But there are actually more similarities between the B2B buying process and a typical woman's buying process.
I see you shaking your head and going, "No way."
OK. Take a quick quiz:
A couple is planning a family cruise. Is it the man or the woman who is:
- Worried about what health facilities are on board in case someone gets sick?
- Pushing to get travel insurance, so in case something happens and you can't go, you won't lose all your money.
- Thinking most about what the kids would like to do, what their spouse would enjoy, and how to plan a trip that can accommodate your mother with the bad hip?
- Willing to make a decision based almost entirely on what their best friend recommended?
- Doing research online every night comparing cruise lines, itineraries, reviews, cabin amenities, flights, and required documentation?
- Would prefer to talk to a cruise representative face to face before committing?
How many of you answered "the woman" to at least 4 questions? 5? All 6? The above "decision factors" are also the decision factors that are key to B2B buying decisions.
Enquiro – The BuyerSphere Project
Don't take my word for it. Take it from the experts at Enquiro. They conducted an in-depth B2B buying process study with survey responses from over 3,000 participants. You'll find The research and their conclusions at b2bexpertseries.com. Enquiro and their partners in this study have a series of webinars, white papers, and even a book by Gord Hotchkiss- The BuyerSphere Project – How Business Buys from Business in a Digital Marketplace. If you're in B2B space and you haven't seen these insights yet, run, don't walk to b2bexpertseries.com. Seriously.
How B2B Buyers and Women Have Similar Buying Processes
Here are some of the B2B decision factors identified in The BuyerSphere:
1 – More Risk Averse
The BuyerSphere Project states – "B2B buying decisions are usually driven by one emotion – fear. 99% of B2B buying is about covering your butt"
Cruise Example - Worrying about health facilities on board and buying travel insurance.
Women are hard-wired to be more risk-averse than men. In a recent study brain activity was measured in men and women as they made investment decisions. In men, the reward center of the brain lit up. In women, the reward center lit up, but so did the consequence center. Women plan ahead to try to avoid or prevent bad outcomes. They can be much more risk-aware then men.
Take-Away– Identify what your buyer's fear is. If something goes wrong, what would happen to them – would their company lose money? Would they lose their job? Find ways to reduce risk, both for the organization and the personal risk of everyone involved in the decision.
2 – Multiple Influencers
The BuyerSphere Project states – "In organizational buying, you have many people – all with their own agendas, all trying to reach a common decision."
Cruise Example: Taking into account what everyone else wants to do on the cruise.
Women are encouraged to be other-focused to form connections. Men are focused to be self-focused to form autonomy. These gender differences may go back to hunter-gatherer societies when men were focused on the hunt, while women were focused on the children and others in their community. Women often make decisions taking into consideration multiple influencers.
Take-Away – Don't focus only on the main buyer. Find out who else is involved in the decision making process and make sure you address each one's needs and fears.
3 – Power of Word of Mouth
The BuyerSphere Project states – "Another common risk mechanism is the gathering of opinions. the opinions of others, expressed as word-of-mouth recommendations can be hugely influential. When the objection is the elimination of risk, a known quantity is always preferred over an unknown quantity."
Cruise Example – Willing to make a decision based almost entirely on the recommendation of a trusted friend/source.
Women rely heavily on the opinions of others,especially of others they know and trust and feel are "like them." Ask any woman how she found her hairdresser, accountant, financial adviser or doctor and she'll tell you "A friend recommended them." Men often prefer to make decisions on their own, relying more on their opinion than the opinions of others.
Take Away – Make every effort to become a preferred vendor. Share the experience others (similar to your current prospect) have had with you. Facilitate ways to have current or former clients share their opinion of you and your work.
4 – More Complex Process – Longer Sales Cycle
The BuyerSphere Project states – "With each additional person (in the decision process) the complexity has the potential to raise exponentially, because each person has his or her own personal risks that will factor into the final decision. This leads to a greater need for information, with different information required for different people. It leads to longer sales cycles."
Cruise Example: Doing extensive research, gathering information on many different criteria like cruise lines, itineraries, documentation and flights.
Women are often more deliberate in their decision making. They tend to have longer checklists and more criteria that matters to them. In situations where they are feeling especially risk-aware (like buying a car where they fear they will be condescended to at best, conned at worst) they like to come armed and informed. Men have been known to make quicker decisions because they have less criteria that matters to them. Good enough is good enough. Women often have a longer, more complex buying process. She often needs more time and more information to be comfortable moving forward.
Take Away– Be prepared for a longer sales cycle. Have a system to nurture leads along they way. Be quick and thorough in your follow up. Be a trusted educational resource and thought leader. Make it easy to find information. Be less transactional and more relational in your selling.
6 – Importance of Personal Relationship with Sales Person
The BuyerSphere Project states: "Looking at the primary reasons to do business with vendors, first is price and value, but nearly as important is the relationship with the sales representative. It's the second most important factor in successful sales"
Cruise example: Preferring personal contact and interaction with a cruise representative.
Women are relationship focused. Forming connections with other people is what women do best. The best way to develop trust is to really get to know someone and to genuinely like that person.
Take Away – Nothing can replace face-to-face interactions with your clients. Build those personal relationships and build that trust.
Your B2B clients may have more of a female buying process and decision making style. (Whether they're men or women)
First –Go read the white papers, watch the videos and buy the book from Enquiro at b2bexpertseries.com.
Third – Include women on your B2B sales teams. I'll follow up with a separate post with specific reasons as to why.