Gartner Keynote: The New Imperative for B2B Sales and Marketing Leaders

The traditional model of linear deal progression, with a handoff from marketing to sales, won’t work for complex modern B2B buying.

At the Gartner Sales & Marketing Conference 2018 in Las Vegas, NV, opening keynote speaker, Brent Adamson, Distinguished Vice President, Advisory, Gartner, says the traditional handoff between sales and marketing is not effective in overcoming today’s highly complex B2B buying journey.

“Over the years, we’ve seen B2B sales struggle mightily to progress customers through the purchase process. And for the seller, it’s increasingly difficult to guide customers as some of the complexity comes from within the buyer’s organization,” said Adamson.

Brent Adamson, Distinguished Vice President, Advisory, Gartner, opens the Gartner Sales & Marketing Conference 2018 in Las Vegas, NV.
Brent Adamson, Distinguished Vice President, Advisory, Gartner, opens the Gartner Sales & Marketing Conference 2018 in Las Vegas, NV.

Customers today are trying to accomplish a series of non-sequential steps to complete a purchase and that has completely undermined the traditional model of linear deal progression. Supplier internal infrastructures are built around marketing owning the early buying stages primarily on digital before progressing to sales and in-person conversations. However, Gartner research indicates buying does not happen this way.

To truly understand how sellers can progress buyers through the purchase process they must first fully appreciate the journey. “Buying isn’t about progression, it’s about completion,” says Adamson.

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B2B buying “jobs”

Gartner applied the Jobs-to-Be-Done framework to qualitative data pulled from customer interviews to reveal that B2B buyers must complete six distinct activities — or “jobs” — to successfully complete a purchase.

Gartner finds the most successful B2B purchases span six distinct “jobs” that buyers must complete to their satisfaction.

Although nearly every successful B2B purchase progresses through problem identification, solution exploration, requirements building and supplier selection, customers simultaneously address validation and consensus creation throughout the entire buying process. Something not fully acknowledged in traditional linear journey mapping is that these two jobs are always on — even while customers are working to complete the other four jobs in the process.

Gartner research shows most B2B buyers will revisit nearly every buying job at least once before making a purchase. The result: A customer buying journey that resembles more of a maze than a linear path.

Organizations that will succeed going forward will be those that materially simplify the purchase process for customers

To complicate things further, B2B buyers utilize both sales reps and the supplier website — equally across the duration of the process. Buyers are channel agnostic. They have no clear preference for digital or in-person and just care about finding information that helps them advance.

So how do suppliers make buying easier? “The purchase happens when customers believe to their satisfaction that all six jobs are complete at the same time,” says Adamson. “And suppliers are better positioned than customers to proactively handle and reduce complexity.”

The new imperative

B2B buying complexity is not a result of a problem in delivery from sales or marketing. It’s a buying problem that sales and marketing must jointly address with high-quality, consistent, cross-channel information to help customers complete the purchase jobs they need to accomplish. Suppliers must assume the role of a guide to customers as they navigate the buying process, particularly using their insight to help customers overcome or avoid obstacles they may not anticipate on their own.

“The organizations that will succeed going forward will be those that materially simplify the purchase process for customers,” says Adamson.

Gartner research shows that customers are finding some help and value from both digital and in-person interactions. Yet, there is an opportunity for marketing and sales to be better coordinated to provide even more information to advance — or what Gartner calls buyer enablement — that can exist across all channels.

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Gartner for Sales Leaders client can read more in Elevating the Value of Sales Interactions.