Effective salespeople no longer target unilateral decision makers to accelerate and close deals. They work to understand the prospect’s process for building consensus across buyer personas to purchase products.
In B2B sales engagements, sellers have historically targeted the Economic Buyer (the individual who gives final approval and releases funds to buy your product) to accelerate and close deals. However, as the complexity of products, number of vendors, etc. has increased, so has the emphasis on consensus-building in the buying process. In fact, today, there is a rarely a unilateral Economic Buyer. That is, consensus must be built among the Coach, Economic Buyer, Technical Buyer and User Buyer, all of whom have different interests, priorities and veto power.
There are four buyer personas in every complex sale. Multiple people can represent each buyer persona and also assume more than one buyer persona during the evaluation and purchasing process. The four buyer persons concept goes hand-in-hand with newly published research from the Harvard Business Review (HBR). According to the HBR, on average, 5.4 people must approve/sign-off on each purchase. If each of these people have different interests, priorities and veto power, building consensus between them is a must. The question is, how?
The HBR research outlined three key areas to build consensus between the four buyer personas. They included:
1 – Identifying– Focus on solution identification, not problem definition or vendor selection. Most buyers are 37% through the decision making process after solution identification and 57% through it by sales engagement.
2 – Connecting – Focus more on connecting buyer personas to each other and less on connecting them to your company. Communicate shared perspectives in a common language that resonate with all parties.
3 – Advocating – Focus on equipping the Coach to advocate on your behalf and motivate them to do so. A willingness to advocate doubles as the perceived support for the vendor increases through connection.
Because vendors have limited access to the buyer personas, especially in their early stages of an engagement, a Coach is needed. A Coach has a vested self-interest in helping the seller win. Accordingly, they provide information and insight to sellers about the buyer personas, as well as other elements of the opportunity to be considered. A willingness to buy though is different than a willingness to advocate. According to CEB, half of all coaches that have a willingness to buy are not willing to publically advocate for products within their companies. Why?
Coaches are inhibited by the perceived risk of change. The perceived risk includes: losing credibility or losing their job if a product fails or is unpopular. Phrases like “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM” reaffirm the perception of choosing the wrong vendor. Business value (e.g., ROI) is not enough either. The truth is, decisions to publically advocate for a product only happen when the Coach’s personal win outweighs the perceived risk. A personal win is subjective and appeals to self-interest; e.g., advancing your career or being seen as an effective leader.
If motivating the Coach to advocate on your behalf to the other buyer personas requires their personal win outweigh their perceived risk, do you know how your Coach wins personally? Once you know how they win personally, you have to make them a “hero” within their organization. Give them the content that they need. Ensure the message and tools provided to them are clear and simple to execute. Arm them with the expertise needed to advocate on your behalf. Serving your Coach’s self-interest is often the best way to serve your own.
All contents copyright © 2016, Josh Lowry. All rights reserved.