Sales Strategies To Sell To Self Educated B to B Buyers

Selling to the b2b buyer

Research from Google shows that now more than ever, Woody Allen was right – Showing Up is 80% of social selling success. Today’s self educating B to B buyer is increasingly turning to sources other than salespeople for information.

Number Of Sources Buyers Consult

Google’s ZMOT Research, released in 2011 revealed that consumer shoppers consult 10.4 sources before making a purchase. This was up from 5.2 sources the year prior. Even for relatively simple decisions such as picking a restaurant, consumers consulted an average of 5.8 sources. For high involvement purchases like a new car, the number of sources consulted rises to 18.2, the most of any category tracked by Google.

And while B2B Marketers and salespeople love to talk about how the B to B buying decision is different than consumer buying decisions, how it’s more logical and less emotional, etc., there is an abundance of information out there that shows B2B buyers are absolutely consulting many more resources than they used to before they even contact a sales person.

A recent study by the Corporate Executive Board reported that B2B buyers are 57% of the way to a buying decision before they are willing to talk to a sales rep. And a survey last year by DemandGen Report, reported that 77% of B2B buyers said they did not talk with a salesperson until after they had performed independent research, and 36% of buyers said they didn’t engage with a sales rep until after a short list of preferred vendors was established.

Where Are B2B Buyers Looking For Information?

Again, turning to the DemandGen Report, we find that our B2B Buyers look a whole lot like consumers favoring web search and vendor web sites for their research.

B2B Buyers Research Sources

And somewhat surprising, for many in the sales world, social media is a key tool for 50% of the respondents.

Creating Buying Signals

While many will lament this new digitally oriented paradigm, they shouldn’t. Seasoned sales professionals are familiar with Buying Signals — by leveraging in-bound or automated marketing software, companies can detect buying signals, such as content shared by people and questions posted online or content downloaded from the company’s website. Understanding buying signals can help sales people target relevant prospects and marketers run micro-targeted campaigns against prospects to help qualify them as Sales Ready Leads.

Andrew Gaffney, Publisher of Demand Gen Report had a great point,  “Because buyers are engaging with a sales representative later in the process, the content and messaging a brand delivers really shapes the initial perception of a brand and can have a defining impression on brand preference.” By tracking consumption of their content, smart companies are listening for the Buying Signals and literally reading their prospects minds. In doing so, they are arming their sales teams with insights that otherwise would require a Qualification Call to obtain. Thus, by listening to the Buying Signals, these same companies are shortening the sales cycle and improving their conversion rate.

3 Ways To Market To Self Educating B to B Buyers?

First, mine your current sales database for insights and buyer signals. With a Behavioral Email Marketing effort, you can quickly segment your sales prospecting database into Hot, Warm and Cold leads.

Second, create truly useful information. Don’t create yet another ad cloaking itself as Native Advertising, educate the buyer and point them towards more information that will help them make the right buying decision.

And third, invest in data – it really is the new black. You’re not going to change the B2B buyer, she’s going to continue to self-educate, so use that to your advantage. Let her study at the University of YOU and track everything she does. Then use that insight to shorten your sales cycle and improve your close rate.

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About Tom Martin

Tom is 20+ year veteran of the marketing and advertising industry with a penchant for stiff drinks, good debates and digital gadgets that helps digitally challenged companies create innovative and effective digital marketing strategies. He is the founder of Converse Digital , author of The Invisible Sale and a contributing writer for Advertising Age. Tom guides clients through the digital marketing maze and helps companies teach their sales force how to Painlessly Prospect their way to more sales. Connect with him on Google+ or follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.


  1. Tom,
    Your insights are right on the money. B2B sellers should consider how they themselves conduct research online before considering a purchase to understand how their buyers do the same. Thanks for sharing these valuable insights.

    • Thanks Bernie!

      Long time no chat… glad to see you pop up in these parts. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how one might begin to reverse engineer their sales target’s online searching habits to help them (the sales organization) determine the optimum places to place content to be found by the prospect.

      Got any thoughts on that?

      • Hey Tom,
        One thought on that is to tap into the subject matter experts who are closest to the customer. In most B2B enterprises those SMEs reside in “implementation” whatever that means in each business and in “customer support” in whatever flavor that is in a particular B2B company. Those people are a gold mine of insights.


        • Bernie,

          Very valid idea… maybe partner with a relevant trade org to field some kind of online media or content habits study? Done that before and found a few surprises.


  1. […] A recent study by the Corporate Executive Board reported that B2B buyers are 57% of the way to a buying decision before they are willing to talk to a sales rep. And a survey last year by DemandGen Report, reported that 77% of B2B buyers said they did not talk with a salesperson until after they had performed independent research, and 36% of buyers said they didn’t engage with a sales rep until after a short list of preferred vendors was established. (Tom Martin, ConverseDigital) . […]

  2. […] 77% of B2B buyers said they did not talk with a salesperson until after they had performed independent research […]

  3. […] no longer control the majority of information the buyer has access to when looking into a solution. 36% of B2B consumers don’t even think about talking to a sales representative before they’ve formed a consideration […]

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