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There’s something broken in B2B

Aaron Janmohamed

But a buyer-enabled approach can fix it

Something about B2B is broken. Of course, everyone selling tech says B2B is broken and that they have a unique fix for it. But seriously, it’s broken and I’ve got a fix.

I posted on LinkedIn a pretty common but painful experience, which cuts through to the life-giving organs of the issue. It goes something like this: 

Buyer: “I want to see the product.”

Vendor: “Ok, fill out this form.”

*Buyer fills out the form*

Vendor: “Now speak with an SDR.”

Buyer: “And the product?”

Vendor: “Now speak with an AE.”

*Buyer sits through a meeting*

Vendor: “Now make a request for a demo from our SE.”

Buyer: “The product?”

Vendor: “Now that you’re speaking with an SE, let’s not jump prematurely into the product…”

You can’t fix this just with technology or consulting, because it’s a function of something deeper. This is about a broken, or even a toxic, mindset. 

How We Approach B2B is Fundamentally Skiwampus

We all point to the same B2B shifts: the size of buying groups has grown; there are now more millennials in those buying groups; they have different expectations for how to engage with vendors; their buying journeys are all kinds of asynchronous.

How do most respond to this, aside from pitching a digital transformation with a platform play at the center?

One of our customers told me that all of the training they give reps, all of the tech they buy to instrument teams, all of the workflows they map out, it’s all oriented around the seller! 

We have a nasty habit of holding buyers hostage to our own processes and calendars. This is the enemy!

And it’s a mindset thing, which has persisted for generations of sellers because of the mistaken notion that sellers close deals. The truth is “sellers can’t close deals, only buyers can.”

Buyers > Sellers

Sellers need training and tools and workflows. But if those things aren’t oriented around the customer, how can you possibly expect to reach your Mount Everest of performance?

I think the reason why so many teams keep doing things the same way is because it does produce some good results. Soft skills training sharpens a rep’s ability to guide conversations, like the all-too-important discovery call. Great tech makes you more productive. Following processes consistently generally gets you more predictable results.

But at some point we have to acknowledge how limited our ability to influence behaviors and decision-making is within this landscape of change. Especially if the above is all we’re doing.

If you’ve read anything from Consensus, you’ve seen this before. Gartner estimated that the average B2B buyer spends only 17% of their entire buying process in contact with ALL vendors. That’s a narrow window reserved for primarily live meetings, which aren’t even what buyers prefer most of the time. If there are 3 vendors in the mix, they each get maybe 5-6% of the buyer’s attention as they navigate a purchase (17% / 3 vendors). 

And in the remaining 83% of their time? Buyers are doing ALL of the selling! They’re building the business case, they’re finding exec sponsors, they’re bringing stakeholders up to speed on different pitches, and somehow still manage to show up to your relentless stream of meetings. 

That’s mixed into whatever other projects they’ve got going on. And while you’re working with 10 different customers, each of your customers is making this purchase just once every 2-3 years. 

Buyer Enablement is the Only Way Forward!

Buyers aren’t great at buying because they don’t do it often, there’s a lot of risk involved, and there’s no training for them on how to do it well. It’s no surprise, then, that so many decisions end with, “We’re just gonna stay with what we’ve got.”

Instead of making the training and the tech and the workflows all about your sellers, make it about guiding and coaching your buyers. They’re the only ones who can close deals, after all. And they need help!

You can see why this is a mindset issue. You’re not a seller anymore – you’re a buyer coach. You know what it takes to win over a buying group. You generally know what different stakeholders need. You know the milestones they need to reach in order to make a decision. 

You can’t control every aspect of what information buyers consume or who they talk with to validate your claims or how quickly they bring colleagues into the conversation. 

But you can guide them through their asynchronous journeys AND make buying easier and more pleasant. 

Where Tech Can Help: Selling Between Meetings

Tech alone can’t fix the problem. But one of the clearest and easiest places for you to apply tech to help is with content and the experiences buyers have consuming it that enable them to continue selling between meetings.

See the stats above about the percentage of time you actually have interacting with buyers. It’s not much. All of the action happens between your meetings, when you’re not around. 

If you can manage to give them an interactive experience, which they’re able to follow on their own – to learn about your solution, to help make the business case, to bring other people up to speed – you’ve solved one of the biggest problems in B2B. 

An email loaded with links and downloads won’t do. Adding meetings also doesn’t solve the problem. Even getting them to play with your product isn’t enough to fill the void. Why? None of that is truly guided; it may even be overwhelming. 

GUIDED requires relevant information, available on-demand, personalized to them with a clear path to follow, and it MUST be part of your strategy. 

They should be able to refer back to it frequently and get something new based on different stages.

They should be able to share it and cut down the number of internal pitches they have to go through. 

And YOU should be able to see all of that happening – all of their selections and anything they share (including who they share something with). Then, when you meet with them live, you can tailor that first conversation in a way that makes it feel a lot more like your traditional 3rd conversation. 

Tying It To The Problem Of The Product Demo Request

The kind of guided approach I’ve laid out above essentially automates stakeholder discovery, uncovers stakeholder priorities and gives buyers a channel for self-service product education. 

In a normal complex purchase, getting the same things done is at least a 3 to 4 month endeavor. But it could be condensed down into a week or two. 

Product demos remain one of the most important interactions buyers have with a vendor, but more broadly the demand for sales engineers and solution consultants includes requests for technical consultations, POC’s, implementation guides, FAQ documents and quite a bit more. 

Buyers want presales resources, so a solution focused on delivering better content and experiences must revolve around – or at least heavily leverage – interactive video product demos. 

When Presales is stretched, it creates bottlenecks and affects all aspects of the buying journey. Presales needs to scale in order to better qualify prospects and demand for access to their time. 

If you’re able to do that, you’ll unlock the shortest path to enabling buyers and fixing what’s broken.