As deals become larger and more complex, buying teams are getting bigger too – and harder to convince. Here’s how sales and marketing teams can cut through their scepticism and make that sale…
1. Get in early
Conflict among buyers typically peaks 37% of the way through the buying process, according to research by CEB, the best practice insight and technology company – but the group typically won’t engage a sales rep till it’s over halfway through. In other words, that rep has already lost. The group is also more likely to go for a decision that allows them to avert any conflict, which often means the cheapest option, rather than any more interesting alternative. The trick is to get in there and make your case at the start of the purchasing process, before any conflict brews.
2. Ditch the personal approach
Whether you’re selling software or manufacturing tools, you’ll need to satisfy an average of 5.4 buyers before they’ll sign off on a purchase, according to CEB. Those buyers may come from different departments and locations, and may often have conflicting priorities and goals. Here the typical approach of personalising the sale – connecting customers’ individual business concerns to the products you’re selling – won’t cut it. It may even make that conflict worse.
3. Convince the unlikely ones
CEB’s research also found that, in buying groups that are this big, the likelihood of anyone actually making a decision drops to only 30%. It may be that no one’s prepared to stick their neck out to push or defend the idea to everyone else. Or worse – that the desired purchase never even gets proposed in the first place. CEB’s research found that the most successful sales reps go after the most sceptical members of the buying team first. That may seem counter-intuitive but, with them won over, they’ll have the credibility to ‘mobilise’ the group to go for your idea.
4. Show how you can solve problems they didn’t know they had
What do your customers fail to fully understand about their business that leads uniquely back to you? When Xerox was struggling to get schools in the US to buy its colour photocopiers, it discovered that, thanks to the high-resolution images that iPads and other tablets produce, kids now expected bright colours in their classroom materials. So the company commissioned research showing that bright colours also lead to higher knowledge retention and better engagement in class. Xerox could now reframe the sale of photocopiers around student learning, court everyone from IT managers to senior teachers, and sell itself as the solution.
5. Present the alternative
Once your team has worked out that unique selling point, marketing and sales should create content that explains it and shows customers the cost of not doing anything about it. Having encouraged them to take action, the reps can go in – helping those mobilisers to build consensus and get the purchase going.
6. Till the common ground
Points of disconnect are more likely to be resolved when people learn together. You want the buying group to rally around a common goal or action, so encourage them to explore their objections and concerns, and any competing viewpoints. This can reduce group dysfunction by over 30% – which can in turn have a huge impact on those hard-to-secure, high-value deals.
For more tips on working with complex buyer groups, download CEB’s The Challenger Customer report.