Updated: Jan 5
The single biggest challenge of selling today is not selling; it is actually our customers' struggle to buy.
-Mr. Brent Adamson, Distinguished VP, Advisory, Gartner
When Brent Adamson shared this thought about the B2B buying-selling Landscape, I became curious to read about those buyers' struggles. Being a salesperson, reading the buying struggles of B2B buyers will help me acquire new wisdom to support my next buyer to make purchase decisions easily. Unfortunately, after a few hours of searching for stories of struggle, I was not able to find any and all I could find were reviews shared by buyers. Then I checked Sales Enablement online groups and community, but everywhere the conversations are about strategies and techniques to enable salespeople and buyers were not a part of the equation.
Imagine if the seller can listen to the nuances of buying decisions inside the buying team/organization they are trying to sell. Then they can easily share the correct information at the right stage with the right stakeholders in the buying journey. Sharing the right information and helping buyers make sense of that information increases the decision-making confidence and accelerate-time-to- purchase decisions. This is nothing but enabling buyers. And Gartner is calling it as Buyer Enablement.
A community is born.
So, how can we create buying stories and be heard among all the B2B sales professionals globally? I was a part of the Sales Enablement Society created by Mr.Scott Santucci in 2016. I can use the same strategy; creating a community. That's how we began Enablement Cafe, the first global buyer enablement community bringing B2B buyers and sellers together to learn and share from each other to create an easy&better buying-selling world. So as a first approach to get buyers to this community, we started a podcast series to chat with B2B executive buyers and listen to their buying stories & struggles. Every week we try to bring in a new buyer persona from different industries to get diversified insights on buying tasks and buying decisions.
In the first episode, I talked with Mr. Aakash Sinha, a marketing leader who leads the marketing department Belong.co and Cashfree.com and is now leading the market team at Spotdraft.com, an AI-driven, end-to-end contract automation SAAS platform. In the podcast episode of "Buying Stories: How to become friend with a B2B Buyer" (you can watch here), he shares his multiple buying experience over the last few years. Through this article, I am construing the podcast, which can help our sellers and marketers out there to easily comprehend the internal buying riddles and how to give guidance to their next buyer on key buying considerations. As the B2B buying process got a pattern, I am construing the podcast using six B2B Buying Jobs.
B2B Buying Jobs.
Gartner identified six buying jobs through interviews with hundreds of B2B buyers. It contains distinct sets of discrete tasks that customers must satisfactorily complete to make a purchase. The buying journey is represented as an orbits because its not a linear process. In fact during the buying process buying team often jump in and out of orbits. The below-listed jobs happen simultaneously than sequentially. (And the irony is the sales process which should be in synchronous with buying process is designed as a linear one in most organizations)
Problem identification. "We need to do something."
Solution exploration. "What's out there to solve our problem?"
Requirements building. "What exactly do we need the purchase to do?"
Supplier selection. "Does this do what we want it to do?"
Validation. "We think we know the right answer, but we need to be sure."
Consensus creation. "We need to get everyone on board."
Construing the Podcast.
Let's construe the podcast using the above B2B buying jobs along with 6 sets of questions. I am keeping a few open questions for Marketers and Salespeople in every section, which you are free to share the answers in the comment section. ( I am sure those answers will help many sellers plan their next approach with B2B Buyers.
Q1: When a problem is identified in your organization, what's the first step to address it?
The fundamental first step is to check internally to understand whether someone has solved it or faced it in the past. This will help achieve more insights to accept the problem and address the problem. That experienced person can help build workarounds quickly ( if they had done it earlier) or pave the way to build requirements rapidly to purchase a solution. They can show the risk involved and how to do the change management with little disruption or no disruption. If such a person doesn't exist, the buying team will immediately start searching for articles related to accepting the problem and addressing the problem, which will lead them to the sellers.
Question to Marketer?
Do you have any documents/content in your company that will help a buyer accept the problem and address the problem?
Do you have any document/content in your company that will help a buyer do simple workarounds to common problems that can be easily solved without using your product?
Question to Salesperson?
If you were doing a cold call and got in conversation with a buyer at this early stage. Will you help him to find out the internal person who solved it earlier and create a strategy to do the internal workaround to solve the problem first?
Like mentioned earlier, the person who faced or solved such a problem earlier will lead the initial discussion to find the solution from the market. But most organizations are not so lucky to have such a person, and in that scenario, picking a tech-savvy person from the team can be the best practice, and the next section discusses it in detail.
Q2:To find the solution from the market, how will the tasks get divided among the buying team?
Nowadays, every department has ops(operations) people who are tech-savvy people ( Marketing ops, Salesops, Hr ops). They are the first ones going out in the market to find the solution. They will be more than happy to explore a solution, that doesn't mean they will go and buy it. They will explore the features, understand the space, check out pricing, and try free trials.
Spotting this persona will help a salesperson get early entry into the buying process, and it can be a bane and boon if not used the opportunity in the right way. Being too salesy, they will blacklist the Salesperson forever immediately, and with a consultative approach, the Salesperson can become their best friend and increase the chance to win this deal.
A salesperson can easily find this kind of tech-savvy persona as they become active in associated solution communities and LinkedIn with several posts related to the problem. And they use specific combinations of searches to find the solution for the problem they are looking for( which will get discussed in detail later in this article)
Question to Marketer?
Do you create specific content for this kind of tech-savvy buyer persona?
Question to Salesperson?
What kind of consultative approach will you take at this stage to become friends with a tech-savvy stakeholder?
Like I said earlier, buying process never happens sequentially. It will happen simultaneously, so at this point, the buying team will equally be responsible for finding all the elements associated with the identified problem, the cost involved for change management, and the amount of risk associated with it. Saying, so the next question brings more light into the picture
Q3: How easy can an organization find the cost of change for an Identified Problem to compare with the cost of the solution? Who will be responsible for it?
Whose metrics are being affected because of that problem, in another word, whose life will become more comfortable by bringing a solution to that problem? That particular team or department will have an allocated budget, and they are the one who is going to sponsor the solution. The solution will not be implemented until the buying team shows the direct impacts on the project or business KPIs.
Even if it is a simple thing like investing in creating a podcast, the performance marketing and marketing ops team have to come up with different costs going to occur while doing the podcast, like costing required for a third party host, cost required for a freelancer to clean up the audio, costing as per the frequent use of Streamyard(platform used to create podcasts) subscription and they have to compare it with the values it can bring in like,
how much increase in customer engagement can be created
how much upsell value can be done
how much deeper engagement in prospects account
And if the team cannot bring clarity to the table, getting buy-in from all stakeholders will be difficult.
Question to marketers and salespeople?
Do you make/share content to help the buying team quickly identify several KPIs that impact your project/business?
DO you make/share content with buying team to calculate or show the several third-party costing associated while implementing your solution?
If you can help them create clarity at this stage, you will be one of the shortlisted vendors; by saying that let's jump into the next question related to this.
Q4: What kind of information will help you quickly shortlist the vendors?
The buyer is always looking to find a specific solution for the problem he is facing; the rest of everything is noise. The buyer doesn't care about the solution with loads of features or a fancy product. With the ease of creating content, every seller is overloading high-quality content, becoming overwhelming for buyers. So if a seller can share information /content related to the buyer's specific problems through a particular type of content like user reviews or blogs, they will mark them as trustworthy. And also, at the same time, if a salesperson can come into the picture and help them make sense of every information/content they are learning, they are going to shortlist vendors very quickly.
In a crowded market like email automation software, if buyers target Europe, they are more concerned about security than deliverability. So if the seller can help him with essential information like "this is how this person solves GDPR laws for email automation, and this is why you should consider this," they will immediately start looking for other functionalities and USPs for shortlisting. So, if sellers share content/ landing pages that state buyers' specific problems with the particular solution, they will be more than happy to become your customer.
Question to Marketer:
Do you create Reddit, Quora threads on how to solve the "x" problem with your "Y" feature?Do you have contents withs user reviews solving x problem?
Question to Salesperson:
In a demo meeting, will you try to show him all the fancy features of your product, or do you help him by explaining how your product can be implemented with low risk and complexity for a specific problem he's trying to solve?
After seeking and collecting all this information, the buyer needs to be sure this will work. At this point in time salesperson can become a superhero by giving confidence in making decisions which we can discuss in detail in the next question.
Q6:Do you think a salesperson should fully comprehend the entire essence and all internal elements tangled to the Identified problem?
By understanding the customer, the problem, the internal elements tangled to the identified problem, and understanding how and when his solution can be implemented without any disruption, a consultative salesperson can quickly help the buyer validate the solution they are gonna implement.
By sharing information/content which helps to isolate points of friction can quickly achieve a competitive edge among other finalists.
Question to Salesperson:
How will you ensure every stakeholder is under one page and everyone is equipped with the right and de-conflicting information you shared and the one they collected through self-research?
Bringing every stakeholder under one page and equipping them with the right and de-conflicting information for solution implementation will have higher chances of getting easy buy-in. And this leads to our final question of this Story.
Q7: What is the most difficult part of getting buy-in from everyone affected by the Identified Problem?
Will this new solution will be able to maintain the integrity of the system? Is the risk taken care of, or is a proper plan in place to address the broader scope of organizational change? If something is working at 60% efficiently and at least it is working, if a solution is bringing in the hope of making it 90%, there is a chance the efficiency can fall back to a shallow phase and will bring chaos. Transition associated with change is always painful, Implementations can go wrong. So members of the system must get convinced that permanent disruption will never happen and the system will return to homeostasis once the change is complete. Until then, the purchase will never happen.
And like I mentioned earlier, buying process is not linear and Consensus Creation is not the final buying job. The distinct tasks related to that job spread throughout the buying process. Most salespeople try to address this at the end of the sales process, which is why the failure rate in the sales domain is so high.
So If a salesperson can comprehend all the internal elements and inevitable changes associated with implementing a solution from the very beginning of the sales cycle, they can wisely share the information at different stages with every member and main stakeholder involved in the buying process.
By being Human first,
By being Empathetic,
By serving Unconditionally,
By not overdoing things,
By becoming a true friend,
a Salesperson can easily find solutions for the problem buyers are facing. That's nothing but quickly and peacefully achieving targets for their next quarter:)
Thanks for reading. In the next buying story, I will be construing the Story of a different buyer persona. And if you got a Buying story or Selling Story to share, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading. God bless you:)