Why Being A B2B Buyer Is Different – Consumerization Is A Poor Comparison

When buying a personal laptop, you know what you want, your budget, and your brand preferences. Then you make your online research to come up with a short list. Your best options get compared and you make a decision, placing the order online. That’s consumerization in the IT space. Reflect how you bought your first laptop and compare with how you do it now. Figuring out what you needed was maybe a time consuming process, often with iterations and mistakes. But having done that more than once, with more information available online, you know where to go, and who to trust when making your decision.

Now imagine yourself working for a large corporation.  – you are the final decision maker for the company’s new laptop generation. The CFO asks about the impact on cash flow, operating expenses and different “return on” metrics. The CEO wants to see the impact on productivity, the corporate IT board bothers you with a number of guidelines and policies, as well as procurement. Will you be following the same process as you would when buying a personal laptop to make a corporate buying decision? Most likely, no. The context is different, the impacted stakeholders are different, and what you buy is different, too. It’s always a specific, but complex buying situation.

Consumer and Business Buyers – don’t lump them together

People may argue that consumerization, makes all buyers the same. Buyers act as human beings. Whatever people learn in one area of their life has an impact on other areas. Your Mac at home is probably what you expect in the company. But for some reason, you won’t get a Mac there.

The buying context is different

The B2B buying situation is determined by the company’s current state, their desired results, their stakeholders, their budgets, etc. Their situational context is specific, even if the situation has common patterns, such as budget optimization challenges or effectiveness and investment challenges. As a buyer, you need to understand what different solutions mean to your area of responsibility in terms of business outcomes.

Many stakeholders – many different concepts

In a private role, you depend on your individual concept how to fix a problem, how to avoid a risk and how to achieve a goal. In an organization, you are confronted with different challenges. Therefore, your perspective how to approach those challenges are unique to your B2B role. Furthermore, other impacted stakeholders have their own, often different, concepts in mind, based on their perception of the situation.

Decision dynamic is different

While the buyer’s journey may look the same on a very high level, the decision dynamic is very different, every time. It’s true that consumerization, like our IT example, impacts people’s concepts and expectations regarding services and outcomes. But the decision criteria in a B2B situation will be different and they have to be agreed upon across the entire stakeholder network. There are people with more or less influence and power. Only a very few of them will have their skin in the game.  Imagine what happens, if a key stakeholder with lots of power and influence doesn’t prioritize your specific buying initiative? Let’s assume that all initiatives on the table have great financial impact. In this specific B2B buying situation, decision-making becomes political.

As B2B buying is different, so too is B2B sales. Understanding the buyers’ context and concepts, orchestrating their decision dynamic, to provide a value-creating perspective – that’s always unique. That’s why sales professionals exist – to create value for their customers, to help them to achieve their desired results and wins.

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