening now.

And, keep in mind that some behaviors are still hanging around. For example, SalesFuel's Selling to SMBs study found that when buyers research a salesperson, 43% consider the years of experience the person brings to the table. Additionally, 42% of buyers being their search with customer ratings and reviews on social media. So, even though some behaviors have shifted, don't forget that others are still going strong.

Interested in more insights into shifting buyer preferences? Click here.

Jessica Helinski

Jessica Helinski

Jessica is a senior research analyst for SalesFuel focusing on selling to SMB decision makers. She also reports on sales and presentation tips for SalesFuel and Media Sales Today. Jessica is a graduate of Ohio University.