B2B buyers are nearly two-thirds of the way through the buying process before they contact a seller. How many times have you read, referred to, or used this data point to support your own digital marketing investments?

SiriusDecisions announced this statistic back in 2011, and B2B marketers listened. Companies stepped up their content marketing initiatives, invested in marketing automation platforms, and developed advanced lead-nurturing strategies. Forrester proclaimed the end of the salesperson and Gartner responded in kind, stating that customers now considered the salesperson the least influential person in the buying process.

But wait. Do your best deals happen auto-magically? Of course not.

According to new B2B buyer research revealed last week at the SiriusDecisions Summit in Nashville, it’s time to debunk the 67 percent myth. The reality? It’s far more complicated than that.

SiriusDecisions surveyed 1,005 buyers, more than half of whom had purchased business solutions in the last 30 days, and found that B2B buying behaviors clustered into three different scenarios:

  • Phased buying that takes two quarters or longer, includes at least five buying centers, and engages six or more colleagues. These are typically million-dollar-or-above deals that require multiple levels of engagement. In these complex buying scenarios, sales representatives are almost always involved right from the start, as well as at every stage in the buying journey.
  • Consensus buying that takes places over one or two quarters, includes three to four buying centers, and involves up to six colleagues. These are consultative sales scenarios that total $50K to $500K in revenue.
  • Independent buying that takes place between individuals over weeks rather than quarters and that involves one or two people in one or two buying centers. These are transactional sales that total less than $50K.

The research also took into account that there is a wide range of digital interactions between buyers and sellers, from email conversations to exclusively online exchanges that are controlled completely by the buyer. Because digital can mean both content and channels, defining the role of digital in the buyer’s journey is complicated. And while the buying journey is “cognitively linear,” the path from interest to sale is anything but sequential.

No wonder humans need to be involved.

It’s logical that as the price and complexity of a solution increases, so does the need for personal interaction. But regardless of price, SiriusDecisions research found that each of these B2B scenarios requires a blend of nonhuman and human interaction. “Buyers need trust, confidence, and validation,” notes Jennifer Ross, SiriusDecisions Research Director and Chief Marketing Officer Services. “Machines just can’t give that to them.”

The research has far-reaching implications for B2B marketers:

  • Marketers need to understand the three different buying scenarios and how they relate to their offerings and marketing tactics.
  • Marketing teams should plan to create 11 to 17 distinct “buyer interactions” for each offering, according to SiriusDecisions.
  • Because prospective customers may engage many people on their way to the dotted line, including sales engineers, product managers, solutions specialists, and distributors as well as sales representatives, companies need to align their marketing, sales, and product teams.
  • Understanding your buyers – across multiple buying scenarios and through multiple buying phases – remains key.

Is your marketing plan ready for the new new buyer’s journey? Check out our solution brief on How to Create and Use Buyer Personas to get started.