In a face-to-face environment, experienced B2B sales professionals can determine through research and thorough questioning who plays what role in the purchase process and ensure each of the influencers have bought in to their solution.
But what happens in the new world in which we find ourselves, where B2B buyers are self-educating using online research and are often 70%-80% of the way through the purchase process before they even reach out to a vendor- In this environment, how does the seller wield influence over the different buyer types?
The answer lies in rethinking your go-to-market and content strategy. Both sales and marketing must agree and align:
1) Around the buyer's purchase process, not your internal sales and marketing process. Does a buyer really say to themselves, "I am now a qualified lead, how exciting." Of course not, but they might well say, "I have researched how to fix this problem I have and I think I can clearly express what I need." Your marketing and sales tactics and content must honour your buyer's journey and aim to move them from stage to stage of their buying process.
2) Develop a consistent set of messaging aligned to the buyer's journey. Messaging should change as a buyer moves through awareness, consideration and decision stages.
3) With the right content aimed at each specific buyer influence, the task is to deliver that content through the right channel. This might vary from a sales person in a discovery meeting (the decision stage) to a social post (the early awareness stage). B2B firms are realising they have to improve their content strategy game if they are to have influence successfully across the full purchase cycle and must involve BOTH their marketing AND sales teams.
But the complexity doesn't end there. In the majority of B2B purchasing decisions, there are multiple infuencers that are all on their own specific purchase paths and have their own requirements that must be met. Miller Heiman's strategic selling methodology has been the backbone of many B2B organisations' sales process where they are faced with a complex sales environment. Its a powerful, proven technique and we thoroughly recommend learning more about it through the many books and courses that are available, but here is a summary of the influencers they describe:
#1 The Economic Buyer
They want to: Evaluate ROI (Return on Investment).
They look at: Case studies, client examples, and financial models that showcase the ROI of a solution.
This buyer holds the purse strings, plain and simple and is therefore the most important of the influencers. Often they are the most senior person , though not always. They often evaluate the broader business impact of your solution. Will it increase revenue or reduce cost, drive up their margins or allow them to enter new markets and so on. They'll also evaluate the business risk associated with choosing your solution. For example, if your company goes out of business, loses key team members, or gets acquired, what effects will that have on their project.
Ask about strategy and then show how your solution will help them achieve their long-term objectives. There is always only one Economic Buying Influence per sale.
#2 The User Buyer
They want to: Evaluate user experience and operational impact.
They look at: Hands-on aspects of your solution, like free trials, demonstrations, user documentation and so on.
They will be linked personally to your solution and judge it based on the impact it will have on their specific job performance. This person needs to know how your solution will be used on a daily basis, and who it will affect. They tend to consult with peers in user groups or community sites to see what others who have implemented your solution are saying about it. Their investigations can be extensive and granular and will often focus on change management. The economic buyer will rarely proceed if they get a red light from The User Buyer.
You should ask pain-based questions to User Buyers.
#3 The Technical Buyer
They want to: Evaluate feasibility.
They look at: Contractual terms and conditions, trials, demonstrations and compliance.
Commonly, The Technical Buyer will be the CTO, CFO, or IT Manager. When evaluating your solution, they'll ask, “Does this mean I’ll have more work to do?” “Could we develop this ourselves?” or “There are other better options out there, although I don’t know them.”
They can’t say “yes,” but they can say “no”. There may be more than one Technical Buying Influence per sale, for example IT and Finance must both sign off on the deal.
#4 The Coach
They want to: See your solution implemented.
They look at: Marketing and sales material that can be used for internal promotion of your offer.
The Coach is your champion within the organisation – An individual who guides you in the sale by giving you information that you need – a very influential role who can significantly assist in getting you the order and repeat business.
Using buyer personas to create influence:
An early task for those tasked with developing your B2B go to market strategy (hint: it should include both marketing and sales as a minimum) is to develop buyer personas - fictitious representations of your ideal customer, the individual you wish to target.
We've written about buyer personas at length already, so we don't need to replay that, but suffice to say a good buyer persona describes:
1) Who they are? What role do they perform, what are their responsibilities, what are their goals and particularly what are their challenges (as these initiate their buying journey) and most importantly, what's their role in the purchase process? Economic, User, Technical or Coach Influencer?
2) Where do they work? Typical firmographic data, company size, industry, geography and so on.
3) Why do they behave like they do? What are their values, fears and attitudes, what information and sources do they use?
Each influencer has their own buying journey and needs different content delivered to them via a variety of tactics that staddle their full buying journey. Once you have built this matrix, you will have a clear map on how to help, guide and sell to each influencer in your complex B2B sale.
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