It’s undeniable. Your buyers have changed. But have you?

Recent research reveals B2B buyers are spending a lot less time with sales. In fact, meeting with reps makes up only 17% of today’s buying process. And that number drops to only 5-6% when buyers are checking out the competition. 

When your time is this short, what can you do to make the most of it?

I had the opportunity to sit down with my good friend, Craig Rosenberg, Distinguished VP, Analyst at Gartner, to chat about the shifts in buyers’ behaviors and to discover what marketers and sales can do to meet buyers where they are. 

Watch the video to learn more about how B2B marketers can adapt to changing buyer preferences in today's world or read the transcript below.

The Rep-Free Experience

Deb Wolf: 

You recently cited in a survey that 43% of buyers prefer a rep-free buying experience. I know I prefer rep-free buying experience sometimes when I'm at Nordstrom and they are all over me. Talk a little bit about what is driving that and how it's changed for buyers.

Craig Rosenberg: 

One thing on that number that's interesting - it's well over 50% with the millennials. They are in management or they're going to be in management soon, so this is going to keep changing. 

I agree with you. I prefer rep-free experiences unless I really have to do it. I think all of us can relate. 

We already had this idea where buyers want rep-free experiences, and then we went through the pandemic where we really learned a lot about digital. Frankly, that's how those two things came together. I think that's why, in my opinion, a lot of marketers did really well. 

I know a lot of your peers and colleagues did really well because they were forced into this lane of digital—everyone was digital, and a lot of them preferred digital—so it was a really great sort of A/B test for a year and a half. We learned a lot about how to basically go out there and use digital for a lot of the things that we need to do. 

There’s a lot of people that have done digital over the years, so you think about this whole continuum: There's those that never did digital, and those numbers are really interesting. You look at a lot of industries where it's a really big deal that they moved to digital.

Then there's folks, like you, who have been digital. I don't know how long you've been doing digital marketing—for a long time—but you’ve got to try new channels and try and do all these new and exciting things. For me, I feel like we're ready for it because a lot of things came together for that.

I think the big thing is that the rep-free experience sort of comes together as people move to digital, but also move to a lot of other things. When we think about the rep-free experience, and ultimately what that means is to think of it from a demand perspective. So, there's a whole new set of fun things for us to go think about as marketers and salespeople.

When people ask me that from a marketer's perspective, I say we talked for years about marketers extending themselves into the customer lifecycle.

Now that everything's becoming so digital across the entire experience, that's when we know marketers now have digital expertise that they can bring to the table. So, it's an interesting time, that's for sure.

Marketing, Sales, and the Move to Digital


I think it's brought marketers and sellers even closer together because sellers really have to think about “What's happening in a world that I'm not in? I'm not sitting in front of my customer. How do I work with my marketing counterpart?” To get the right kinds of content and things that they used to hand out at an all-day briefing or all-day meeting, into the hands of whoever is in that very complex buying cycle.

Obviously, those buyers aren't the single buyers in these big, large B2B buying cycles. So, “How do I ensure that people in procurement get the information they need? The people in legal?” 

We used to see these corporate visits where a whole team would come in, for example, and the whole sales team would sit there, and those things aren't happening. We don't want to do them on all day Zooms, but they still need that same information to close those deals. It's really changed how we think about working together.


You bring up a good point—Uh, can I call it “funny?” You know, we're trying to work with this asynchronous relationship that we are building with buyers from digital.

As you know from the data, we have all these areas of the organization that are like, “Well, we're going digital,” and sales is one of them. They have to communicate asynchronously. And marketers are like, “Hey, you know, we've done that! I know you don't always talk to us, but in case you were wondering, these things like, ‘How do I get information to 11-20 stakeholders in a buying cycle?’ Marketing's pretty good at that.” 

So that's what you're talking about. We used to run in different directions, but now we can lean on each other for expertise. And the truth is, marketers have been digital for a long time. And you guys have learned a lot of different techniques, what tactics work, what works and doesn't work, and applying that into the sales cycle is real now. And it's a good time for partnership, as you mentioned. 

A New Way Forward: Connected, Omnichannel Experiences


How do you think about this post-pandemic role—do people go backwards? Do you go backwards out of digital, even as we bring in-person relationships and in-person events back, how do we think about it?


Well, I think we think about it in that we don't know. And I think we can learn a lot from the successful digital CMO. They were multi-channel before everyone else was multi-channel. They knew to put their landing pages everywhere on the market.

Now we have to take that same mentality and put it across all channels because we don't know. So, the rep-free buying experience? 43%? That means 57% don't necessarily believe in that, and that's a lot. We have to serve someone who wants a rep-free experience. We have to serve people that may want to talk to a sales rep, or go to events, or face-to-face. We just don't know. And that's really been the transition we're in. 

When we talked about “orchestration” years ago, it was a really cool word. It was really cool. We're like, “Ooh, that's such an awesome word!” 

Now, it’s like we have to. We have to think about live events. They're coming back. We're dying to talk to people face-to-face. I couldn't wait to come talk to you today and move off Zoom. That's happening. But let's not lose this thing where we've sort of figured out the different journeys and the different messages and how we can deliver those across channels that are digital, that are live, in-person, and all this stuff.

When people talk about multi-channel, multi-function, they also have to talk about multi-platform, live, virtual, etc. I don't think people move backwards, do you? 


I don't think we move backwards.


View the entire chat here.