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It’s not you, it’s them: 5.4 stakeholders create group buying dysfunction

If you had a hunch your B2B sales job was getting more difficult, new research proves you’re right.

CEB conducted a survey of 3,000 customer stakeholders involved in B2B purchases and found that, on average, 5.4 people are involved in most companies’ buying decisions. Going from one to just two decision makers dramatically drops purchase likelihood from 81 to 55 percent (a 26% cliff).

Group of three successful business partners in casual discussing data in laptop at meeting in office

When 6 people are involved, purchase likelihood drops even lower—into the mid 30s. The diverse responsibilities, points of view, and authority among stakeholders creates conflict and buying dysfunction. But you can’t just get ignore or cut decision makers from the buying process because you need their buy-in to implement the solution once you’ve acquired it.

In their new book The Challenger Customer, Brent Adamson, Matthew Dixon, Pat Spenner, and Nick Tolman write about the seven factors responsible for the growing number of stakeholders involved in buying decisions. They are:

  1. An aversion to risk by individual stakeholders and their organizations
  2. Technological components require the involvement of IT, operations, and procurement
  3. Tighter regulations and information protocols from legal and compliance officers
  4. Governmental reforms (especially in healthcare) are changing how customers buy
  5. Globalization involves new regional players
  6. Integration of customer functions and tasks within the solutions themselves
  7. Flat, networked organizations place a premium on cross-silo collaboration

Because of these dynamics, buying committees can often only agree on minimizing risk, avoiding disruption of the status quo, and saving money.  This leads to price-driven deals. This is true even when you’ve communicated the value proposition of your solution and prospects can see that it  clearly outperforms the competition. But if buyers have a “good enough” mindset, they drive margins down.

What is to be done?

When multiple stakeholders are involved in making a buying decision, your job is to first connect stakeholders to one another -- and then to your solution. As you talk to customers, it’s important to know how to identify the stakeholders who can help you drive buying consensus.

Luckily, we’ve summarized how to do this, along with other key insights and action items from The Challenger Customer, in a downloadable PDF here. But, for a complete understanding of how to facilitate agreement for buying groups , we recommend that you read The Challenger Customer yourself.

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