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Building Buying Consensus: Six Obstacles To Higher Close Rates

Wayne Cerullo

Wayne Cerullo hosted a webinar for us lining out the 6 obstacles sales reps need to overcome to increase close rates. As the founder of B2B Partners, a leading B2B marketing and sales strategy group, he can provide some pretty crucial insights on this from his 20 years of experience. He says you have to bring the buying team to consensus (as in “agreement on a solution”, although we think bringing them to Consensus wouldn’t be a bad idea either) in order to close a deal.

There has been a shift in how companies buy. Execs, even primary buying champions, haven’t made unilateral buying decisions for a long time, but the size of, and complexity within, the teams involved in buying have grown.

Wayne has studied extensively how to guide buying groups to consensus and covered 6 common obstacles to building consensus in a recent webinar.

It all starts with the understanding that buyers don’t buy software, they buy solutions. But before you can get them to buy your solution, you have to get them to agree on the problem.

Wayne points out this is often an uphill battle since there’s already disconnect within the group, “These folks barely know each other most of the time and have not interacted significantly. And these are the people you want to get together to make a decision for you.”

To complicate it further, as the size of the buying team rises, the likelihood of a purchase falls, leading to fewer successful decisions. Approximately 60% of your buyer engagements end without a decision. It’s this failure to make a choice that’s impacting your close rates, but there are ways to prevent these groups from falling into indecision.

Here are six common mistakes you might be making that contribute to the problem:

1. Exclusive Focus on the Internal Champion

For most reps, finding your champion is your happy place. This is the person who will take risks for the proposed solution. They’re the ones who will do most of the selling for you by sharing important content materials, giving presentations, or inviting stakeholders to the conversations within the target company, the champion can be identified and utilized.

They are obviously crucial to facilitating the purchase, but solely focusing on the champion can pose an issue. “What has just been created is an opportunity for you to pour hundreds of hours into this deal and for this buyer, this champion in the company, to become incredibly disillusioned and frustrated if they’re not able to build consensus in their organization.” You need the buy-in and political support of other stakeholders to close the deal.

2. Lack of Connection with Other Contributors

This goes closely with focusing too much on your champion, but can’t be stated enough. “Think about these people. They probably haven’t interacted before.”

Even if they just met, this group must become a team that has to reach a decision together. “You may have the senior most person, you probably do, who’s going to be involved in this purchase, but they are not able to make a decision if they don’t have the consensus, the buy-in, and the political support of other people with whom they need to deal every day.”

Only focusing on the champion within the company leads to a lack of connection with other contributors and stakeholders.

3. Not Properly Equipping the Champion

Most conversations about your solution happen internally. You’re not present most of the time, so the champion needs to be properly equipped to speak (and sell) for you. They need to have the knowledge to sway people towards your proposed solution. “You need to focus on equipping the champion with the messages that champion needs to deliver to the people in their political environment.”

Develop a clear understanding of what the stakeholders are looking for in order to give the champion the required information ahead of time. For example, demos, case studies, and value assessment tools are some of the most valued assets according to B2B buyers, but when they’re needed and how they needed to be delivered changes from person to person and stage to stage, which means you need to map it out and have a flexible, multi-threaded approach.

4. Lack of Persona-Centric Messaging

You might have persona-based content already, but usually stakeholders have different perspectives than what you may think. You likely have an incomplete idea of what key stakeholders are looking for. And what’s worse, any messaging you do have means nothing if they’re not used. “Have any of the personas for whom that messaging has been developed ever actually looked at it?”

If you understand the real people involved in the purchase, you can tailor your messaging to be non-generic and therefore more effective. This is the most time-intensive part. But making this process more efficient is going to have the biggest impact on getting to a decision easier and faster for the buying group.

5. Lack of Curiosity About the Buying Context

“There’s a lot of other things going on in the company. What I’ve found is a lot of our clients have ended up with no decisions because no one has asked what else is going on in the company that might derail this purchase decision.”

Having context is imperative . If an AE hasn’t asked what else is going on in the company, they may miss a number of things that can easily derail the deal. You need to identify other issues influencing the buying context or you will be blindsided.

6. Fear of Asking Hard Questions

If you aren’t willing to ask hard questions, and tactfully probe, about what else is going on in the prospective company or what is needed to commit to the proposed solution, you are not helping the clients get to a consensus about the buying decision.

“All of this comes from having the chutzpah -to use the technical term- to ask hard questions. To go beyond that focus on the happy internal champion and ask about what else is going on in the company.”

Technology buying groups average 13 to 14 stakeholders, and it takes just over 16 months to make a purchase decision. These cycles are so long because they are so complex. Only 17% of the buying group’s time is spent in direct contact with vendors. As one of several in the mix, you may only get 4-5% of their attention. A buyer enablement approach draws stakeholders into the purchase decision earlier and provides the necessary information as early as possible to remain part of the purchase conversation and shorten the sales cycle.

Be aware of, and resolve, these six mistakes where they exist in your approach – most often using a mix of tech and implementing buyer enablement concepts – to build buying consensus and shorten buying cycles.