First, the bad news. Today’s commercial landscape is all too familiar and involves four elements: commoditization, stalled deals, “good enough” buying, and status quo. Seems like the more things change, the more they stay the same. These are age-old problems we tend to try to solve by asking the question, “What are we doing wrong? As a result, we ask ourselves the following diagnostic questions:

  1. How do we make it easier for customers to buy from us?
  2. How do we detect points of customer frustration?
  3. What products and services do customers  really need from us?
  4. What drives customer loyalty?

And other questions that seem perfectly reasonable. The problem, as Brent Adamson pointed out so clearly, is that all these questions are asked from the suppliers perspective.

While the answers to these “Selling Dynamics” questions are important to learn, it’s equally important to learn the answers to “Buying Dynamics” questions. To underscore that point, Brent presented four CEB stats/numbers (three of which are new).

The 57% figure is one you’re likely familiar with. Buyers are 57% through the purchase process before they engage directly with any supplier.  The next three numbers are even more startling.

Buying groups have gotten larger and more diverse. Last year, the statistic was that on average, B2B buying groups consisted of 5.4 members. This year, that number has grown by nearly 26% to an average of 6.8 members.

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Guess what happens when the number of people involved in a decision grows? You guessed it! There is a direct correlation between the buying team size and the likelihood of a purchase. Diverse buying groups settle for lowest common denominator consensus which is often, “let’s do nothing.”

The next stat to remember is 51%. Although the preference of your buying group may be to purchase, a majority of people are not willing to advocate. The percentage of people willing to buy and advocate is 49%. One thing is certain, you’ll rarely win a deal when your buyers aren’t willing to advocate for the purchase.

And last, is the 39% stat which represents the percent of buyers who are overwhelmed. Apart from making a purchase decision more difficult, an overwhelming purchase experience also has a causal relationship to purchase regret. That is, if you buy despite feeling overwhelmed, you are likely to regret the decision in the end and may even abandon the purchase (not good for any SaaS company).

Together, these four stats represent the engines that drive status quo.

Countermeasures

Step one is to challenge the mental model. Let me rephrase. Step one is to create your buyer’s mental model without regard to you or any other supplier. What is the buyer’s main goal? Now, what are the levers they can pull to reach that goal? Those are their primary drivers. And finally, how will they enable or accomplish those primary drivers? That’s your customer’s mental model. Now that you have that outlined you can look for places to challenge.

If you sell color printers and a school’s main objective is to increase student engagement, you might be able to challenge their thinking by pointing out that color materials are shown to improve engagement across the board.

Step two is to align the many members of the buying team. This requires a thorough understanding of each stakeholder so you can then look for both points of agreement and disconnect. Remember, buying groups settle for the lowest common denominator consensus.

Step three is to understand both the anticipated and unanticipated hurdles along the buying journey that prevent customers from moving to the next stage and then prescribe methods for overcoming those hurdles.

As always, the CEB Sales and Marketing Summit was filled with valuable, actionable content. The 4 figures outlined above, make up just two of the sessions. If you weren’t there, and want to learn more about these forward-thinking commercial approaches to sales that are based on research, then buy their most recent book, “The Challenger Customer: Selling to the Hidden Influencer Who Can Multiply Your Results.” Apart from that, mark your calendar for next year’s summit and don’t miss it! It will be held October 17-19 at the Cosmopolitan Hotel, Las Vegas. See you there.