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What you need to improve to make your B2B sales more human-centered

The term business-to-business (B2B) is a technicality. There are still human beings behind businesses' buying decisions, and they experience a buyers' journey just like any other customer. 

Last updated

1 Aug 2022
How To Create The Perfect B2B Customer Experience In 4 Steps

While some buying mechanics and considerations are unique to B2B settings, there’s still plenty of room to design with the human in mind. Customer-centric product teams can improve the B2B customer experience and brand perception to improve sales, growth, and retention.

This guide covers the key stages and touchpoints in your B2B customer experience, plus tips for improving each. 

What is a B2B customer experience?

Business-to-business (B2B) customer experience, also known as B2B CX, is the culmination of how your customer—in this case a business or organization, and their teams by extension—experiences your brand, services, and products. 

Customer experience (CX) and perception influence your customers' actions: every interaction and touchpoint someone has with your company affects how they feel and whether they'll buy (and rebuy) from you. 

Creating positive associations seems simple enough if you only have a few touchpoints, but B2B customer experience trends point to an increasingly involved buying cycle. In 2020, as more businesses went remote, the average number of buying interactions a B2B buyer had jumped from 17 to 27.

Your buyers have a lot to consider—make it easy for them to buy from you. Image via Gartner.

B2B companies have more to track, manage, and improve than ever before. Elements of your B2B CX touchpoints include:

  • Self-guided research

  • Personal conversations and recommendations

  • Content marketing

  • Product pages

  • Sales reps

  • Reviews

  • Customer support

Each of these customer experience touchpoints, on their own and as a whole, influence your customer’s decisions. 

You cannot separate the B2B customer experience from your business success, because it measures the human relationship with your brand—and (surprise!) humans are the ones buying your products and services.

Data drives clarity

Hotjar’s Recordings, Heatmaps, Feedback, and Surveys give you the insights you need to create the experience your customers deserve.

The 4 stages of B2B customer experience 

Improving B2B customer experience is a big task, so approach it with order and organization to make it easier to tackle. 

Here are some B2B customer experience examples across the four key stages of the B2B buyer's journey, plus ways to make positive changes to your B2B CX. 

1. Exploration

Exploration is at the top of your B2B sales funnel, and the first stop on your customers' buying journey. At this stage, potential customers learn about your company, products, and services, to decide whether your solution will work for them. 

Customers will interact with your marketing and positioning campaigns, product pages, website, review sites, and B2B influencers to make buying decisions. Content is also increasingly important for B2B companies, with 62% of B2B buyers relying on content marketing to research purchases.

At this stage, you want more people to spend more time with you, so measure metrics like:

But keep in mind: while traditional analytics indicate how a page performs, you’ll need behavior analytics tools to understand why customers interact with the page the way they do. 

For example, Zenprint, an Australian B2B online printing service, used session recordings and heatmaps to decrease a drop-off rate by 7%. Google Analytics could tell them that potential customers left a particular page at a higher rate, but couldn’t tell them why they left. 

To get more context into customer behavior, the Zenprint team watched session recordings to see how customers interacted with the pricing page, and quickly discovered a design issue that confused visitors. They tested a few solutions based on what they learned to decrease the drop-off rate and increase conversions by 2%.

#Zenprint reviewed session recordings to understand how customers interacted with each page
Zenprint reviewed session recordings to understand how customers interacted with each page

How to improve your B2B customer experience at the exploration stage

2. Procurement

The B2B procurement process usually involves a lot of hoops to jump through. 63% of B2B purchases involve more than four people, including champions, influencers, decision-makers, users, or ratifiers. If you want to increase sales and customer satisfaction, it’s in everyone’s best interest to have a quick and smooth buying process.  

Many buyers want to see self-service buying options. 70%-80% of B2B decision-makers prefer remote human interaction or self-service, and McKinsey found that even deals of over a million dollars have a market for self-service interactions.

B2B buyers are more comfortable using remote and self-service buying for smaller deals, though there is a small group willing to go digital for contracts over a million dollars. Image via McKinsey.

Touchpoints in the procurement stage of your customer experience can include:

  • Demos and sales calls

  • Contract negotiation

  • Pricing plans

  • Self-service buying

  • Customer success support

  • Order forms

  • Your checkout process

At this stage, you should measure demo requests, inbound leads, add-to-cart rates, conversion rates, cart abandonment rates, time to close, and average order size.

Materials Market, a website that connects construction material suppliers to buyers, improved their purchasing pages and tripled conversions. The company watched recordings to see where customers hovered their cursors with uncertainty, and analyzed heatmaps to see how far people scrolled before they left the page. 

After spotting the challenges, Materials Market updated page designs, included extra information, and added a TrustPilot rating. As a result, their conversion rate increased from 0.5% to 1.6%, representing tens of thousands of pounds in annual revenue. 

#Materials Market made multiple changes after seeing where customers hesitated.
Materials Market made multiple changes after seeing where customers hesitated.

How to improve your B2B customer experience at the procurement stage

What does it take to be product-led?

Product-led growth is an enticing theory. After all, who wouldn’t want a ‘self-growing’ business? But there’s more to being product-led than just a great product (or service). 

The pillars of product-led growth are:

  1. Market: you need a large enough audience to sustain you

  2. Model: self-service helps customers help themselves

  3. Channel: low-cost acquisition boosts margins

  4. Product: quick time-to-value gets customers hooked

Interested in product-led growth for your business? Learn about five PLG frameworks that'll help get you started.

3. Product support

After the sale, your job transitions to helping new customers make the most of your product or service. Educating customers and quickly resolving issues or questions makes them more likely to have a great time with your brand

You can support new customers through educational content, product documentation, customer support, and customer success. Measuring support requests, time to resolution, and customer effort scores helps you gauge whether you’re effectively helping new customers. 

For example, your company could send a series of ‘what’s next’ emails to teach customers about the next steps in their product onboarding. Here’s what those emails could include based on what you sell:

  • If you sell a product, send quick tips and comprehensive guides, so customers can get to work and start realizing value quickly.

  • If you sell a service, transparency about timelines and deliverables makes customers feel secure in their choice.

If you aren’t sure where to start with product support, look at your customer support requests. If there are recurring themes, it may help to create self-service documentation. 

You can also proactively make changes based on product experience insights collected from tools like session recordings and heatmaps. Feedback widgets that collect customer perspectives on specific pages or website elements are another useful way to find and prioritize changes. 

How to improve your B2B customer experience at the product support stage

So you updated your B2B customer experience…now what? 

You can (and should) measure and monitor the impact of CX and product updates in the short term, but it also helps to weigh the long-term effects. A cohort customer churn rate analysis gives insight into how different customer groups behave over time. 

For example, does sending product documentation after a sale lead to lower churn versus not sending documentation? Are new customer churn rates trending downward now that you’ve updated self-service customer support? Cohort analysis lets you break down these questions to get more contextual answers. 

Learn more about measuring and improving customer retention here

Cohort customer churn rate tables show how long users retained based on when they joined.

4. Renewal

The two levers of boosting profit margins are 

  1. Lowering acquisition costs

  2. Increasing repeat orders

When you expand renewals and reorders, you drive more sales and create brand advocates, which might be a relevant goal for your brand.  

Every touchpoint after a sale impacts your renewals, including emails, customer success interactions, and marketing. At this stage, you should measure your repeat customer rate, Net Promoter Score® (NPS), customer lifetime value, and customer retention rate.

For example, your company could use NPS surveys to find your most engaged customers, then use that information to contact them for a case study, which would help with future acquisition. You could also take time to learn about how they use your product or service to further refine your positioning.

#Example of a Hotjar NPS Survey
Example of a Hotjar NPS Survey

How to improve your B2B customer experience at the renewal stage:

B2B customer experience is a team sport to connect with customers

Improving your customer experience delights customers, increases retention, and helps your business stand out from competition. Since your B2B customer experience considers every touchpoint in the buyer's journey, you need to work across teams to make progress efficiently.

Cross-functional collaboration through shared goals and information is essential to ensure your customer experience is cohesive. When you remain customer-centric and collaborative, you can create better experiences with less guessing and checking.

Pro tip: Hotjar watch parties are a great way to break down departmental walls and get everyone on the same page. Reviewing customer insights together keeps everyone close to the customer and enables teams to work with the same information.

Data drives clarity

Hotjar’s Recordings, Heatmaps, Feedback, and Surveys give you the insights you need to create the experience your customers deserve.

FAQs about B2B customer experience