CONSENSUS™ is conducting a series of interviews with sales and marketing leaders on the topic of B2B buying consensus. Several analyst firms, including CEB, SiriusDecisions, and MHI Global, have published studies on the effect that multi-stakeholder buying groups are having on B2B buying decisions, generating interest in and discussion about this topic. These interviews are designed to give leading voices within our industry the opportunity to share their thoughts on this important conversation. Each interview explores the question: “What do you think of the research on multi-stakeholder B2B buying consensus?”
Our first interview is with Trish Bertuzzi, President and Chief Strategist at The Bridge Group, an award-winning sales consultancy with offices in Boston and San Francisco. Since 1998, The Bridge Group has helped over 240 companies build, expand and optimize their inside sales pipelines, generating revenue and redefining the image of the inside sales profession. Trish has been named multiple times as one of the most influential people in the sales industry.
Trish, what do you think of the research on multi-stakeholder B2B buying consensus?
I’m not sure why there is such a focus on the math behind buying consensus all of a sudden. The idea that multiple people are involved in larger buying decisions isn’t new. If I’m selling to a line of business and they have to bring it to IT and the CFO—and maybe even the CEO—that isn’t new. That’s always the way it’s been.
How difficult the sales process will depend on the size of the company you’re selling to and how complex and innovative the solution is that you’re selling to them. The bigger the company and more complex the sale, the more people will be involved in the buying decision and the more you’ll need to find a way to tailor your message to the unique interests of each buyer.
My immersion in the SaaS world influences my views on the topic of buying consensus. If you’re selling a service at a price point of $50 per rep, per month, to a company with 10 reps, one person can probably make that decision. But move up the food chain to a company with a thousand reps—even at the same price point—and you’ll be talking to multiple decision makers.
Selling isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy. You have to adjust your message when you’re selling different offerings to different types of buyers. We teach people to speak the language of, and adapt their approach to, each type of buyer. You’ll have totally different conversations with the CEO, the VP of Marketing, and the VP of Sales.
Those buying consensus stats really apply to enterprise sales. After the bubble burst, people became more concerned about two factors: 1) Watching the bottom line, and 2) Not being solely responsible for making a bad buying decision. Now, a lot more people are asking what the ROI is on what they’ve spent. You don’t want to be solely responsible for buying something that hasn’t even been implemented two years later. Complexity and responsibility are the main factors in both scenarios.
Also, if you’re selling to innovators and early adopters, multiple people are going to be involved in evaluating that type of deal—especially if you have no brand recognition. If you’re selling to a problem that didn’t have an obvious solution on the market previously, or that the customer didn’t even know they had, that will involve more decision makers. In this type of scenario, people have to do a sanity check: is this, in fact, a problem, and do we have this need? If so, who else in the organization should be involved?
We appreciate Trish sharing her thoughts with us on buying consensus. Key takeaways from our conversation include the following:
• Buying consensus is not a new phenomenon.
• The more complex the offering and customer organization, the more people will be involved.
• You’ve got to tailor your message to the needs of each type of buyer and speak their language.
• Post-recession buyers are careful to watch the bottom line and share responsibility.
• Innovative solutions from unproven suppliers naturally involve multiple stakeholders.