Buying B2B solutions is a long hard slog. Gartner says the median B2B buying group consists of between 6 and 10 people. Each of these people need four to five pieces of information to help them. Usually, around 83% of the time they have gone and sourced this information themselves.
Then starts the painful process of achieving consensus and a concrete action plan.
Brent Adamson, a Gartner distinguished VP, puts it this way.
“The hardest part about B2B solutions isn’t selling them but buying them. Today’s buying journey has effectively reached a tipping point where it’s become unnavigable without a significant amount of help”
The B2B sales person plays a significant role in providing that help. Here’s how.
Information is everywhere. There’s no shortage of information –
we are consumed, overwhelmed, bombarded and drowning in information. In a world where almost unlimited information is only a few seconds and a few clicks away, how do your buyers navigate their way through an ever more complex decision making process.
High performing B2B sales people (and the processes and tools they rely on) are helping today’s overwhelmed buyers make sense of the information they seek, holding their hands through their buying process. Using a key decision maker matrix helps sales people understand how to get valuable information into your buyer’s hands at the right time
The old adage that information is power in the selling process needs to be refined. The right information is power. But what makes information right?
Trust is vital in a world where a 2 minute Google search can bring up directly contradictory information and recommendations on almost any topic. Your company (and by extension you personally as its representative) must work hard to be seen as a trusted authority on the problems you claim to solve. Thought leadership information and content on best practices is used successfully here. But also there is a role for prescriptive advice from the vendor too. The best vendors help a buyer to know what to do next and how to do it as they move along their buying process.
Right information at the right time
Buyers need different information at different times in their buying process. At g2m we like to describe the purchase process in four stages. Each of these stages summarise the jobs that need to be done by the buyer before they move onto the next stage.
The trigger stage where a problem becomes so painful to the organisation someone with spending authority resolves to fix it. This stage usually happens behind closed doors. However, where a provider is well embedded with and organisation already, strong account managers can often help unearth and qualify problems through asking a series of diagnostic style questions that helps guide thinking on how best to solve the problem. Whether you are upselling to an existing account or trying to break in for the first time, these problem centric questions help the buyer build a concrete understanding of the problem they face and the benefits that might accrue if they fixed it and shows you, the seller, as a valuable partner.
The learn phase where organisation’s look for information on how best to solve the problem and look for other organisations who have done a grea job of fixing it. Case studies and best practice methodologies are popular information sought by buyers at this stage as are calculators that define the current cost and size of the problem and the benefit of fixing it.
The try phase where a range of different solutions are investigated as a suitable solution. For many sellers this is really the first time your specific product or solution can be presented to the buyer. Your firm’s unique selling proposition can be directly compared to your competition. But a buyer will be looking for tools to help them evaluate alternatives and prioritise different payoffs.
The buy phase is the pointy end of the buying process where the person who holds the purse strings often gets nervous and insists on seeing evidence of success or asking for guarantees of performance. A way to quantify the cost-benefit equation, to understand the return on investment being made.
Your team need to work closely together to ensure there is a library of structured advice, “how to” information and content that aides your buyer as they move from stage to stage of their decision making. Trigger – Learn – Try – Buy.
The goal of any information you provide as sellers must help your buyer move from stage to stage, if it doesn’t do that then lose it, it will only clutter their thinking and further delay the buying process. Bombarding a buyer with product specification information when they are at the learn stage is premature, they do not have a clear vision of what solution they need to build yet. It’s likely to get ignored at best and irritate and frustrate a buyer a worst.
The Right People
Getting information into the hands of right people is particularly complex in a B2B environment where the research tells us anywhere from 6-10 people are involved in a typical buying decision. Clearly some people are more influential than others. Understanding the key decision makers is an important step.
Budget holders: These folks will always be on your list of key decision makers, but it is highly likely in a complex purchase that they will not be heavily involved in every stage of the process, they will rely on input from others.
Influencers: They may not hold the purse strings but does that make them any less important? Will the budget holder consider your solution without an endorsement from them? Perhaps they can’t say “yes” to your solution but they can say “no.” Compliance, risk management and IT are all examples of people who have information needs to support a purchase decision
Scouts: Often firms will us information “scouts” sent out to look for examples of best practices, find other firms who have successfully solved the problem, research potential options and generate requirements documents. They are typically active in the learn and try phases. Influencing these people with the right information at the right time is crucial.
The right channels
You don’t know and certainly can’t control where or how someone will engage with your firm. Perhaps initially it will be via social channels, or they might attend a conference or listen to a podcast or webinar, speak to a peer or trusted advisor. Later in the sales process it’s likely to evolve into more direct forms of communication, they might open and email or take a meeting. But it is hard to imagine direct sales engagement at the “Try” and “Buy” stage without first consuming useful, helpful content at the “Trigger” and “Learn” stage. These early stages are where you win and build trust. Producing relevant information and making it available through your buyer’s preferred channel is important. Your information must be available through your selling and digital channels.
“The formula for success: The right information, in the right hands at the right time.”
The Key Decision Maker matrix.
At g2m when we are helping firms develop processes and deploy HubSpot software to automate and improve those processes we start with building a deceptively simple matrix. The key decision maker matrix.
We’d urge you to do the same. Here’s how.
- Task 1: Who is on the long list of people involved in any way, major or minor, in the decision making process.
- Task 2: Who would you consider “key” to the decision. Whittle down the long list to a shorter more manageable list. 3 roles is usually a good goal. So for example you might have CFO, IT manager and a sales manager. Place these roles on the “Y” axis or vertical access of your matrix.
- Task 3: Enter the four stages of the Trigger-Learn-Try-Buy buying process on the x axis or horizontal axis of your matrix.
- Task 4: Brainstorm with your colleagues who sit in the front line talking to prospects every day, the percentage of influence each role has at each of the 4 stages. Each column (buyer stage) must equal 100%.
So you might end up with something like this.
Note: You might also have a variety of problems you solve and markets you serve. In which case you’d build a KDM Matrix for each.
The information matrix
With the percentage of influence logged on the matrix, using the same x and y axis log the specific information your firm currently has and and note any information gaps that have emerged from your discussions. Remember to mix traditional content marketing pieces with more “how to” tools that support the specific decisions buyers need to make to move to the next stage.
Looking across each row, you will see the story you are telling that buyer. Is it genuine helpful to the buyer? Will it help them move to the next stage? What else might they need, what might be causing them to hesitate?
Build an effective “delivery system” to ensure scale.
This kind of story telling using carefully thought out information, enables sales and marketing people to guide and influence the complex world of B2B decision making. Some clear thinking and collaboration on your messaging at each stage of the journey will produce the assets you need.
However without a scaleable “delivery system” organisations will struggle with the “joined up writing” that’s required. With so many moving parts the system may descend into chaos.
Deliver the buyer the information they want when they need it. Design automated sequences of messages that map to each row of the key decision maker matrix. Sales reps opt a buyer into the appropriate sequence (say the CFO sequence). This relieves busy sales reps of hours of manual work. Notifications alert reps when the buyer acts and it’s time to reach out again or when it’s time to follow up.
With the smart thinking done and the hard work of building the story telling assets completed, sequences allow you to develop consistency in the way reps speak to buyers at each stage of their buying journey. The same language and messaging can be built into templates that the reps can “top and tail” to suit the specific person with whom they are speaking.
The matrix allows you to develop an asset library of information for your buyers and stores the latest version of key documents. Storing this information in a centralised asset library, just one click away by housing it within the main sales automation tool improves consistency and efficiency.
If you’d like to discuss your current sales engagement and ways you might improve the cut through you are achieving we are always interested in having a chat. Click the link to book a time or just call us directly if you’d prefer.