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How the B2B Buying Cycle Has Changed

Today, most people are nearly all of the way through the buying cycle before they contact sales. Ask any sales rep at any company and they will tell you it’s true. Most companies, however, still think they can personally lead prospects through the buying cycle; this was true 10 years ago, it’s not true now. The job of today’s sales rep is primarily to close the sale. The fact is, prospects have already been persuaded and just need to contact the supplier to finalize the process. The most remarkable thing is that this is equally true for low-end and high-end products.

This means, companies need to be everywhere people are researching what they sell. And, of course, everywhere means everywhere online. Other than personal recommendations (which are important) there effectively is nowhere else. Following are the five classic stages of the B2B buying cycle—along with some updated notes.

1. Identifying Needs

  • Assessing business needs

  • Determining what they need to meet those needs

  • Assessing available resources

  • Making a final decision on exactly what they need

2. Setting Criteria

  • Working with in house resources to create a list of features/specifications

3. Specific Research


  • Ask colleagues for recommendations


The internet has enabled buyers to develop a level of confidence in a way that seems impartial and factual to them. It enables decision makers to form their own opinions and begin making choices independent of any supplier’s sales team. Customers prefer selling to themselves. They are happy to fly solo through the first 3 phases and see no reason to contact you directly.

  1. Google search on relevant terms

  2. Review company website

  3. Check LinkedIn company page

  4. An industry resource, such as Hoover’s, to determine the health of the company

4. Selecting Suppliers and Negotiating

  • Narrowing the list down to 5 or fewer suppliers that meet the criteria and pass the research phase.

  • Making direct contact—probably for the first time—with those suppliers

  • Further narrowing the list based on impressions.

  • Selecting a preferred supplier.

  • Negotiating, deliverables, price and terms

  • Obtaining a quote

5. Buying and Implementing

  • Signing the contract

  • Inspecting and accepting the final product

  • Overseeing implementation

The goal is to be top of mind at the very moment the buyer is thinking about buying, and also when they are thinking about thinking about buying. It really is understanding that the seller must be visible and available when the buyer wants to have the conversation, not when the seller wants to.

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