Since COVID-19, three-quarters of B2B buyers have seen their buying process somewhat (25%) or significantly (43%) change. A report [download page] from Korn Ferry also reveals that for 1 in 5 buyers, the number of people involved in the purchase decision-making process has increased compared to pre-COVID-19 times.
Not only are some of the more than 250 B2B buyers surveyed seeing the number of decision-makers increase compared to before the pandemic, but many also report that the length of their buying cycle for large purchases has also increased. This is especially true for unfamiliar vendors, with about half (52%) of respondents saying that the buying cycle is longer than before COVID-19 for new vendors. By comparison, only 35% say the buying cycle has lengthened with their existing vendors. Similarly, earlier research from Demand Gen Report and Demandbase shows that more than half of the executives surveyed have seen purchase timelines increase over the year before.
The pandemic also made it necessary that B2B sellers focus on their digital selling strategies. This has also led some B2B sales professionals to express concerns about providing an effective digital experience while still maintaining a relationship quality that mirrors personal interaction.
Korn Ferry’s research indicates that these concerns might be well-founded in some instances. Although the majority of respondents said they were neutral or somewhat agreed when asked how they felt about various virtual selling practices, only one-third agree that salespeople are effective at selling in a virtual environment. That said, only about 1 in 5 disagree that salespeople are effective at virtual selling.
More respondents were also in agreement that salespeople have been initiating engagement in an empathetic manner with the buyer during COVID (36% agree vs. 23% disagree). Likewise, more agree than disagree that salespeople are effective at structuring meetings in a virtual environment (31% vs. 18%) and that salespeople demonstrate effective facilitation skills during virtual meetings (29% vs. 21%). However, salespeople could use improvement when it comes to effectively handling adversity that is specific to virtual calls and effectively communicating empathy during virtual presentations.
Finally, when looking to solve business problems, B2B buyers appear to rarely turn to a vendor salesperson for answers. Instead, they are more likely to turn to past experiences with a vendor, SMEs from the industry or third parties, and industry or professional online communities/social networks.
The full report can be found here.
About the Data: Results are based on a survey of 261 respondents directly responsible for making purchase decisions of $10,000 or more and working at companies with more than $250 million in annual revenues.