By Samuel Thimothy, VP at OneIMS.com, an inbound marketing agency, and co-founder of Clickx.io, the digital marketing intelligence platform.
When you sell B2B, you don’t normally sell to just one person. You’re selling to a group of decision-makers who have different levels of influence and different positions in the company.
Apart from the basic hierarchy, which is clearly important, different individuals can have a significant impact on the purchase, regardless of their position within the company. Moreover, there may be stakeholders outside of the company who are also influencing the purchase.
In order to understand how the purchase is made, it is crucial to keep track of both the hierarchy and the lines of influence involved in this process. What are these lines and how can you leverage this understanding to help your buyers make a purchasing decision? Let’s shed some light on it.
The Buying Centers In The B2B Sales Process
Buying centers refer to the groups of people from within or outside a company who have a certain degree of influence on the buying process. Each individual in the buying center can perform one or a few of these roles:
• User: Someone who is actually going to use the product and feels the need for it.
• Initiator: Someone who notices the problem or the new opportunity and voices out the new requirements.
• Influencer: Someone significant, possibly from the outside of an organization, whose opinion can influence the buying decision.
• Gatekeeper: Someone who controls the flow of information in the organization.
• Decision-Maker: Someone who makes a final call and approves the purchase.
• Buyer: Someone who actually buys the solution.
Each of these roles may be represented by a single individual or by dozens, or perhaps by hundreds of people, depending on the product and company structure. You need to be able to convince people in every buying center with content that is personalized to their interests and needs, yet conveys an overall coherent picture of the product.
It’s Hard To Sell, But It’s Not Easy To Buy Either
Typically, the B2B buying group consists of six to 10 decision-makers, each armed with four to five pieces of information they’ve gathered independently, and all must communicate with one another to figure out whether they should buy the solution. Moreover, the pool of options and solutions organizations can choose from is constantly expanding as new technologies, products, suppliers and services emerge.
It has become nearly effortless for buyers to do their research on new solutions independently due to the easy availability of quality information through digital channels. As sellers, we have fewer opportunities to influence customers directly, but there’s also the other side of it. Due to an abundance of options and endless flows of information, customers find it harder and harder to buy.
According to the recent survey by Gartner, more than three-quarters of the customers described their purchase as very complex or difficult. This means that with the right approach and guidance, you can help them succeed.
Help Your B2B Customers Win
The B2B buying process is neither linear nor predictable. Each person in every buying center can influence the final decision pretty much at any stage if they discover new information or notice something they haven’t seen before. The only thing that drives purchase is quality information presented in an accessible way.
This is called “buyer enablement” — providing customers with the information they need to complete their critical buying tasks. So the best seller for a B2B client is the one who can make it easier to navigate the buying process. Supplying information that is truly helpful to decision-makers in each buying center will increase the likelihood that they will buy from you.
Understand Your Buying Centers Inside Out
To succeed in this B2B buying environment, you must develop a clear understanding of your customer’s buying centers and their roles. Give them a range of information that is specifically tailored for their buying needs. Help them do their jobs well and they will give you their trust in return.