New McKinsey Research: The Top Three Channels B2B Buyers Prefer

Published: June 22, 2022

Today’s B2B buyers are more demanding than ever before — between their preferences for independence and highly relevant information, marketers are hard-pressed to keep up with their changing desires. However, new research from global management consultancy McKinsey highlighted the changing sales landscape and identified key trends that outlined buyers’ evolving preferences.

To learn more about the research, the Demand Gen Report team sat down with Julia McClatchy, Associate Partner of McKinsey, to examine the modern buying evolution.

Demand Gen Report: Earlier this year, McKinsey released research called the B2B Pulse. Can you share a bit about that report and some of the key findings?

Julia McClatchy: First, let me provide a bit of context and background. Since 2016, we have surveyed more than 21,000 decision makers around the global and in major industries from tech to finance to industrials. Our latest Pulse surveyed nearly 3,500 B2B decision makers across 12 markets and we came away with some incredible insights — namely that you have to be where your customers are.

Get the latest B2B Marketing News & Trends delivered directly to your inbox!

B2B buyers want in-person, remote (e.g., video conference) and self-service (e.g., e-commerce) channels in equal measure. This is what we call the “rule of thirds,” and it’s become entrenched as a universal truth. The consumerization of B2B is here — B2B customers are adopting buying habits from the consumer side, rewarding personalization and omnichannel experiences. In fact, 20% are willing to spend between $500,000 and $5 million in a single remote or self-service transaction.

We have a simple equation B2B decision makers can abide by and that is more channels = more growth. Seventy-two percent of B2B companies that sell using seven or more channels grew their market share at a significantly faster rate and customers are engaging across 10 or more channels across the buying journey. B2B companies are experiencing a shock to brand loyalty. Nearly 80% of B2B customers say performance guarantee is a must, otherwise they will take their business elsewhere.

Personalized experiences are a must have for growth. Companies that offer the most tailored 1:1 outreach are 1.7X more likely to have gained market share compared to those who deliver only moderate personalization efforts.

DGR: You followed this report with an article titled “The Future of Sales is Hybrid.” What were some of the key insights in this one?

McClatchy: This report was really fascinating, and it was based on some of our findings from our B2B Pulse research. The pace of change is so fast — and we found that one of the most impacted areas is the rise of the hybrid seller. 

Roughly 40% of organizations added hybrid sellers to their ranks over the past two years. Furthermore, the role is set to become the second most prominent B2B sales role over the next three years. Organizations are looking to attract and retain best-in-class sales talent, as hybrid selling is expected to be the most dominant sales strategy by 2024. As we accelerate into an omnichannel world, hybrid selling becomes an increasingly important capability. 

DGR: Marketing and sales have to collaborate more closely than ever before — what is the best collaboration model? Or are there any best practices that you can share?

McClatchy: I’ll break it down into three parts: Timing, insights and training.

Time is of the essence for everyone – especially in sales. Marketers can help sales teams streamline and accelerate their sales cycles by helping sales understand which customers have the most growth potential and have the highest likelihood of winning, so that sales can be really targeted in how they spend their time.

Marketing and sales teams should also have a unified view of customers and a deep understanding of their customers’ needs and preferences through insights and interactions. Marketers can therefore use that insight to help sales teams be more effective, by doing things like informing how often they should meet the client in-person, what to include in a pitch or how to adjust a pricing strategy.

Lastly, I can’t stress enough how important it is for both marketers and sellers to walk in each other’s shoes. The best marketers I know have spent time in sales and the best salespeople I know have spent time in marketing. There is a mutual value exchange that occurs, as marketers learns how to directly engage customers and sales learns about the science behind marketing that can help fuel their success.

DGR: What is your guidance to leaders looking to optimize their sales performance?

McClatchy: This is tough! I’ll share three parting thoughts centered on journey orchestration, outperformance and hybrid selling:

  1. Regardless of your role, whether it’s in marketing, sales, operations, think of yourself as a journey orchestrator and help others around you become one. This role enables you to help drive better customer experiences.
  2. Ensure that you are surrounding yourself with best-in-class people and building next-gen capabilities. Outperformers have a unique ability to attract and cultivate top talent and collectively build solutions that are truly differentiated in the marketplace. Hybrid working models make access to top talent easier than ever, so think about how you can expand the aperture on who and where you recruit.
  3. Hybrid selling as a capability that is here to stay. Put time and energy against this area and lead from the front — research shows this is only going to grow!

B2B Marketing Exchange
B2B Marketing Exchange East
Campaign Optimization Series
Buyer Insights & Intelligence Series
Strategy & Planning Series