Modern Buying Behaviours
One of the critical questions that every expansion-phase B2B focused company needs to consider is “what’s the most appropriate Sales and Business Development structure for our product or service offering?” There is no single perfect answer to this – but the choices made at this stage will have a particularly significant impact on your chances of finding, engaging and persuading as many of the right sort of customers as possible.
As well as taking into account the packaging and price points of your product or service, it is also important to pay close attention to the expectations and needs of your buyers. This can be achieved by identifying the problems that your solution solves, focusing on which types of organisations are most likely to suffer from these issues and distinguishing which roles are most likely to lead the search for a solution. In addition, identifying how these organisations are most likely to make buying decisions and crucially, the opinions and beliefs that individuals will need to hold true in order for them to see real value in progressing.
If you have a relatively simple, easy-to-explain, transactional product or service operating in a mature market with higher levels of buyer education, your organisational options are naturally somewhat limited. These types of purchases are increasingly web-based and automated with occasional human intervention to handle enquiries or exceptions – and cost-of-sale, customer ease-of-use and business efficiency considerations dictate that this model is becoming the norm for such transactions.
Designing for the most effective interactions
However things are not as obvious nor as simple if – like most of the readers of this article – your product or service offering is a high-value considered purchase, with a lengthy and often complex buying decision process involving multiple customer stakeholders with a longer and more complex level of education. Here there are many more options and considerations when designing your sales structure and process.
For these types of sales, some form of human interaction is inevitably going to be required and this can have a profound impact on your decisions around sales structure, process and on your resulting cost of sale. What are the key roles in your sales and business development organisation and what sort of qualities do you need to look for when building these teams?
Here are some of the most important considerations:
- Are you selling into an existing and well-understood solution category, trying to reshape an existing solution category with a radical new approach, or trying to create a brand new solution category?
- How coherent is your target market? Is it well or loosely defined? What are the common characteristics of your ideal target organisations and key potential sponsors?
- How much education does your target audience require? Is the need for your solution obvious, or do prospects first have to be alerted and educated as to the scope and nature of the problem or problems you solve?
- How important is it that you assess your initial contact’s ability to mobilise the rest of their organisation around the need for change and the specific advantages of your approach?
- What alternative options do your target customers have for solving the identified problems? Can your approach be generically differentiated from these options, or does your positioning need to be hand crafted on a case-by-case basis?
- How easy is it to make the business case for implementing your solution? How aware are your prospects likely to be of the costs and consequences of sticking with the status quo?
In almost every scenario, educated, articulate and well-informed sales and business development resources will have a critical role to play in the early stages of customer engagement.
Solution Category affects Strategy
When you are selling in to or trying to reshape an already well-defined category with which your prospects are likely to be familiar, you have a reasonable chance that your most promising prospects may have already started to recognise the problem and the need for change. In this instance, for them to move forward with you, one opinion they need to hold true is that, of the available options, your offering is the one that best solves their specific problem. The challenge here is to persuade them to engage with you early on in the process, before their thinking has been over-influenced by other potential suppliers.
If you are attempting to establish an entirely new category or concept with which your prospects are less likely to be familiar, in order for them to move forward with you, the opinion the prospect needs to hold true is that there is sufficient value in them challenging the status quo and that the inevitable risk and disruption involved in implementing a new, different way of working will be more than compensated by the upside of the outcomes it will generate. Here the initial conversations will need to focus more on uncovering the underlying issues and implications – neither of which may be initially obvious to the prospect. Creating curiosity, interest and intrigue is particularly important in the initial interactions.
Appealing to senior executives
The solution category question is particularly important because of its impact on your prospect’s preconceptions and expectations – and the level at which you need to sell. If you’re seeking to create a new solution category or re-invent an existing one, your initial conversations will typically need to be at a more senior level within your prospect organisations – the people who are more concerned with shaping strategy rather than implementing it and those who have the ability to mobilise their organisation into action.
These senior executives expect to be informed, and tend not to take kindly to being subjected to a crude sales pitch. So it’s absolutely critical that even your initial conversations need to include valuable business insights that will stimulate their interest to want to learn more.
Adding real value from the very first conversation
Driven by the pressure from investors to deliver growth (and sometimes a belief that the product will just ‘sell itself’), it can be easy for an emerging technology organisation to build or outsource a Demand Gen team without having fully assessed what their buyers real needs are from those conversations. This area of the sales organisation can become an afterthought rather than a strategic asset but in many cases, deploying the wrong capabilities in the wrong situation can have a major impact on growth.
The key organisational challenge is to accurately identify which conditions in a sales opportunity create the highest chance of sales success and then to develop a Business Development capability which can replicate these conditions time-and-time again so that the Field Sales organisation can operate at an optimised level.
As part of this, here are some key questions:
- How much do you need to know about the prospect’s situation before you can confidently identify them as a qualified opportunity?
- How important is it that you are able to accurately assess your initial contact’s ability to mobilise their organisation around the need for change?
- How soon do you need to start engaging with the decision team as a group?
- Which level of seniority own the challenges you are seeking to solve and which levels do we need our Field Sales team to be engaging at?
- What quality and depth of education and/or persuasion will be required to help our prospects form the opinions we are looking for?
- What level of interaction do your competitors offer?
In the cases identified earlier, your business development/demand generation team must be of a significantly higher quality than those that a transactional business would normally need to employ. Every conversation matters; your teams must be fluent in understanding the problems your solution solves and not just the capabilities of your product or service.
Taking these factors into account can help to design an effective structure and process that has the right level and balance of sales and business development resources to optimise sales outcomes – and it can help to ensure that the organisation gets it right from the very beginning.