How big are B2B buying groups?

B2B buying groups are bigger than most marketers think.

In a June 2022 study, 6sense surveyed marketers of offerings sold for more than $250k who said they were after buying groups of 8 people, on average. But, sales leaders said the same buying groups were double that at 16.

It turns out that survey respondents in sales were likely more right than the marketers: In late 2020, revenue software platform Clari analyzed their customer data, finding that big-ticket deals often came from big buying groups, averaging 19.

Why the discrepancy between sales and marketing? Why should marketers care?

What’s most telling about the discrepancy is that the average is probably somewhere in between. Marketers could be forgiven for having a narrow assessment of the size of the buying center, as they target their ads and other tactics based on reductive buyer persona models.

By contrast, a closer in sales will hustle every possible angle into a key account: The Clerk I down in accounts payable probably didn’t persuade their Fortune 500 CFO to say “yes” to new software. But they did share their gripes about the current software with the software salesperson. And for this, the salesperson “puts them on the Opp.”

Whatever the “true” average number of B2B buying group members might be, the takeaway for marketers is the same: When deciding who to target in your account-based marketing plays, think big.

As an example, consider a software provider that I’ve recently advised. Their product is for highly technical IT users; IT leaders “sign the checks.” But, those checks are often funded by the Human Resource budget. So, as the software provider moves upmarket, their marketing leader must “cast a wider net” comprised of messages and content that appeal to HR, in addition to IT.

Of account-based marketing, it’s often said that marketers now have the data and tools to “act more like salespeople.” In this, 6sense’s recent survey shows that marketers might have work to do when it comes to targeting the “whole” buying group.

Thanks to Kerry Cunningham for the survey.

Jared Brickman

Jared Brickman is Senior Director of the Marketing Center of Excellence at leading software investor Insight Partners, where he advises CMOs of the firm’s 500+ portfolio companies on how to go-to-market. Learn More →

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