B2B Buyer Behavior - Web & Phone Channels IndustryView | 2013

To help companies better understand business-to-business (B2B) buyer behavior on the Web, I recently dug into Software Advice data collected from more than 6,000,000 unique visitors. My goal: discover when B2B buyers perform research on the Web, when they convert on a website and when you can get them on the phone.

If you manage an inside sales team that responds to leads generated on the Web, you need to read this report. Here are the key takeaways from my analysis.

Key Findings:

  1. Call leads fast—really fast. When we call a lead within 5 seconds, our odds of qualifying them are 29 percent higher than if we call within 5 minutes.
  2.  
  3. Tuesday through Thursday is the best time to reach buyers. Leads that come in Tuesday through Thursday qualify at twice our average qualification rate for other business days.
  4.  
  5. Don’t underestimate the opportunity around the holidays. The week before Christmas is surprisingly active for conversion and qualification rates.

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Before diving into the details, I want to provide two quick definitions of terms used in this report:

  • A conversion is a website visitor who submits their contact information to us via one of our web registration forms.
  • A qualification is a conversion that our inside sales team has qualified via a telephone needs analysis and BANT qualification.

The Impact of Time-to-First-Call on Qualification Rates

After a buyer converts on our site, our chance of qualifying them drops with each second we wait to call.

  • Qualification Rates at Second Intervals

    If we call within 5 seconds, we qualify that buyer at a rate 30 percent above our average qualification rate.

  • Qualification Rates at Minute Intervals

    If we call after just 11 minutes, we qualify that buyer at a rate 5 percent below our average qualification rate.

Key Takeaways:

  • If your business relies heavily on Web-generated leads, invest in technology and processes that allow you to call buyers as fast as possible. Ideally, you should be able to place your first call to a buyer that requests a phone call within 60 seconds.
  • However, not all buyers deserve an immediate call. If a buyer completes a form to contact you directly—requesting a price quote, product demo, or a simple request for more information—then you should call right away. If, on the other hand, a buyer contacts you indirectly—by completing a form to download a whitepaper, access video content, or view other gated material—then you should nurture, rather than call, the lead.

B2B Buyer Activity by Month of Year

When looking at buyer activity month to month, I discovered conversion rates are highest at the beginning of the year, possibly because companies are renewing budgets and new funds are available. Meanwhile, qualification rates peak during summer months. This is because we have fewer leads to call during the summer and, as a result, our sales team can focus more intensely on qualifying available leads.

  • Conversion Rates by Month of Year

    Vacations are likely responsible for lower conversion activity in summer months. Meanwhile, conversion rates drop in December as companies prepare for the new year and may be less likely to engage our sales team about a new purchase.

  • Qualification Rates by Month of Year

    Qualification rates are higher during summer months. This is due to lower conversion rates during these months—with fewer people to call, our sales team can focus more attention on each conversion.

I should note that the above findings for qualification rates are specific to our business. Variations in qualification rates are largely due to the seasonality of our unique business. Your month to month trends in qualification rates might look very different from the data above. As such, you should evaluate this data with an understanding that this reflects our experience.

Key Takeaway:

  • While this data is unique to our business, it illustrates an important point: seasonality can significantly alter your inside sales team’s qualification rates and you should plan your team’s capacity to match seasonal variations in buyer activity.

B2B Buyer Activity by Day of Week

As you might expect, B2B buyer activity is highest Tuesday through Thursday. But the best day for buyer activity depends on what you measure. For instance, while traffic peaks on Tuesday, conversion rates are highest on Wednesday. Additional findings are summarized in the charts below.

  • Unique Visitors by Day of Week

    Monday’s lower conversion rate is likely due to people focusing on beginning-of-the-week tasks (e.g. responding to weekend emails, planning the week’s projects, etc.).

  • Conversion Rates by Day of Week

    Conversion rates on Wednesday are 2 percent higher than the average business day. In light of this, Wednesday may be the best day to launch an email or ad campaign.

  • Qualification Rates by Day of Week

    Conversions that come in Tuesday through Thursday qualify at twice the rate of those that come in on Monday or Friday.

Key Takeaways:

  • For capacity planning, it’s essential to make sure you have enough sales reps to cover your lead volume Tuesday through Thursday, when qualification rates are highest.
  • For the same reason, consider holding any kind of off-site or team meeting on a Monday or Friday, when conversion rates are lowest. These are also the best days for your sales team to take vacation days.
  • Consider employing an inside sales team on the weekend. The primary reason these leads don’t qualify well for us is that we don’t work on weekends and therefore we can’t call them right away.

B2B Buyer Activity by Time of Day

Next, I looked at buyer activity by time of the day. To see how activity fluctuates, I categorized time of day into three buckets: before work hours (12:00 AM to 7:59 PM CST), during work hours (8:00 AM to 5:59 PM CST) and after work hours (6:00 PM to 11:59 PM CST).

  • Unique Visitors by Time of Day

    There are 53 percent more unique visitors during work hours compared to our average number of unique visitors.

  • Unique Visitors During Working Hours

    Traffic doesn’t pick up until 8:00 AM CST (or 9:00 AM ET), when everyone on the East Coast arrives at the office. During lunch hours, unique visitor traffic is nearly double our average.

Key Takeaways:

  • Most buyer research takes place in the first half of the business day, so it’s most important for your sales team to be in and active during these hours, relative to the afternoon.
  • Traffic is highest just before and during lunch time, suggesting that many buyers perform research over their lunch break.

The charts below summarize our conversion rates at different times of the day, relative to our average conversion rate.

  • Conversion Rates by Time of Day

    Conversion rates are highest during working hours, but are surprisingly high before work hours.

  • Conversion Rates During Working Hours

    On average, conversion rates are 17 percent higher from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM CST.

  • Conversion Rates After Working Hours

    Surprisingly, conversions rates are above average from 9:00 PM through 11:59 PM CST. This could be the result of people working after dinner, and it might be a good time execute brand-building campaign.

Key Takeaway:

  • Since conversion rates are 13 percent higher than average from 9:00 PM through 11:59 PM CST, this might be a good time to send content (e.g. a whitepaper or webinar) geared toward buyers in the research phase to nurture them since your team sales isn’t available.

The charts below summarize our qualification rates for conversions that come in at different times of the day, relative to our average qualification rate.

  • Qualification Rates by Time of Day

    Conversions that come in during working hours qualify the best. Conversions that come in after working hours are better than early morning conversions.

  • Qualification Rates During Working Hours

    Conversions that come in from 9:00 AM until 12:00 PM qualify 11 percent higher than our average qualification rate.

Key Takeaways:

  • Your inside sales team should be in the office by 7:00 or 8:00 AM CST, as conversions that come in by this time qualify at an above-average level. On the West Coast, your sales reps should hit the phones by 6:00 AM PST.
  • Consider providing lunch for your sales team in the office so you don’t miss conversions that come in during the lunch hours.
  • Have sales reps schedule their errands and personal tasks (e.g. doctor’s appointments, trips to the mechanic, etc.) in the afternoon when qualification rates begin to decrease.

B2B Buyer Activity Around Holidays

Finally, I wanted to know what happens to buyer activity on holidays. I found we may underestimate how active buyers are during holidays. Meanwhile, there are a few holidays our data suggests you should take off.

Data below is relative to business days in the month the holiday occurs. For example, unique visitor data for Independence Day is compared to the average in July.

Holidays You Should Take Off

These are holidays we take off as a company. As a result, our qualification rates are lower than average partially because our sales team is not in office. Regardless, our data shows that, compared to the average for other business days, our traffic drops 60 percent and qualification rates drop by 22 percent. In other words, these are logical holidays to take off.

  • Unique Visitors on Holidays You Should Take Off

    Across these holidays, unique visitor traffic is 59 percent lower than our average.

  • Conversion Rates on Holidays You Should Take Off

    Surprisingly, conversion rates are 24 percent higher than average on Thanksgiving.

  • Qualification Rates on Holidays You Should Take Off

    Conversions that come in on these holidays qualify at a rate 22 percent lower than conversions that come in on normal business days.

Holidays You Should Work

While many companies take off the holidays below, our traffic is close to 90 percent of our average across these holidays. Meanwhile, conversion and qualification rates are above average on several days so you should consider working these days.

  • Unique Visitors on Holidays You Should Work

    Contrary to holidays you should take off, unique visitor traffic drops by an average of just 11.5 percent on these holidays.

  • Conversion Rates on Holidays You Should Work

    Conversions rates across these holidays are 5.5 percent higher than the average for other business days.

  • Qualification Rates on Holidays You Should Work

    Conversions qualify at a rate 5 percent higher on the day before Independence day than any other holiday.

What Happens Around Christmas

I was surprised to find buyer activity is higher than expected the week before Christmas.

  • Unique Visitors on Days Before/After Christmas

    Surprisingly, people are busy working the week before Christmas. Traffic is higher than average for us on several days.

  • Conversion Rates on Days Before/After Christmas

    Compared to other business days in December, conversion rates are fairly strong the week before and after Christmas.

  • Qualification Rates on Days Before/After Christmas

    Conversions that come in the week before Christmas qualify higher than our average qualification rate on several days.

Key Takeaways:

  • Conversions that come in the week before and after Christmas qualify at the same rate as our average for business days in December. You should consider working these weeks.
  • Christmas and Christmas Eve may be good days to send brand-building campaigns that can start the lead nurturing process as conversion rates are 19 percent higher than average and your inside sales team can’t call these buyers right away.

What Happens Around the New Year

Much like Christmas, buyer activity the week after New Year’s is stronger than many might expect. Conversion and qualification rates are above average on several days after the New Year.

  • Unique Visitors on Days Before/After New Year’s

    As you might expect, traffic is down considerably on New Year’s Eve and New Years, at around half of our January average.

  • Conversion Rates on Days Before/After New Year’s

    Conversion rates the week after New Year’s are 2.2 percent higher than the average conversion rate for business days in January.

  • Qualification Rates on Days Before/After New Year’s

    Meanwhile, qualification rates the week after New Year’s are 5.4 percent higher than the average qualification rate for business days in January.

Key Takeaway:

  • While traffic is down for traffic the week after New Year’s, conversion and qualification rates are generally above average. On the whole, this is a good week to have your inside sales team in the office.

Conclusions

As B2B buyers continue to research their purchases on the Web, it’s important for your company to understand their online behavior. Our findings show calling conversions right away can significantly improve your ability to qualify leads generated on the Web. Moreover, there are certain times of the year, week and day when you need to plan your inside sales team’s capacity to maximize your ability to turn website conversions into leads.

While this report is based on data from our unique business and lead qualification processes, I hope it provides fresh insights into how B2B buyers are researching and converting on the Web.

Methodology

This report analyzes Software Advice data collected from more than six million unique website visitors. Unique visitor data was pulled from Google Analytics. Traffic was limited to unique visitors in the United States, and it was limited to commercial landing pages. We also excluded international conversions from the data to limit analysis to domestic buyers. Duplicate conversions were removed to avoid artificially inflating our conversion rates from buyers converting on our site multiple times for the same product or information. Finally, this report focuses on buyers that came to our website in search of information on business software (i.e. B2B software buyers).

To further discuss this report, or ask questions about my research, please contact me at derek@softwareadvice.com.


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