“70% of the buying process in a complex B2B sale is already complete before a buyer will talk to a seller.”
If you ever hear some version of this whopper from anyone, you should immediately discount the person as either willfully ignorant, woefully ignorant, or a purposeful skewer of data to sell their own stuff (and if you’ve ever mis-quoted this and then never did it again, you’re my superhero!). Generally this fake stat is followed up with some pronouncement about “If you’re not using social, search, automation, whatevs – HOO BOY, what a loser you are missing all sorts of opportunities. If you’re not doing X, you won’t be successful.” <sigh>
All right. Let’s get this out of the way first – there are absolutely some verticals within B2B where this may be the case. And if that’s your space, good golly – some mix of social, SEO, + whatever likely will be effective marketing for you.
But to lump all ‘complex’ B2B sales opportunities together shows such an extreme simpleton view of business and is mind-numbingly wrong.
(I’m not sure where this statistic started mucking up the dialogue. I believe there was a legitimate study done by the folks at Corporate Executive Board that was then hijacked by the bloviators, but I could be wrong. The CEB team currently has some research that says it’s 57%; I have some quibbles with their current study*. More on that in a bit.)
Here’s what’s wrong with the 70% Proclamation:
- Self-reported? Did the respondents self-report what % of the buying process they were through before engaging with sales or was there some unbiased definition of what a buying process is – creating an apples to apples comparison? It’s similar to when marketers self-report how ‘effective’ they are at, say, content marketing. Does ‘effective’ mean something different for every CMO or are they all using the same definition of ‘effective?’
- ‘Buying Process Definition?’ DanMcDade of PointClear does an excellent analysis of what ’70% of the buying process complete’ looks like. His piece alone will make you rethink the buying process in your space.
- Really? ALL? To use the above 70% claim means that ALL complex sale, B2B buyers are are 70% through the buying process before willing to talk to a seller. This is beyond ridiculous.
- Searching, not searching. For buyers who are searching, it rings true for me that much of their research is done online. But because nuanced research is so rare in B2B, we really have no clear idea what portion of sales opportunities exist with prospects who are unaware of a need, unaware of how much that need is costing them, so …ummmm… not searching for a solution. Loads of fabulous prospects not searching. Loads.
- Social Zealots Are Drunk. Yep. Uh huh. I said it. Just because you are giddy with Social and Search and all the new tools and apps, and maybe you’ve even had some revenue success that you’re not deluding yourself about. But let’s not forget that for a significant portion of B2Bs today, a bad LinkedIn profile is bleeding edge.
- B2B is Complex. Generalizing serves no one. I’ve written several times about the differences and it’s time we start recognizing this. Whether it’s One Size Does Not Fit All or They Can See You But You Can’t See Them, you can slice and dice B2Bs several ways to begin to analyze and design the most appropriate RevGen Strategy including Sales, Sales Support, and Marketing. Stop paying attention to broad brush research.
*I have only two quibbles with the CEB research I linked to above: 1. We don’t know if it’s self-reported by interviewees, which would really skew the picture of what’s actually happening, and 2. The CEB study was done with ’1,400 B2B customers across industries.’ While there may be value for a marketing or sales leader, I’m positing that it’s really too broad to help anyone, beyond get people thinking about how their sectors’ prospects buy.
Marketing “Thought Leaders” – What you say matters. We are serving the folks in the trenches who are not compensated to go out and conduct their own meaningful research. Let’s keep integrity at the forefront, eh?
Marketing Practitioners – I’m sorry. You have serious work to do. For the time being, there’s a lot of dreck out there positioned as truth. There’s likely some good stuff that applies to your space, it’s just going to require a little excavating on your part to find it.