Make the Sale by Serving the Needs of the Expanded Buying Committee
Research shows that the buying process involves many more people than it did just 10 years ago. Buying committees are anywhere from two to four times larger than they were in 2011. Gartner reports that the average complex B2B purchase involves 11 individual stakeholders—and sometimes flexes up to nearly 20 people.
Companies are struggling to accommodate the influx of stakeholders. No longer can a salesperson count on selling to the same handful of people; they now must prove value to a dozen different parties. As a result, getting from “first touch” to “closed-won” is more difficult than ever.
Those who haven’t adjusted their go-to-market strategy to accommodate this evolution should be concerned. The growing buying committee has led to a 30% reduction in customers’ ability to reach a purchase decision at all, and a 42% reduction in the likelihood that customers will purchase a premium, expensive solution.
In this article, we explain how to serve everyone on the buying committee throughout the entire buying journey. We dig into the implications of adding more people to the mix and how to accommodate all stakeholders so that everyone’s needs are met.
The Impact of Bigger Buying Committees
Buying committees (even those with 15 or 20 stakeholders) serve a purpose for the organizations you’re selling into. These committees are designed to ensure every tool that an organization brings into its stack is necessary, compliant, solves a particular problem, serves the right employees, and provides the highest possible ROI.
More involved buying committees have created an environment of greater collaboration because buyers are often required to ‘operate by consensus.’ This makes things more complicated for sales team to navigate.
In addition to the 30% reduction in likeliness to purchase, prospects are equally as hesitant to hang their hat on big-ticket purchasing decisions that will impact large swaths of the organization.
“A lot of what we do is consensus driven. It’s critical, especially in earlier phases.”
— ANNUITAS Research participant
Instead of fighting against these buying committees, the best sales teams will learn to work with the group of stakeholders to accomplish their goals. We recommend keeping three things in mind on this front.
1. Each stakeholder has a different job to do
Job title and function within the organization don’t necessarily indicate a person’s role on the buying committee. The roles can be unique for each organization, but Gartner has identified six unique roles that we suggest using as a baseline.
- Problem identifier: “We need to do something.”
- Solution explorer: “What’s out there to solve our problem?”
- Requirements builder: “What exactly do we need the purchase to do?”
- Supplier selector: “Does this do what we want it to do?”
- Validator: “We think we know the right answer, but we need to be sure.”
- Consensus creator: “We need to get everyone on board.”
In a way, these roles throw traditional “opportunity stage” identification out the window. For a complicated, enterprise-grade solution, you might be able to speak to stakeholders focused on problem identification and solution exploration early on, but even after a demo, you’ll still have a solid amount of work to do in the months ahead. You’ll need to speak to everyone from IT to Finance, walking stakeholders through requirements, competitor comparisons, and questions both strategic and tactical.
The key, here, is to understand whether or not you’re still targeting the right people. How? With research. Ask your customers, prospects, and salespeople about their recent buying journeys to get a good sense of who you’ll likely be dealing with in a prospect’s buying committee. (And don’t forget to validate those findings with third-party research.)
At ANNUITAS, we get insights about the buying committee by conducting:
- Primary-source interviews with business stakeholders, customers, and prospects.
- Secondary-source industry research specific to the company and/or its industry.
- A detailed audit of current lead-to-revenue processes and of the end-to-end marketing and sales technology stack.
- A benchmark of campaign performance against industry targets and ANNUITAS targets. Clients can get a sense of where they stand today against their peers, and what type of improvement demand marketing must drive to achieve sales lift.
2. Each stakeholder has different content needs
If stakeholders have different jobs to do in the procurement process, your content — from case studies to pitch decks — needs to land equally with the entire buying committee.
To make your content as impactful as possible you must focus on scalable personalization.
Realistically, it’s not feasible to personalize your customer journey to every single potential stakeholder at every single company. “Instead, you need to find an elegant way to address the maximum level of personalization for the maximum volume of customers with minimum resources,” wrote ANNUITAS CEO, Adam Needles, in our guide to building a Conversation Track Architecture. “You need to build a model that you can automate and optimize.”
We recommend conducting a cluster analysis: mapping stakeholders’ roles in the buying process to their points of common interests as the buying committee moves from information-seeking stages to solution-seeking stages.
With interests and roles identified, you can begin to develop content that speaks to each persona in the cohort. From there, you can make sure your conversation tracks serve the right content to the right stakeholders at the right time.
Don’t forget consensus building here. As you build your content inventory, focus on making it easily shareable. Your goal is to make decision-making easier for the buying committee by driving alignment up front.
3. It’s not just about your solution
Forward-thinking companies aren’t looking for a singular product to solve an immediate need. They’re looking for solutions that can help them achieve growth goals.
Most customers are naturally predisposed to maintain the status quo—if for no other reason than the lack of confidence in their own ability to change.
Your job is two-fold: to convince stakeholders that your solution will support their organization’s growth initiatives, and to prove that you will provide support throughout the change management process required to implement your tool or service.
As an example, we walk nearly every prospective customer through our guide to successfully managing go-to-market change. Instead of leaving it open-ended, we explain the challenges, required steps, and benefits of the entire process. It’s one of the best opportunities we have to not just get buy-in, but to build up champions.
Train your sales team to be more prepared than ever
Buying committees spend less than 20% of their time actually meeting with potential vendors, so your sales team must be prepared to seize the opportunity to connect.
We recommend training your sales team to:
- Look for stakeholders that are most likely to be change agents within their organization. Don’t rely on titles or roles to assume who this person will be. Ask questions about past work; often change agents are those who have been responsible for new efforts in the past or those who work most consistently with partners. These people also often have specific personality traits that indicate change-readiness, so train your team on what to look for.
- Identify the most important insights within a buyer’s online behavior patterns. Don’t send your reps into a discovery call with a blank slate. Train them to find insights. For example, look at which content the lead has already engaged with, which pieces they’ve forwarded to colleagues, and what they’re talking about within their professional networks. This creates a more seamless conversation whenever someone new joins the call.
- Personalize conversations based on personas. Involve your sales team in the Conversation Track Architecture process. Make sure they understand each persona’s pain points and conversations with the CTO should look different from conversations with managers and individual contributors, but all people may be on the call. Prepare your team to have thoughtful conversations no matter who joins.
More than anything, be sure to arm sales teams with appropriate, sharable sales enablement content. That way, they can keep the conversation going over the weeks and months it takes to close any deal that involves a robust buying committee.
It’s time to rethink outdated sales approaches. The modern buyer is rarely on their own, particularly if you’re selling a complex product into the mid-market or enterprise organization.
Relying on one-to-one conversations won’t be sufficient as the market matures. Instead, it’s time to invest in content that speaks to the entire spectrum of stakeholders, understand the needs of each member of the buying committee, and become a valuable partner as companies explore their options.
Your prospects—and your sellers—will thank you.