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Your Top Competitor is not Your Competitor
Consider this: fully 60% of B2B opportunities every year are lost, not to another provider, but to “no decision” or the status quo, according to a recent enterprise sales study.
There is no competitor out there that can come close to killing more deals. Fighting the status quo means that, more than anyone else, you are competing against your own prospect even while you are trying to win them over!
Stalling is killing companies
Think about the resources your company puts into winning new business. Now think about giving up 60% of your day, 60% of your colleagues, 60% of your budget. And that’s even before you start battling against the competitor you are focused on beating.
What is causing this
There are four factors that have fueled this shift that we have observed over the last 15 years of diagnosing B2B selection decisions.
- More Complexity: As products have evolved from individual units into systems and into inter-operable platforms, they have become more complex, touching more aspects of what the company does, and therefore involving more people in decisions about them.
- More Diversity: Decisions require agreement from a wider variety of functions and perspectives in matrixed organizations than ever before. Plus there’s the fun of including legal and procurement to round out the team.
- More Globalization: In additional functional diversity, there is more global diversity to incorporate and address. More global decisions must be agreed to by representatives from all continents and their diverse ways of evaluating providers. Yikes!
- Larger selection teams: DemandGen reports there are at least 7 executives involved in the average B2B buying decision, with some decision teams having up to 20 people. Larger enterprises making larger decisions can push this number into several dozen. And Schaub says the number has increased 50% in recent years.
And where is this getting us
As a result, purchase cycles are stretching longer. According to IDC, the typical B2B buying cycle stretched to 5.4 months from 4.5 months just a few years prior. In our experience, it’s about 3X longer (15 months or more) for complex decisions.
Not surprisingly, with larger teams and the passage of more time, more of them are failing to result in any decision! With an average of 5.4 people in the buying group, the chances of any purchase are just 30%! To put it another way, with no consensus, there will be no sale.
Enter the Consensus Mobilizer
Like working with that study group back in college, this might seem like a hopeless situation, but there is hope! A development we have noticed in successful buying teams is the pivotal role played by “internal mobilizers” who push for a team consensus. The CEB also noted this phenomenon in The Challenger Customer.
Mobilizers are unofficial team leaders who take on an influential “cat herding” role for this decision. Crucially, they are persuasive at those internal meetings to which prospective vendors are not invited and at which their fates are often decided. Official titles of these consensus mobilizers vary by product and company. They are not necessarily senior titles, as the “corner office” sale was reconfigured with “open planning” years ago.
With the rise of Account Based Marketing (ABM) these days to win big accounts more effectively and efficiently, it’s crucial that marketers engage this consensus mobilizer to see results from their efforts. What we need is a consensus sales play.
Four tools for the Consensus Sales Play
As in sports, a “play” is a coordinated series of actions by members of your team to achieve a goal. In ABM, a “sales play” is a coordinated series of actions to attract and engage the stakeholders contributing to a provider or product decision. The “consensus sales play” is specifically designed to maximize the likelihood of a consensus orchestrated by a mobilizer in your favor. There is more that could be said about this beyond this article, so feel free to contact us online here.
There are four tools to help teams identify, engage, and equip consensus mobilizers in a sales play. Here is a thumbnail of each:
- Decision Dissection: Start by conducting short, focused, and independent research on recent decisions to uncover the ways that causes for stalls and losses have crept into your pipeline. This step really brings home the lessons about consensus in a way that everyone can relate to. And it reveals specific ways consensus has been encouraged or thwarted in your recent opportunities.
- Prospect Personas: You increase your opportunities to build a consensus when you demonstrate that you understand and care about the particular perspective of each prospect on the team. Buyer (or better yet, prospect) personas are a good start. These personas include their role in the decision journey, including when they are active and what influences are most important for each persona. This is the basis for your product messaging to each stakeholder role.
- Account Personas: Beyond individual prospect personas, each account has a composite profile and its own choreography of the role each persona plays in the decision process. The profile is based on factors like where the company wants to see itself in the industry, how collaborative or command-oriented the company is, and the role of this decision in achieving the company’s goals. Knowing this helps you position your firm as the one they want to do business with. This is the basis for messaging about your company and knowing who to target at each decision stage.
- Consensus messaging: Only now are you ready to orchestrate a consensus by equipping your mobilizers with messages tailored to help them get other roles on board with you in those closed door meetings. In the ABM context, this equips the sales team with learning and materials to help overcome your perceived weaknesses and build consensus around your composite weighted strengths.
Together, these 4 steps will increase your win rate, and best of all, increase morale throughout your organization! Remember your ABC’s: Always Be Closing by Always Building Consensus!
Also, feel free to contact me if you are interested in the background research or further ideas about these findings or recommendations.