THE BIGGEST PROBLEM IN B2B SALES AND MARKETING IN ANY INDUSTRY: HOW DO YOU GET ALL THE PEOPLE THAT MAKE THE DECISION TOGETHER AND CLOSE THEM OUT?
The myth of the decision maker
On average, 5.4 people are involved in today’s B2B purchase decisions. This creates differences in opinion that make it increasingly hard to reach a decision and many teams simply give up on purchases altogether. This scenario combined with a buyer- controlled purchasing process significantly increases the challenge for sales and marketing to influence the buying process.
Typically both business and IT functions are involved with initiatives that require changes in their processes and technology and while the lines of responsibly are often blurred IT is generally tasked with selecting the right product and evaluating all the vendors that might meet their business and technology requirements. This process usually involves a survey of the market landscape, discussions among internal many stakeholders, in-depth analysis and comparison of solutions, direct engagement with vendors - and if all goes according to plan a final purchase decision. However, with so many product/technology options, opinions and competing demands it can be difficult to gain consensus on the best course of action and a vendor.
According to Harvard Business Review most suppliers’ efforts to support consensus fall short. Typically, marketing and sales try to boost individual purchase intent early on—and then sales tries to bring everyone together at the end. However, group conflicts actually peak early in the buying journey. The best sales and marketing teams focus on connecting buyers to each other—not just to the supplier—right from the start.
When researching complex technology products enterprise buyers typically seek out guidance to inform their decisions from a huge universe of online content (product literature, white papers, blogs, etc.) and share this information across the multiple stakeholders in the buying process. This has made buyers less reliant on live conversations with vendors during the buying process- and has made it more difficult for vendors to directly impact their final purchase decisions
As a result it has put much more pressure on vendors to deliver education at the beginning stages of the sales cycle and to provide a stream of content on how their product addresses a buyer's business and technical problems -and of course why your offering is best suited to solve those problems.
Herding The Cats: Guidelines For Developing Consensus:
Traditional wisdom has been to target the C-Level and "sell high" but with multiple people involved in the buying decision that doesn't work. According to a study by Tech Target, those involved in making purchase decisions do not all have senior titles and only 35% of IT decision makers are CIOs and Senior IT management. In fact, many IT managers and staff consider themselves decision makers- and 96% of senior IT managers say they trust the insight and research of their team to collectively make a final decision.
Given this scenario, marketers must get the attention of multiple audiences and provide them with relevant information, which can be used to educate senior management and peers. Creating awareness and providing education requires content marketing – and a lot of content. Effective content requires gaining knowledge about the buying team, and each individual’s role on that team and using tactics such as buyer personas, competitive positioning, and customer segmentation to deliver it to the right people at the right time. Carrying out these activities and effectively incorporating them into marketing and sales enablement efforts requires significant support from marketing in a way that many marketing organizations may not be prepared to deliver because they lack the time and/or expertise.
Trying to bring together 5 or more different perspectives may seem like an exercise in herding cats, but adopting a buyer-centric point of reference can go a long way in building consensus. Far too often vendor content is focused on the product (not the buyer's problems) and it references features and benefits without regard for the specific audience that message is being delivered to. Building consensus requires messages addressing challenges and concerns facing the vertical, company, and individual buyer roles, which can be delivered to a specific persona as a set of problems and solutions. As well as anticipating and accounting for where conflicts may arise within the customer organization, which prevent them from reaching a consensus.
Keeping the following in mind will help to make sure the emphasis stays in the right place:
1. Understand the customer’s organization and target based on teams and their members - Build an accurate profile of the buying team and customize your content to the various members
2. Take the customer's perspective - communicate sales messages in the context of the customer, focusing on customer value drivers, economics and performance indicators. Messages must be tailored to different types of functions and individuals within an organization.
3. Understand how they will view you and your competition. - Be aggressive and position yourself against the competition -especially if you are a lesser-known vendor. Emphasize technical and comparative information when developing content
4. Take a Holistic view of lead activity- Avoid using lead filters that may eliminate key decision makers from targeted accounts
Your success depends on reaching the entire decision making team and relies heavily on Sales and Marketing being aligned and working together to maintain consistent focus on these points.
The cost of not taking this approach and continuing to hunt the yeti, is quite high. Provide the content early on that gives business folks the tools they need to communicate with IT and vice-versa and you will enable the internal dialog that's required to gain a consensus. Sales must be patient and call upon buyers when they're ready to talk and marketing must be laser focused on the buyer and serve as the content generation machine” that generates content and keeps reps well equipped with quality teaching material that customers will find compelling. Don’t take short cuts – there may be someone who really wants to purchase your product and needs your support to push it through.
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