By Garin Hess, @garin_hess
Garin Hess is a serial entrepreneur with over 15 years of hands-on in-the-trenches sales and marketing experience. He has presented at dozens of conferences, founded 2 software companies, and is currently the founder/CEO of Consensus, a personalized video platform that enables sales reps to drive agreement in B2B buying groups. For Garin, nothing else beats cooking breakfast for his wife and three kids or trying hard to keep up with his son on the tennis court.
“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” – Stephen Hawking
Buying behaviors are changing (again). You’ve probably watched as the number of sales enablement technologies has grown rapidly in the last three years. And you’ve probably purchased some tech already, but there is a big revelation you may have missed: tech that accelerates sales is at best only HALF OF THE EQUATION. It makes salespeople more efficient, which is great, but doesn’t do anything to enable the other half of the sale: the GROUP of people making the buying decision.
Think about it: B2B sales isn’t really about what sales is doing, it’s about what the buyers are doing. Interactions with your prospect champions, those who are promoting you inside an account, are where the magic happens. It’s also where most deals tank. And right now, it’s a lot more of the latter. How do we turn this trend around? I’m giving you the research and the solutions (in my opinion) below.
Group Buying Behaviors Are Continuing to Change Rapidly
Group buying behaviors have and are continuing to change, and if you and your team don’t adapt to them now, your close rate will likely plummet. Here’s why:
- In 2013, CEB originally measured the impact of multiple stakeholders and decision makers in the B2B purchase, showing the average buying group consisted of 5.4 decision makers and that these new, larger buying groups caused the likelihood of a purchase to drop from 81% to 31%.
- In 2015, an IDC report showed the number of decision makers in the buying group increased 40% just in the last three years.
- Surveys completed in 2015 and 2016 by Consensus showed the average buying group to be 6.1 members. Now CEB is saying it is 6.8 people.
- IDC now reports average buying groups as large as 10 in enterprise decision committees.
- The 2016 B2B Buyer’s Survey Report (DemandGen) shows:
o Sales cycles are getting longer because 39% of companies are getting more people involved than last year AND because buyers are spending more time researching.
o Buyers are demanding more personalized content earlier in the purchasing process than ever before, and sales and marketing aren’t giving it to them.
Bottom line: Your buying group is almost certainly larger and more complex than you recognize or plan for in your sales process.
There Is No Such Thing as a “Complex Sale”
I’ll say it again: There is NO SUCH THING as a complex sale.
It’s not about you. It’s about them. Thinking we can accelerate sales by changing just what WE are doing is the height of self-centered sales thinking. We have to get in the minds of the buyers.
A couple of years ago, I backpacked Kings Peak with my son’s Venture Scout team. Our group was led by Ben Booth, an experienced outdoorsman and avid fly fisherman. One day, he was explaining to me what he loves about fly fishing, “You have to get into the mind of the fish,” he told me. “Where do they want to be? What do they want to eat right now? What excites them? What bores them?” On that trip, I saw him repeatedly catch dozens of fish in half the time it took others fishing in the same spot. Why? Because he was in the ‘mind of the buyer’ so to speak.
The same thinking can be applied to the B2B world. If you think about it as a sale, you tend to focus on what the seller has to do. If you think about it as a purchase, you focus on what the buyer has to do. There is a BIG difference in how you approach the whole process.
Now, let’s get into the “how” of it, and then discuss four critical principles for accelerating buying.
Stealing Time from Your Opponent
Have you ever studied timing in sports? I’m a big tennis player and fan. Roger Federer, arguably the best tennis player that has ever lived, has become a master of stealing time from his opponents. He does it in dozens of ways, but one simple example is by taking the ball on the rise. Most of us wait for the ball to bounce, arc up, then start down before hitting the ball. Instead of waiting, Federer moves into position faster and cranks his forehand while the ball is still on its upward arc, effectively stealing time from his opponents.
Your buyers aren’t your opponents, but Group Buying Dysfunction, which occurs when buyers try to make decisions in groups, is. The more you understand about their buying process, the more you can speed it up.
Here’s what has to be done sooner:
- Discover the buying group
- Engage each stakeholder
- Demonstrate personalized value to each stakeholder
- Coach the internal champion through the buying process
Becoming a Buying Expert and a Coach
Who knows more about how to purchase your product or solution, you or the buyer? You, of course. You have worked through purchases hundreds of times and seen everything. The buyer is only doing this once.
Why then, do you rely on the buyer to tell you what to do next? Shouldn't it be the other way around?
I’m not suggesting you ignore them and discount their input, but you’re the expert. You know what typically hangs up a deal. You know what objections they’ll face once they start promoting inside their organization. On the other hand, your buyer is blind. And if you let them lead the process without equipping them with the right tools, you’ll both get destroyed.
You have to exert buying leadership. You’re the experienced combatant. You need to arm your champion for battle. You need to let them know what obstacles they are going to face and give them the tools they need to overcome them.
How can you do that? Here are four principles to guide you.
Principle 1: DISCOVER the Stakeholders
If you don’t know who the stakeholders are, you’ve already lost the deal. Without question, one of them will rise up when you least expect it and beat you. Job number one is to discover who they are, fast.
During this process, here are three important questions to ask:
- Who else should be involved in this decision?
- Who can block this purchase?
- Who might have an interest in blocking this purchase and why?
- Use Buying Acceleration technology and personalized content that virally spreads through the buying group before you even meet.
- Use Buying Acceleration technology that gives you visibility in real time when new stakeholders are discovered and begin engaging.
- Sales Development starts asking these questions before your first meeting as you see the buying group engage around your solution.
Principle 2: ENGAGE Each Stakeholder Personally (and Automatically)
You have to engage each stakeholder around their unique purchasing motivations. If you know what’s driving them, you can address it personally and directly.
OLD METHOD: Hold meeting after meeting with each additional stakeholder and adapt your message to each one, or rely on your “champion” to engage each stakeholder for you.
Principle 3: EQUIP Your Champion for Battle
Your internal champion needs your help, but they don’t realize you can help them. Their inexperience purchasing your product leads them to naively think their enthusiasm for your unique value proposition will carry the day. They are unaware that they are going to be met with a storm of resistance that could overwhelm them — unless you equip them for battle beforehand.
Here’s what they need:
- Product education materials, including videos and documents, that will automatically personalize messaging to each stakeholder
- Analytics and data about how their co-stakeholders are reacting to the solution
- Knowledge of common objections by stakeholders and ways to overcome them
By equipping your champion with the right tools, you’re increasing the likelihood of their success, and shortening the sales cycle.
OLD METHOD: Write up a text-heavy PDF, send it to your champion and pray it does the job. Follow up randomly to see how it’s going.
NEW METHOD: Leverage Buying Acceleration technology that personalizes video and documents and does the majority of the advocating for the champion automatically. Leverage the technology’s accompanying notification engines and analytics to equip your champion with further insights about each stakeholder. Make sure this technology not only notifies the sales team, but also notifies the champion when their colleagues engage, and provides analytics about how they are engaging and what is driving their interests.
Principle 4: COACH Through the Process
Your champion will go to battle for you with great enthusiasm, especially when you equip them with the right tools. But that’s not the end of it. You will need to coach them through every step of the process. Coach them before the meetings. Debrief after and recommend the next steps — don’t wait for them to. Be the leader. Be the coach. Remember, you are the one who has the most experience with the purchase process.
NEW METHOD: Recommend next steps to your champion based on what you’re seeing in the analytics of the Buying Acceleration technology.
Adapt and Win
You’re at a crossroads. B2B buying behavior is changing rapidly every day. You can change with it and win or keep doing what you’re doing and get further and further behind the curve.
We’ve seen companies employ Buying Acceleration technology and these principles, and their close rates jump by 44%. You can too.