top of page

B2B Buying Behavior has Changed, as per Gartner

Updated: Feb 11, 2023

Sharing three excellent HBR/ Gartner articles on the evolving B2B customer decision-making process and what it means for Enterprise Marketing, Pre-sales/ Sales, and Account Management.



(combined from all 3 sources above. Text is excerpted from the Harvard Business Review articles referenced above, copyright, emphasis and headings added to enhance clarity)

Customer Decision Process Has Evolved

“Whereas an IT supplier might have once sold directly to a CIO and his or her team, today that same firm may also need buy-in from the chief marketing officer, the chief operating officer, the chief financial officer, legal counsel, procurement executives, and others. The people on buying teams have increasingly diverse priorities, and to win them over, suppliers must bridge those differences.”

Customers need help “making sense”

“The amount of product and service information available to B2B customers has become overwhelming. At Gartner, we surveyed 1,100 B2B customers about the topic. Nearly 90% agreed that the information they encounter as part of a purchase is generally of high quality; it’s believable, relevant, backed by data, supported by expert analysis, and conveyed in a compelling manner. But they struggle to make sense of it.

Multiple Stakeholders, Diverse Priorities

“If you’re selling enterprise marketing-management solutions, you’ll most likely be dealing with at least the CMO, the CIO, the CFO, and procurement, who all have overlapping but distinct and sometimes conflicting interests. Helping those stakeholders see their shared interests will set the stage for consensus and make it easier—and less risky—for mobilizers to advocate on your behalf.”

Sales Reps have less access

Consider the following data from Gartner research: In a pre-pandemic survey of 750 B2B customer stakeholders involved in complex “solutions” purchase within their organization, customers reported spending only 17% of their total buying time interacting directly with supplier sales teams. Instead, much of their purchase activity comprised independent learning online (27%), independent learning offline (18%), and building consensus across a wide range of internal and partner stakeholders (22% and 11% respectively).

“Our data shows that customers are, on average, 37% of the way through a purchase process by the time they reach the solution-definition stage, and 57% of the way through the process before they engage with supplier sales reps. So all too often customer consensus has fallen apart before reps even arrive on the scene. If suppliers aren’t anticipating and proactively overcoming disconnections among stakeholders before sales engagements, they’re probably losing many deals—without even knowing it.”

The Opportunity for Marketing (and pre-Sales)

“Achieving customer consensus presents not just a problem for sales but also an opportunity for marketing. Marketing departments are well positioned to foster consensus for two reasons: They have tools that can reach customers more effectively than sales can during the critical consensus-building process, and they can combine customer knowledge from sales with their own market research to identify patterns of customer behavior and broad customer insights that they can translate into scalable marketing approaches and materials.”

How to Motivate Champions

“In studying what inspires mobilizers, we found that factors such as whether a solution could advance a person’s career or help him be seen as a better leader were five times as potent as the offering’s “business value”—things like superior product features, likely impact on business outcomes, or return on investment.”

Traditional Sales aids are losing effectiveness

“Overcoming potential mobilizers’ perceptions of personal risk requires a personal appeal, not just an organizational one. This is a deeply telling point, because the most common tools in suppliers’ tool kits—for example, ROI calculators, lifetime-value assessments, and total-cost-of-ownership scorecards—address organizational risks and rewards but say very little about individual ones. Once again, suppliers are emphasizing the wrong things with their sales and marketing investments.”

Role of Marketing (and pre-Sales) in the new paradigm

“But even when someone sees the personal value to be gained and is motivated to become a mobilizer, he or she will need support. Marketing has a key role to play in both encouraging mobilizers and equipping them to build consensus.

In an earlier time, providing that support would have principally been a sales task. But because the challenges to achieving consensus often emerge before sales has a foot in the door, this task increasingly falls to marketing. Progressive marketing teams, we’ve found, are adeptly converting sales-enablement materials to support mobilizers, making those materials freely available early in the consensus process, and distributing them in lead-nurturing e-mails, through blogs, and in myriad other ways.”

How StoryProcess can Help

Your customers need help to navigate the complex landscape.

We help you with effective storytelling to help customers discover relevant information and make sense of it. Less information (overload), more insight, higher relevance.

The future is interactive, hybrid, and customized storytelling. We will work with you to:

  1. Develop journeys and stories, tailored for different audiences but built on common ground, and designed to engage, make sense, and inspire.

  2. Create interactive visual stories which enable customers to independently discover, explore, and make sense of offerings and solutions.

  3. and finally, to help position CIOs and internal champions as heroes, inspire them, and empower them to partner as advocates.


bottom of page