‘Clarify your message.’ ‘Stick to your brand script.’ ‘Make sure your communications pass the grunt test.’
We sound like broken records, we know. But there are quantifiable reasons why we harp on about brand message. One of them being its ability to affect your B2B sales. Let’s break down how it works.
Too Many Cooks Spoil the Sale
According to research from CEB, the sales path is taking longer to hew, and there are a lot more players tagging along. In 2014, the typical size of a buying group for a B2B purchase was 5.4 people. By 2018, it had nearly doubled to 10.2.
This upward trend in how many people are involved with purchase decisions is accompanied by a decrease in purchase likelihood. With one person making the decision, there is 81% chance a purchase will be made. It drops to 55% with two people, and raises slightly to 60% once there is a third or fourth person added. However, a purchase is only 31% likely when you have more than 5 people making a purchase decision.
Positioned at such a disadvantage, what is a sales team to do?
Remember Your True Competition
Your biggest competitor in B2B is always the status quo; and that is why the cost of inaction should be emphasized. It’s important to have this truth in your mind to help focus the information that you give a potential customer, because it turns out that the deluge of information doesn’t necessarily make people more confident in their decision; CEB’s research indicates that more than 40% of B2B purchases are accompanied by second guessing.
Reconsider the Journey
CEB found that most customers discover their solutions purchase journey takes twice as long as they anticipated – much of it occurring before ever speaking to the supplier.
When thinking about your customer, remember that their pains and wants exist before they’ve ever heard of you. A supplier-oriented perspective makes it easier to overlook the obstacles that a potential client is facing – that’s why we employ the Story Brand method which starts with, and centres on, the customer as the hero of the story who starts their journey, as many heroes do, with a problem.
If you can map a customer’s journey from early to mid to late stage, in 10 or less steps, identify the barriers. We already discussed a major initial one, but information overload is also common in the early stages. By the middle, that’s when the extra stakeholders have often found their way to the table to muddy the waters. The final stage is when having too many options can become overwhelming, or when discussions about implementation can stall proceedings.
…And Show that You’re One Step Ahead
As mentioned, the deluge of information that customer receives when speaking to suppliers can hurt rather than help the decision-making process. You need to quickly and succinctly demonstrate the value of your product and service – you can check out our guide to creating your company’s one-liner for help doing that.
But remember those roadblocks we just talked about? If you can map out where the customer’s journey usually stalls, and the problems they have, use that knowledge. CEM’s research suggests that prescriptive rather than reactive approaches can increase purchase ease by 86%.
It can be as simple as suggesting that, based on your experience with previous customers on the tech side, you know what kind of questions their purchasing department will want answered before things proceed, and offer information resources to combat that anticipated slow down ahead of time.
This isn’t the same tactic as making yourself flexible in offering as many options as possible; in fact, that type of reactive approach can slow down proceedings, according to CEB.
Your guiding principle should always boil down to making a purchase from you seem easier. Because B2B purchases are generally big, multi-departmental decisions, you are better served by breaking that one decision to many less than a dozen decisions. Make sure you have a clear, clarified reason why your product or service is the easiest choice at every roadblock you’ve mapped out, as objectively as possible. Just as you should be able to boil down your brand’s messaging into something that is easily understood by anyone who reads it, so should your mini-decision making guidance. Show you understand the problem of your ‘hero’, and how you, as an empathetic and authoritative guide, know the simple steps to success they need to take.