John Neeson, co-founder and managing director of SiriusDecisions, began his presentation at Summit 2013 today by putting a hypothetical question to the audience of B2B sales, marketing and product executives: “If you were a CXO responsible for buying a major new system that will change the productivity and profitability of your business, what is the first thing you would do? Where would you go to get information and advice?”

The real-world answer, Neeson said, based on the results of a recent SiriusDecisions study, was not that buyers would call vendor sales reps and ask for information. Instead, CXO buyers reported that they were more likely to assign the project to a subordinate; consult with their network of peers and colleagues; or conduct their own research on the Internet.

B2B sellers agreed, reporting that when they finally get a chance to talk to CXO buyers, those buyers are already well informed. Instead of general information, these buyers want a strong demonstration of the value of the offering, relying on the rep having in-depth knowledge of the buyer’s specific industry and business issues. In fact, sellers reported that the top inhibitors to sales success are the inability to articulate a value message, and a lack of subject matter expertise of the buyer’s industry or solution.

Neeson then listed the buying activities reported by CXO buyers for each phase of the buying process – and what types of information or interaction they prefer to receive from sellers. He emphasized that the types of content that buyers and sellers find most valuable changes throughout the buyer’s journey. “There’s no doubt that you need a lot of content to succeed in B2B sales and marketing today – but it has to be the right content,” he said.

Key findings from the study included:

  • Most B2B salespeople agreed that the sales process for B2B products and solutions rarely includes the education phase of the buying process.
  • During the education and solution phases of the buying cycle, CXO buyers rely heavily on colleagues, personal networks and third-party experts in forming their opinions about what to buy.
  • Because sales has been effectively shut out of the process of educating buyers directly, B2B salespeople must rely on marketers – or develop their own marketing skills – to reach B2B buyers.
  • During the final phase of the buyer’s journey, vendor selection, CXOs look to connect with vendor executives and search for content to justify their decision. To validate a vendor selection, CXO buyers rely most heavily on customer references and their prior experience with the vendor.

Neeson concluded by recommending that B2B marketing, sales and product functions adapt their tactics and content assets to the changes in the CXO buyer’s journey in order to win the attention of CXOs and help them choose the best solutions to meet their requirements.