Best practices of B2B buying: how the main purchase criteria have changed

Best practices of B2B buying: how the main purchase criteria have changed

22nd March 2022

By Dee Padfield

Ever plumped for a cheaper option, only to discover you’ll pay more in the long run? We’ve all fallen into the false economy trap – but it can spell disaster for businesses. 

However, by switching up your main purchase criteria, you can forge lasting B2B partnerships that work for everyone. Read on for our quick guide to the latest thinking. 

The traditional business deal

It was Oscar Wilde who spoke of people knowing the price of everything, but the value of nothing.

And if you’ve been involved in B2B deals in the past, you might well have found yourself agreeing with Oscar…

Price has traditionally been the main purchase criterion. Quality and delivery were up there in importance, but nothing has been more important to buyers and sellers than agreeing a cost. 

It makes for what business researchers have called “an inherently adversarial approach to buying and selling”, with each party trying to get the other to budge. 

And that means they could be “missing out on opportunities for joint value creation”. 

The new business deal

If you work in procurement, your brain is probably already whirring at this point. What does “value creation” mean, and how on earth will you get your bosses’ buy-in? Won’t your company lose money?

The researchers present a “new paradigm” of buying and selling. The focus is on the customer: the salesperson will present to them how the product can benefit their company, and all that’s included in the package: e.g. high quality, speedy installation, and great reliability. 

And, importantly, they’ll present these benefits in a clearly defined way: cost savings. So money remains important, but it’s the long-term value, not the upfront cost, that’s key. It’s a subtle shift – but a crucial one. 

As the researchers say: “Focusing first on value, then on price, our research suggests, leads to higher profitability. The procurement function, typically regarded as a cost centre, becomes a source of innovation and a driver of good corporate citizenship. The sales function, by emphasising first value and then price, transforms an adversarial relationship with customers into a collaborative relationship. As a result, customers, suppliers, and society at large benefit.”

Doing the deal

So could the days of high-pressured deals be a thing of the past – at least between companies which care about quality?

McKinsey research also suggests that the days of the “hard sell” from overbearing reps are numbered. 

Its major survey of business decision makers around the world found a huge shift towards digital and remote procurement, e.g. digital self-service and remote rep interactions.

In the UK, 70-80% of decision makers prefer digital interactions, citing ease of scheduling, savings on travel costs, and safety.

While this pivot to digital has been sped up by the pandemic, 88% of UK respondents expect this model to be here to stay. 

However, while 96% are prepared to make a purchase through an end-to-end digital self-serve model, there’s still an appetite for human interaction. Some three-quarters of buyers prefer video conferencing over phone calls. 

Connect Assist – your digital partner

We think all this research is fascinating, even if you’re not in the commercial world.

It shows the growing importance of investing in proper digital capacity, combining a variety of channels. 

And it demonstrates how deals don’t have to be mere transactions, but can be the start of an ongoing, mutually beneficial (and transformative) partnership. 

That’s very much what we’re about at Connect Assist. As we’ve said before: “Our philosophy is not just to sell ‘stuff’ but rather to think about approaches to solving problems and create best-fit solutions.” 

Ultimately, that leads to a more valuable service – and a more profitable one. 

So whether you need a partner for outsourced helplines, digital service delivery or consultancy, we’d love to hear from you. 


If you need our help in developing more effective, meaningful connections with customers, get in touch today.