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September 22, 2021


5 min read

Winning over the team: consensus-based selling.

Richard Byrd
Winning over the team: consensus-based selling.

Who’s your biggest competitor?

If you are like most people, you quickly envisioned the bad guys across town who provide similar products or services to yours. Maybe you thought of a bigger competitor that you want to challenge, or maybe you are the market leader and have a host of smaller challengers that are trying to dethrone you. Whichever scenario came to mind, I’m willing to bet you a lunch at the place of your choosing that you are wrong. I’m also willing to bet that your biggest competitor is indecision or status quo. If you have pushed a prospect through your sales process and then been ghosted, you probably have been beaten by this worthy advisory.

Let me explain.

Deferring authority

According to Forrester Research, 10 people are involved in the average B2B sale. That’s a lot. The old sales trick of “getting to the decision-maker” is quickly becoming irrelevant because there probably is no “decision-maker.” There are 10 of them ... with their own drivers … agendas ... KPIs.

Even if you are talking to a CEO of a company, the good ones will want to know what their management team and SMEs think about your offerings. Managers are less and less interested in making decisions that will rock the boat in their organizations, so unless you can get the entire buying committee on board, your project will likely stall. A deal can get postponed just because one person in the buying process isn’t swayed, in which case the easiest thing for them to do is kick the can down the road.

Let’s look at the best way to avoid your deals falling through.

Define the buying center

  • Have you and your team taken a deep look at all the people you will have to convince and examined what motivates them?
  • Do you know who they are and their job titles?
  • What does their buying process look like?
  • Will you even have access to these people during the sales process?
  • How can you make it easier for them to buy from you, and how can you guide them through the process?

Depending on what you are selling, you might have to come in at the top of an organization, or it may be advantageous to start at the bottom and work your way up. Either way, ask your first point of contact at the beginning of the selling process who all will be involved, then try to understand who is onboard with your offering and, more importantly, who isn’t. Ask your point of contact the names and job titles of the people that will be involved in the buying process. This is where doing some recon on LinkedIn can help you, and this is where a good marketing team earns its keep: The team should have helped develop clear buying personas so your sales team knows the motivating factors for each person involved in the buying cycle, what their typical fears and frustrations are, and how your offering can positively address those issues.

What does success look like to them?

If you understand what success looks like for the people to whom you are selling, it makes things way easier for your sales team.

  • How do they measure success?
  • What do they get fired for?
  • What KPIs do they have to hit in order to get their bonus?

This should all be included in good persona development. Then once this is addressed, your marketing team should be developing strong messaging for how your offering contributes to their success and helps them avoid failure.

A quick story

I once worked with a company that had eight different personas involved in its buying process. They all had clear goals, and some of them were competing. It was a seismic company that was selling an innovative offering that involved software and hardware. It would potentially affect many different areas of their clients’ operations.

We had to convince the asset managers, safety manager, geologists, geophysicists, procurement, IT director, the CTO, and even the CEO. It was no wonder the client had not had sales success. After we took a deep dive into each of these personas, we found out that the CTO and the IT director had opposing goals. The CTO was leading a big digital transformation initiative, and she thought our offering was going to be a big step forward towards meeting her goals. The IT director saw it as a major disruption to his already-overloaded team, and he didn’t have the resources to bring on a new IT headache. To further complicate matters, the geologists and petrophysicists who would be the main users of the tool thought the offering had promise but were happy with their existing tools and weren’t excited about having to learn new software. Their lack of enthusiasm meant they were not helping the CTO make her case to the CEO. The asset manager saw a lot of value in the offering because it was going to help him manage the company’s risks better while making the company more money. (And to make matters worse, similar scenarios were playing out across the board with the company's prospects.) Gridlock.

Our offering had a very low-code solution that was easy to deploy, but we had not communicated it clearly in the sales process. To overcome gridlock, it was marketing to the rescue. We developed several case studies, customer testimonials, and a demo that all showed how easy it was to deploy our solution. These sales tools were very useful in reducing the threat the IT director saw in our offering. He shared the content with his team and reduced their anxiety, and their technical community felt more comfortable with our team. Likewise, we provided demos, cheat sheets, and training videos for their geologists and petrophysicists to help them feel more comfortable learning something new, and more importantly, we showed how they would be contributing to the upside of the organization. If key production milestones were hit, they would get a bonus, and they saw that our offering could be just the tool they needed to achieve their targets.

Story told. Deal won!

We translated our findings in that scenario to similar deals that were gridlocked for similar reasons. We were able to pull this messaging through all of the sales enablement tools, content marketing, and advertising. This helped the company to both close more deals and also significantly shorten its sales cycle over time.

The final chirp

Understanding all of the people in your customer’s buying process,  aligning your sales process to it, and developing the sales tools, messaging, and strategy to close the sale and get more prospects is marketing’s job.

If you don’t have strategic marketing horsepower on your team, we can help with our Account-Based Marketing Workshop or a fractional CMO engagement if you need longer-term assistance. Let’s talk to determine if we’re the right fit.

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