When Gallup—the polling folk—examined B2B purchasing habits, they discovered that emotions play a much larger role than most are comfortable admitting.
“Because of the risk involved, these decisions often have both an emotional and a rational component,” the Gallup report said. “Members of a buying center typically decide in favor of suppliers that make them feel that doing business with them entails the least risk and delivers the highest benefits to the company.”
But the example cited told a more emotional tale.
“A recent study in Germany, for example, looked at the purchase decisions made by buying center members in mechanical engineering, electronics and automation industries. Almost eight in 10 decision-makers (77 percent) indicated that they disregarded emotions when making purchasing decisions, while seven in 10 (70 percent) claimed to rely only on objective facts. However, a majority of the respondents (54 percent) also said that they would let a deal fall through if they had a ‘bad feeling’ about it, despite favorable facts,” the report said. “These findings suggest that the final decision isn’t a purely rational choice, even among German technical and engineering purchasers. In other words, even for the most rational of purchasers, feelings are facts.”
(By the way, note how Gallup alludes to the stereotype that German engineers are emotionless drones, with its reference to “even among German technical and engineering purchasers.” Naughty naughty, Gallup.)
Gallup also explored the ratio of a B2B company’s typical size compared with the size of its buying center, defined as the number of employees who make or influence capital investment purchases, again using German statistics. It found that for companies with fewer than 100 employees, three buying center employees was typical. For companies in the 100-499 employee range, buying center people increased to 6-7. For 500-999 employee firms, the buying center team grew to 11. And for businesses with more than 1,000 employees, 34 buying center team members was typical.
“Depending on the product or service, a buying center can involve the procurement department, technical or professional experts, managers and employees who will use the product or service. The account team must interact with members of the buying center differently depending on their role and the amount of influence they wield in the final purchase decision,” the report said.
Another concern the report detailed was the frighteningly wide differences for those buying center employees in terms of how much their knew about their customers.
“The B2B sales cycle is often lengthy and complex and the success of the supplier-client relationship requires an ongoing commitment from the account team. Crucial activities for an account team include understanding their client’s decision-making process, identifying the members of the buying center and the roles those individuals play within the buying center, and ensuring that account team members build strong relationships with the right people on the client side,” the report said. “For too many suppliers, the buying center is a blind spot. It is not enough to identify a single contact on the client side; suppliers need to know who all of the players are, what role they play in the purchase decision and how they evaluate the strength and quality of their relationship with the supplier. Gallup’s work with a B2B technology services company demonstrates how account teams can be unfamiliar with the makeup of their own clients’ buying centers. Account team members at the technology services company sometimes classified buying center members as decision-makers, when they actually only influenced a decision or had no effect on it. In other cases, account teams failed to identify people with decision-making authority or those who could strongly influence a purchase decision. Across this same company, knowledge of their clients’ buying center members varied among account teams. Some teams had developed an in-depth understanding of their clients’ buying center members, while other teams struggled to identify key players.”