B2B sales happen in four broad steps. Interestingly, only two of them are driven by rational decision-making. The other two are largely influenced by the buyer’s irrational side — and marketing plays an especially important role here…
Step 1 Identify the need
Decide that the business needs a product or service – pretty much a rational decision.
Step 2 Draw up a shortlist
Gather together vendors to investigate and ask to quote – remarkably irrational (“My cousin worked with these guys.”).
Step 3 Evaluate the proposals
Compare offers, pricing, terms, delivery times… – mainly rational.
Step 4 Make the purchase decision
Award the contract – again, surprisingly irrational; people buy from people they feel good about
Marketing may have an important role to play in Step 1 — stimulating demand or educating the market about a problem they may not understand clearly.
It definitely has a role to play in Step 2 — by raising awareness, positioning your company as an expert and getting you discovered through web search.
Step 3 is largely down to the sales team and the offer itself (although Velocity has ‘sexed up’ some sales proposals that have won significant new contracts).
Finally, marketing can play a big role in Step 4. When one or two proposals are more or less the same, the gut feel about a company often tips the scales. The salesperson is the most important influencer here, but marketing can help support the salesperson with messages & materials that communicate expertise, commitment, experience, passion, openness and integrity.
B2B may involve more rationality than many consumer markets, but we’re dealing with human beings here. The irrational, emotional side is critically important, too.