Buying groups have changed the world of B2B sales. In fact, there are almost double the number of buyers involved in a complex buying journey today than at any other point in history.
While selling to a single buyer is a challenge, it’s nothing compared to the challenge of navigating buying groups. Buying groups come with the challenges sellers are already accustomed to, with the added difficulty of handling competing priorities, varying levels of support, more frequent turnover, and beyond.
Regardless of how many buyers you face in an account, however, your mission remains the same. You must convince them that the solution you provide is the best for their business. You must build relationships with the people that matter, anticipate your buyer’s needs, their ambitions, and deeply understand their problems, challenges and goals.
In short, you must become a trusted advisor. Here’s how to just that when working with buying groups.
What is a Buying Group in B2B Sales?
Buying groups, or buying committees, are often composed of 10 stakeholders but can have more. It is the job of these trusted stakeholders to make sure that they make the right purchasing decision for their business or organization.
Although many sellers mistakenly think that going for the highest decision maker possible on the org chart is the way to win a deal, it is actually through persuading a buying group that a deal is made. A buying group is a clear indication that a business is taking a solution seriously, and it is the buying group that influences the decision of those higher up in the organization.
Due to the increasing commonality of buying groups, sellers rarely sell one-on-one when working with their key accounts. Instead, there are multiple buyers involved in the purchasing decision. This complexity makes it difficult for a seller to tackle a deal alone.
Many Sellers Choose to Ignore Buying Groups
Buying groups may up the ante for sellers, but they are also an opportunity for revenue teams to become more strategic in how they approach their most coveted accounts. Many sellers, however, choose to ignore the changing times and do not plan for buying journeys with multiple decision-makers.
In a recent webinar, Seth Marrs, Forrester’s Principal Analyst, pointed to the fact that most sellers are still not accounting for just how complex sales and buying cycles have become. Many sellers are still only gathering initial information, putting what they know about the prospect and their solution together into the form of a proposal, and then sending that proposal out into the wild as quickly as possible. Many times, this will happen out of context well into the sales journey, without any proper, multi-armed strategy taking place.
This approach, however, hardly appeases the fundamental need to understand the intricacies and inner workings of the organization within the account. Very often, these sales approaches fail when it comes to momentous deals.
Challenges Buying Groups Pose to Sellers
While buying groups don’t have to spell doom for your revenue team, they do point to the need for a more robust, targeted sales strategy. Here are a few additional challenges buying groups pose to sales teams.
More Buyers – More Turning Points:
Sellers are used to things going wrong in a deal when faced with one buyer. However, now with as many as 10 or more buyers involved, the number of things that can go wrong has greatly increased. Consistently planning for what could go right or wrong within an account matters more than ever.
With over 500,000 jobs added recently added to US, the job market does not look like it will be slowing down anytime soon. That means neither will the great resignation, or likely job churn. As better opportunities are created for your buyers, they will move roles. You might have worked hard to educate one buyer, swaying them to your cause. But what happens when they leave? Now you must start all over again. While this has always been a reality for sellers, expounding that by a multiplier of 10 makes it an incredibly costly issue.
As the seller begins to uncover the full view of the objectives within the organization, they will also begin to understand the competing priorities between buyers within a group. Budget cuts, political pressure, and new initiatives from the powers that be can impact a buyer’s decision in various ways. Things often change during the sales process, and competing priorities among multiple buyers can impact the final decision of whether or not to buy.
Varying Levels of Support Among Buyers
Not all buyers will have the same outlook on a potential partnership with you or have the same favorable view of the solution you are selling. More likely, the buyers within the group you are targeting will run the gamut from supportive to downright hostile to you. Not knowing precisely how this support and influence varies amongst buyers makes it hard to land new deals and expand revenue.
Longer Buying Cycles
Marrs also pointed to the increase in buying cycles. “Customers are taking more time to understand what they need and what they want to buy.” The data also backs this up. Buyers are spending much more time investigating solutions on their own. With so many digital channels available for learning about a potential solution, only 17% of their time is being spent on interacting with potential vendors.
“Buying groups purchase from those they know” says Marrs. “If you don’t take the time to really understand the account, you will not be in position to sell in complex sales.”
With so much of the buying cycle happening outside the seller’s control, it is imperative that sellers make the most of their time spent working one-on-one with various buyers and do their own due diligence offline to discover the lines of influence that make deals happen. This way they can make the most of their more limited interactions with buyers.
How to Navigate Buying Groups
Luckily, navigating buying groups does not have to be impossible. With the right processes, methodology, and tools, sellers can band together with their greater revenue team and deploy a winning strategy. Let’s dive into a few of the ways sellers counter the factors above to conquer buying groups and establish themselves as trusted advisors to their accounts.
Account Based Selling – Multi-Armed Approach for Multiple Buyers
When walking into terrain with multiple stakeholders, sellers must walk with others. The lone wolf who gets the deal done just in the nick of time and by the skin of their teeth without help from anyone else, is a thing of the past. Sales teams no longer benefit from the hero rep.
Instead, the most effective sales teams have realized one thing – it takes a revenue team to close deals. It also takes an account-based sales approach.
Sellers can leverage account-based selling to:
- Target the accounts that matter based on their ideal customer profile
- Pull in resources from their greater revenue team (marketing and customer service, etc.) to win the deal
- Achieve added revenue within customer accounts by targeting whitespace
By treating one single account as a market of one, revenue teams can back their sellers with the resources they need to build relationships that matter and grow revenue that lasts.
As teams begin to deploy their targeted account strategy, it’s impossible to plan for the many layers involved within each account without mapping it all out visually and interactively. To achieve this, revenue teams are turning to relationship mapping.
With relationship mapping, sellers can:
- Visualize the people, problems, and relationships that matter within an account
- Designate support level amongst multiple decision makers
- Find common ground between stakeholders
- Identify and solve problems that bring those key players over to the selling team’s side
Through relationship mapping, sellers gain a holistic view of the account, as well as the many objectives at hand and peripheral to buyers that may influence decisions. They can strategize on how to turn enemies into supporters, and band their buying group behind a common cause.
Lastly, account planning is a must for effectively navigating buying groups. It’s where your revenue team can come together to plan and strategize about how best to attack any given account.
As the revenue team works through a deal, they consistently update their account plan with vital data from their CRM. That way, when sellers go into big, complex deals, not only are they prepared, but they can also have the biggest impact on their interactions.
Through account planning, your revenue team can calibrate the opportunity, ensure it’s the right target to go after, identify the people, problems, and relationships that matter, build trust, identify whitespace, collaborate, and commit to ongoing mentorship and coaching.
Buying Groups – Good for Businesses and Sellers
Although a challenge, buying groups are more of an opportunity for sellers than an obstacle. Interacting with a buying group shows a seller that the buyer is serious about what they are offering. In fact, erudite sellers will proactively work to build such groups within their accounts as the right buying groups with the right people often influence decision-makers even higher up on the org chart, making it a strategic way to firmly root oneself within an account. Once this relationship is established, it is easier to defend and expand revenue in that account, defeating opponents who have leveraged far fewer resources to close the deals that matter.