Podcast: Who are B2B decision-makers?

By Alexander Evjenth

Podcast: Who are B2B decision-makers?

In this podcast, we've talked about B2B decision-makers a lot - what they prioritise, what trends they're affected by, and how marketers can reach them. But who are these people, and what are the factors that influence their decisions? That was the topic of conversation for this episode.

You may have an idea of what the typical B2B decision-maker looks like, but this image is probably outdated. As onlinification progress and the people entering these decision-making positions become younger, the B2B environment is changing. And after the acceleration of digitalisation that we've seen in the last 18 months, the typical B2B decision-making process and the people involved in it are radically different from how it was before.

For this episode, I asked Anders and Stellan about this group. We discussed how to target them, which ones should be targeted, and how their priorities and thought patterns have changed over the last year.
I hope you enjoy this episode - you can listen on Spotify or Soundcloud, watch the video episode, or just read the transcription below.

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Alexander Evjenth: [00:00:02] How are you Anders?

Anders Björklund: [00:00:04] I'm very well, thank you, Alexander. How are you?

AE: [00:00:08] I'm good. I'm good. And Stellan?

Stellan Björnesjö: [00:00:12] I'm great, thank you.

AE: [00:00:14] What have you been thinking about this week, Stellan? What's your, have you any new insights or?

SB: [00:00:24] That's a very good question. I have been balancing work life this week with a short trip to Stockholm. And so one insight is that it's 2021, and we're talking about high-speed rail that is going to do two hundred and fifty kilometers an hour. I'm more of a Hyperloop person, so like where is the actual incentive to put a Hyperloop in place in Sweden? It would be awesome. I spent five hours in a car going to Stockholm from Gothenburg, and it's the two biggest cities here in Sweden. So I don't see why you can't do that with a thousand kilometers an hour in the tube instead. And then you can actually live in one place and commute to the other place and so on. And yeah, that would be my thought of the week perhaps.

AE: [00:01:27] Is it something you could have on your property as well?

SB: [00:01:34] Yeah absolutely, going from one building to another!

AE: [00:01:38] And Anders, have you any thoughts? I've seen that you share started to share thoughts on LinkedIn, is it each day or?

AB: [00:01:47] I'm experimenting with either a thought, and like yesterday, asking for a friend. That's one thing I would say. Fantastic how some transportation, distribution, and logistics companies are progressing in understanding how it is to be me. Had deliveries every day the last week privately. And some of them really, really impressed me in everything from how they keep me posted and how I can affect the timings and so on. That's something that I bring from this week, that if I look at traditional industrial B2B companies, are they aware of how their customers now get spoiled by some logistics and distribution companies and that they will compare with the deliveries in indeed to be very, very shortly? And it goes fast and it's good. Even an old Swedish, owned by the state, company is progressing in a very, very high speed, and as bad they are, as good they are beginning to get interesting, I think.

AE: [00:03:11] Yeah, great. So in some episodes, we have talked about B2B decision-makers, and it was actually a friend of mine who listened to the pod who was like, who are these? B2B decision-makers. So I thought we could spend some time digging into who are these people, who are B2B decision-makers, and how do you think about what's going on in their minds? And how do you when you do online strategies and content, how should you think to reach these decision-makers? So starting with you Anders, could you explain who are B2B decision-makers?

AB: [00:04:00] Good question by your friend, and would be fantastic if she or he after this episode turned up with if we answer the question. Role wise, it's CEOs, CFOs, CMOs, and then it's a bit different what they call each other, but CSOs, meaning sales officers or the commercial officers and actually sometimes the COOs, that's the ones that we talk about, and responsibility wise, from mid-sized to sort of listed global companies, that's role wise, do you agree, Stellan, who we talk about when we talk about decision-makers? And then depending on the size of the company, we have said many times in this pod, if there is a real owner around and then I do not mean the stock market, then I mean, if there is a real owner around, that's usually the main decision-maker in a private family-owned company.

AE: [00:05:15] And Stellan, can you explain a bit about, like, generally how is a decision made at a B2B company, I know of course there are, it varies depending on the complexity of the decision or so on, but are there more people involved in the decision or?

SB: [00:05:41] Yeah, I think Martin did to take on this quite recently where you can actually see statistically that there are a lot more people involved now in a decision than it used to be. Decision-makers are also younger than you think they are. And so that, of course, affects the process of selling to these people. So you can't just think about the decision-maker as a sort of an isolated person or a few persons. You have to think about it as a group. And it contains also the people around the decision-makers. So it can be someone preparing the decision, which would be more of an influencer, and it could also be the people who are ultimately going to use whatever it is that you're selling. So you have to take that into account and see more selling into a group of people than selling to an individual.

AE: [00:06:36] Anything to add there Anders about the decision process?

AB: [00:06:40] If I think in our case, it's forty-five plus, at least one university degree, vast experience of being in listed companies either just below the executive management team or in the management team, that that's sort of usually who Stellan and I talk about when we talk about decision-makers. Modern people, fairly good moral and ethics, and I think everyone that we talk about has a couple of things in common, especially in the larger companies, they know that they are a bit tired of talking about things that never happen. And when they happen, they are a bit slow. And nobody can exactly point their finger on how to move on faster and become more successful with the things that I think many of them have in common. And then I know that 100 percent of them have a long history of non-successful implementations of software.

AB: [00:07:59] So Stellan, could you explain a bit about how B2B decision making is different compared to consumer decision making?

SB: [00:08:12] From an organizational standpoint? I don't necessarily think there is a difference. So you still have this group of people who makes the decisions and they're stakeholders and people around them from a sort of individual standpoint. And if you look at us as consumers, if we are in B2C or B2B, yeah, I think decisions are made differently. So in a B2C, I would argue that we value sort of comfort. And as I'm talking about before, you know, you're sort of getting spoiled with the options that you have. And there, you know, there's constantly improvements. And I think you said just now that you were recently you were asked, do you want your delivery to house number one or do you want it to house number two? And if you get it to house number one, you can get it faster than if you get its house number two and so on. So there is lots and lots of these things, whereas, in B2B, people don't have like historically haven't had those expectations. You sort of you kind of know that things would be a bit slow and you'd have to call some people and you have to order some stuff, but maybe it will arrive in a couple of days and maybe it will get to the wrong address and so on. But I think that gradually it will it would be less and less accepted, and it's a competitive advantage if you sort of move ahead and be more sort of consumer, like if I can order a pizza and get it delivered to some kind of nowhere, like, how come that I can't order a, let's say, a box of nails or whatever and get it delivered to building sites whenever I need it? So it's yeah, it's kind of strange, the differences.

AE: [00:10:14] And Anders, how do you think when you communicate with marketing content towards B2B decision-makers, what do you consider? Is it rational and emotional needs and such?

AB: [00:10:29] Mm. Once more about how you think behind that, about what it is that I'm gonna answer.

AE: [00:10:35] Yeah, we have talked about who the decision-makers are in general at the B2B company, now talking about like inbound and content and when you formulate strategies and so on, like what do you consider about the decision-maker and how to reach them?

AB: [00:11:00] You mean in Zooma's case?

AE: [00:11:02] Yeah in Zooma's case, and something that could be applied to other companies as well.

AB: [00:11:08] I mean, with a certain type of content to you, we everyone needs to. Be able to answer whatever challenge, problem, or need that they have. Um. In an episode before we referred to that as knowledge content, we might talk about it whatever you want, but content-wise, if if I'm CXO in a large company, I never want to look bad. I never, ever want to look bad and I want to be prepared, but I have the same challenge as everyone has in life, which is time. And you take the shortcut, you actually search for the answer on your problem and need. So so whoever you are, and that's the same in to see, of course, you need to provide the answers needed on the challenge or problem or need that they have. And secondly, which I believe that people sometimes as senders or making stuff like that available, if it seems relevant if it seems credible, now, I want to take the next step. So I do not want to talk with a Jim, or Bob, or whatever, I want to get in touch with the expert. It might be the same 30 seconds where I think, yeah, seems credible.

AB: [00:12:52] Now I want to talk to someone. So from all perspectives, you need to think that at least one will use the chat, at least one wants to call you, at least one wants to book you immediately. At least one wants to be able to look at a video. At least one needs to find a customer case with a similar industry and challenge as I'm confronted with as the decision-maker, whatever it is, I think it's strange that we always talk about B2B as if it can be three to seven years before we do a deal. Yeah, but it can be 30 seconds as it is when I go to my favorite shop in the world and decide to buy a guest guitar to have my in summer house, it's exactly the same thing. And we need to stop talking about it to be that everything takes three to six months at least, and three to seven years. Yes, it does. But when it happens, you need to be ready that at least one has demands like they have, let's call it in B2C, we have the habits.

AB: [00:14:06] You agree, Stellan?

SB: [00:14:08] Yeah, completely. The sort of range of what we expect to be able to do is increasing. I mean it's, we can go to something that is closely related to what everyone is doing. And I think it's going from like one channel of TV to two to three to satellite TV, to Internet TV and then you have your subscriptions going. I hardly remember how many different subscriptions and different packages, but it's hundreds and hundreds of different shows and packages and stuff that I can take part of through these subscriptions. And I think it's, the same is true, you know, as Anders was pointing out.

AB: [00:14:57] And I mean, now I take another direction for three seconds. Stellan, do you know what I was watching through Instagram last night? I was watching from Zlatan's home gym when he and his personal trainer were doing exercises. And I realized that I actually watched twenty minutes of a live sort of, is it ITV on Instagram?

SB: [00:15:26] A broadcast.

AB: [00:15:28] Yeah, a broadcast, live, twenty minutes of Zlatan exercising. I very seldom get a feeling that I want to exercise, but next time it's on, you're going to get interested in exercising when you look at on live show, so to speak. And why do we not broadcast this one live that we record today? Perhaps we should test that next Friday to do a live broadcast of our podcast recording of episodes. That might be fun.

SB: [00:16:04] I bet there is at least one person who wants to watch it live.

AB: [00:16:15] Yeah, so provide it. If we want to live like we sort of preach, send next week. Don't just sit there, send it.

SB: [00:16:28] I mean, we're going to have to we are going to have to censor ourselves as well, as we're going to have these US 'beeps'.

AB: [00:16:33] Yeah, Doug needs to sort of throw himself into the long sentences and scream 'beeeeeep'.

AE: [00:16:47] We'll try that. Final question there, Stellan you mentioned that there are decision-makers and influencers. And if you're were working at a traditional B2B market that you were just about to, you had to like a limited budget to create content. Who should you target, who should you start to target here, the influencer group or directly to the decision-makers and why?

SB: [00:17:22] It's a good question. If you have a relationship with the decision-maker and in some sense, it's a huge advantage. So then you can sort of reach out on a shoestring, it's basically zero budget. If you don't have a relationship with any of them, you're going to have to somehow identify that there there is a need, and if you count through six degrees of separation, then you're going to have to work quite broadly. Then you're going to have to do some kind of ABM style approach on this, where you try to sort of target the account as such. So whenever anyone from this account is browsing LinkedIn, for example, you want to pop up with a targeted message. And it's going to have to be a little bit different if it's decision-makers versus the influencers. So that would be my spontaneous take on it.

AE: [00:18:31] Would you do the same, Anders?

AB: [00:18:35] Yeah, whatever business you are in, sorry for referring to everyone as suppliers to B2B, you need to be interested in how it is to be a CFO. Once when I did interviews for a company where they needed commercial people who should front B2B, I always ask them, have you ever known or done business with a CFO of a company? That was one question, the other question was asking what their spouses did to find out if they actually lived with someone who was the CFO or working in finance, because generally speaking, in an executive management team, a lot of people are dependable on the CFO, meaning everyone. And if you can make the CFO interested in something that the CFO is measured on, then the train is rolling, it's out of the station. If you forget the CFO, whatever you try to sell in B2B, it will be difficult long term.

AB: [00:19:47] So would you start with the CFO?

AE: [00:19:49] Never. If I, like Stellan said, if I know the CFO, yes, because the CFO is aware of all the processes and the timings that are important in that company. If I do not know the CFO and I perhaps know the CEO or the CMO or I don't know if CDOs are still around, but then I make sure that the CFO is part of signing off things and whatever initiative they're going to run. Because she or he is the accountant of if it will keep on being important or if it's just a one-time project overloading everyone who already has full calendars.

AB: [00:20:38] Great. Thank you both very much.

AE: [00:20:41] Thank you, Alexander.

SB: [00:20:42] Thank you, Alex.

Alexander Evjenth
Alexander is a content creator who has a great interest in learning new things. What he enjoys even more is creating knowledge content.
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