The Complete Guide to B2B Buyer Behavior

In today’s ever-evolving digital landscape, B2B buyer behavior is complex and fast-changing. From initial solution discovery through to after-purchase engagement, B2B buyers are now more independent than ever before, and the customer journey is becoming increasingly automated and digital. Companies must know how to align strategies accordingly in order to win new business.

In this article, we’ll dive into the evolution of B2B buyer behavior in the 2020s, key trends to know, and actionable strategies for reliably converting more leads and sales.

Quick Takeaways:

  • The B2B buying process is becoming increasingly complex. Nearly 80% of buyers say their last purchase was complex and/or difficult.
  • In the 2020s, B2B buyer behavior has evolved to be digital-first and highly independent. Most buyers spend little time on direct engagement with marketing/sales reps.
  • Millennial and Gen Z influence has created higher expectations for personalization and seamless omnichannel buying experiences.
  • The first three channels buyers use to find information are now digital: vendor websites, search engines, and review sites.
  • Content is key to B2B marketing/sales success. Companies must create and publish frequent and high-value content for buyers at every stage.
  • To align with B2B buyer behavior, companies must create a strong online presence and prioritize authentic, transparent messaging.

B2B Buyer Behavior and The Buyer Journey

When we talk about buyer behavior, we’re referring to all of the actions, processes, and decision-making patterns exhibited by business buyers during the purchase process. Unlike B2C behavior, where decisions are influenced by individual needs and preferences, B2B purchase decisions are more complex.

Gartner reports that more than three-quarters of B2B buyers (77%) say that their last purchase was very complex or difficult to make.

Pie chart showing that 77% of B2B buyers state that their last purchase was very complex or difficult.

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The most common and notable reasons for this complexity are:

Multiple Decision Makers

B2B purchase decisions are rarely made by a single individual. They often involve a committee or group of stakeholders each with their own set of concerns and criteria. Today, 60% of B2B buying decisions involve more than four decision makers, and nearly a quarter involve more than seven. This often leads to competing opinions and difficulty reaching consensus about the best choice.

Pie chart showing that most B2B buying decisions involve multiple decision makers.

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Greater Financial Investment

B2B purchases, especially when it comes to enterprise solutions or large-scale equipment, can involve significant sums of money. This heightened financial commitment demands a thorough vetting process, longer deliberation, and often multiple levels of approval.

Higher Risk

With greater investment comes higher risk. B2B buying decisions have implications that can impact the success of the entire organization, including things like operational efficiency, reputation, and long-term strategic goals. This makes the evaluation phase lengthier as businesses aim to mitigate potential risks.

Information Overload

The digital age has presented B2B buyers with a plethora of information and online content. While this can aid informed decision-making, it can also lead to decision paralysis and difficulty comparing solutions efficiently when the sheer volume of available information becomes overwhelming.

Understanding this journey completely—including its complexities and the B2B buyer behavior exhibited at every stage—is essential for B2B marketing and sales teams. It’s what allows companies to break down decision-making barriers, build connection and trust with potential buyers, and smooth the path to final purchase.

The thing is, B2B buyer behavior is always changing as the business landscape evolves. This has perhaps never been more true than in the past few years. Let’s look at the key ways buyer behavior has changed in the 2020s, and how you can align your strategy accordingly to earn more leads and sales.

How Buyer Behavior Has Evolved in the 2020s

The landscape of B2B buying has undergone a seismic shift in the 2020s, largely driven by rapid digitalization and the evolving demographics of decision-makers.

Digital-First Approach

The 2020s have witnessed a massive surge in the digitalization of the B2B buying process—one that was accelerated by the pandemic. According to one McKinsey report, more than 70% of B2B decision-makers are open to making new, fully self-serve, or remote purchases in a post-Covid business world.

Graphic from a recent McKinsey report shows that B2B buyer behavior is trending toward remote and self-service models.

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This transition means that suppliers need a more robust digital presence, with user-friendly platforms, high-value content, and digital sales tools.

Independent Buyers

Modern B2B buyers are remarkably self-reliant. With a wealth of information at their fingertips, they often conduct extensive research, compare vendors, and even shortlist potential solutions before ever engaging with a sales representative. 

In fact, Gartner research suggests buyers only spend only 17% of their time meeting potential suppliers when considering a purchase. The rest is spent on independent activities, like research and meeting with their internal buying group.

Pie chart shows that only 17% of B2B buyer time is spent meeting with potential suppliers.

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Rising Influence of Younger Generations

The entrance of millennials and Gen Zers into B2B decision-making roles has brought fresh perspectives and preferences into the B2B buying process. These generations, having grown up in a digital world, naturally lean towards online research, peer reviews, and content over traditional, rep-led sales pitches. They value authenticity, social responsibility, and demand quick, convenient digital interactions.

The Desire for Personalized Experiences

Although B2B buyers are more independent, they still crave personalized experiences. They expect their vendors to have insights into their specific needs, industry challenges, and business goals. Nearly 70% of B2B buyers say this type of insight into their unique needs was their top reason for choosing a current vendor over other alternatives.

Bar chart showing that 68% of buyers chose their vendor because it demonstrated a stronger knowledge of their company and its needs.

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With advanced analytics and AI-driven tools, businesses are now  better equipped than ever to provide these types of tailored experiences, and must do so at every stage.

Aligning Your Marketing Strategy with Buyer Behavior

So, how do you translate knowledge of these important overarching trends in B2B buyer behavior into actionable strategies? Here are 5 of the most important things to prioritize:

Meet Your Buyers Where They Are

The top 3 channels buyers are now using to get information are now all digital: vendor websites, search engines, and review sites.

Bar chart showing that the first three resources B2B buyers use are all digital: web search, vendor websites, and review sites.

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A robust online platform that’s user-friendly, responsive, and meets buyers actively on these channels as they research their needs is paramount.

Invest in Creating High-Value Content

Buyers today are self-reliant researchers, and content is often responsible for making your company’s first impression on new potential buyers. Invest in content creation and develop diverse, relevant content designed to add value for buyers at every stage of the purchase journey.

Publish content frequently across channels, and incorporate it into your outbound efforts, too (like email marketing and display ads).

Personalize User Experiences

The growing expectation for personalized experiences demands that marketing teams leverage the right tools and processes for tailoring outreach and content. This is a must at every stage of the buyer journey, from initial discovery through to after-purchase engagement.

Bar chart shows B2B buyers want personalized content at every stage.

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Data-driven tools like your CRM and email marketing platform are critical to key capabilities in this area, such as customer segmentation, dynamic content, and automated message personalization.

Embrace Omnichannel Marketing

Today’s independent B2B buyers use more than 10 channels to research and engage before they make a decision. Know the channels your target buyers prefer, and ensure a consistent experience across all of them. Connect channels when you can so that engagement is seamless when customers move from one channel to another during their journey.

McKinsey research shows that B2B buyers use 10+ channels in their purchase journey.

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Engage with Authenticity

Younger buyers, especially Millennials and Gen Zers, gravitate towards brands that are genuine and transparent—and today, they’re savvier than ever at sorting out true authenticity from disingenuous attempts at connection.

Always prioritize honest, authentic interactions—from transparent pricing to clear messaging about your company’s values—to build real, lasting connections with your customers.

Over to You

Ready to launch an outbound marketing strategy that’s in tune with buyer behavior trends and designed to resonate with your unique audience? RevBoss can help. Our platform and services are custom-built for fast-growing B2B companies like SaaS, startups, and agencies.

Schedule a quick call with us today to learn how we can help you grow.