Driving B2B sales requires identifying the right customers within an organization, an age-old marketing and sales challenge. With 6.8 stakeholders involved in an average B2B purchase, according to CEB, doing that can be difficult.
“It’s tough to get a buying group this size to move forward on a purchase,” said Patrick Spenner, Director of Strategic Initiatives at CEB, during his session at The Uberflip Experience in Toronto in August. In fact, the likelihood of a purchase decision actually drops to 31% when more than five stakeholders are involved, the insights and technology company found.
Many B2B marketers approach buying groups by identifying likely decision-makers and stakeholders, building personas that zero in on their pain points and goals, and then marketing to them by delivering relevant content designed to engage.
Targeting The Right Stakeholder
Reaching consensus among diverse stakeholders requires a new approach that enables sales and marketing to work together to identify who will help them win over the rest of the buying group, Spenner explained. “Each person is bringing a different mental model of their business to the table,” he said.
Many customer stakeholders move cautiously, avoid risk and stick with what they have, which prevents the consensus they need to make a buying decision. “Deals fall apart before we get the chance to see them,” Spenner said.
Upending the conventional wisdom, he said that the friendly customer advocate is the last person sellers need on their side. Instead, targeting the skeptical customer who is supplier-agnostic, but has the credibility to inspire and mobilize colleagues to act, change and forge consensus, is key, according to Spenner.
According to Spenner and CEB research, there are seven types of customer stakeholders:
- The go-getter;
- The skeptic;
- The friend;
- The teacher;
- The guide;
- The climber; and
- The blocker.
“Mobilizer customers get the deal done, and mobilizers defy title, role and function,” Spenner explained.
The others — the guide, the friend and the climber — are the talkers. “They’ll engage sales reps, but their ability to drive change is limited,” he said. That means if a marketer judges the success of content by engagement metrics, false positives could crop up since it may be the talkers that are engaging.
Organizations must prioritize these customers, equipping and supporting them through their consensus-building efforts, in order to close deals and reap significant commercial gains.
Marketers need to “create content that serves as a dog whistle for mobilizers,” and then they need to “equip mobilizers to create consensus.”
CEB’s 2015 book, The Challenger Customer: Selling to the Hidden Influencer Who Can Multiply Your Results, by Spenner and his colleagues, delves into a detailed look at this concept. It was based on analyses of multiple years of survey and interview data from thousands of customer stakeholders, and sales and marketing professionals.
The book’s authors outline key steps for winning the consensus deal, including:
- Identify the proponent of change: Determine which member of a purchase decision team can incite action and drive consensus.
- Shape consensus: Go beyond simply knowing who impacts key decisions. Understand the individual and how he or she operates and collaborates to achieve consensus.
- Shift from “me” to “we”: Build group consensus by connecting customers with each other, since functional buying groups are 40% more likely to buy an ambitious offering than a dysfunctional one.
- Drive collective learning: Address each skeptical reaction or roadblock and identify solutions to shape a single course of action. Bringing customer stakeholders together to learn before they buy boosts their willingness to pay a premium by nearly 70%.
- Teach, tailor and take control: Teach, create and convey commercial insight, effectively engaging customers in conversations they can act upon.