B2B Buyers Say They’re Engaging Salespeople Late in the Process, But Are Open to Doing So Earlier

November 15, 2021

This article is included in these additional categories:

B2B | Customer Engagement | Customer-Centric | Featured | Industries | Lead Generation & Management

KornFerry When B2B Buyers Engage Sellers Nov2021

A majority of B2B business executives claim that their purchase timeline has increased from what it was a year ago. Furthermore, B2B buyers are waiting longer to engage with sales, with 8 in 10 waiting until they have fully defined needs before engaging with a salesperson, per a report [download page] from Korn Ferry.

The survey – of respondents directly responsible for making purchase decisions of at least $10K for companies making more than $250 million in annual revenue – indicates that few B2B buyers are making their first point of engagement with a salesperson during the early stages of the buyer’s journey. Only about one-fifth of respondents interacted with sales while identifying and clarifying their needs (21% share), though another fifth did so when identifying a solution (22%).

Similarly, 1 in 5 say their typical point of first engagement with sales is at the later point of evaluating solutions. Because of this hesitance to engage with sales early on, it is well-advised that sellers make sure their websites are top-notch. Research from FocusVision shows that vendor websites are the top place where buyers consume content not only in the early stages of awareness and education, but throughout the entire journey.

What Drives Buyers to Engage Earlier?

Although one-quarter of respondents could not name a circumstance that would motivate them to engage vendors earlier in their buying journey, the majority report that there are situations where it would be necessary to get sales involved earlier. The largest share say that they would engage sales earlier if the challenge included a lot of risk for their organization (27%) or if the challenge was new to them (25%).

On the other hand, fewer say that they would be motivated to engage sellers earlier if the challenge is complex (13%) or if the challenge includes a lot of risk for them personally (10%).

Deal-Makers and Breakers

Earlier research from RAIN Group revealed that B2B buyers can influence purchase decisions by actions such as leading buyers through the discovery of their concerns, wants and news, listening to them, and making the ROI case clear to buyers. Korn Ferry’s survey shows similar results, with respondents saying that understanding their business, situation and needs, demonstrating the ROI or value and actively listening to them are the top 3 (out of 10) behaviors that would positively impact the decision to buy.

On the flip side, alongside not understanding the buyer or their business, respondents consider a salesperson talking too much and not seeming to listen as a top deal-breaker. And, while staying actively engaged after the sale to ensure value delivery is considered a critical “buyer first” behavior, not remaining supportive after the sale can have a negative impact on a buyer’s decision to buy.

Looking beyond salesperson behavior, there are some factors that can drive large purchasing decisions forward. About half (49%) of respondents say that a solution’s features/benefits are important or extremely important. They also consider ease of use (43%) and the solution’s value (41%) to be important or extremely important factors that influence purchasing decisions.

The full report can be found here.

About the Data: Findings 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 revenue.


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