Spencer Wixom

A version of this post was originally published on Sales Enablement Pro and can be found here. 

Today’s sellers must be capable of breaking down the customer’s status quo.

To convince buyers that change is needed, sellers need the skills to deliver unique insights that appeal to both buyers’ rational and emotional senses. This means that salespeople do not just need to know what to say, they need to know how to deliver the message in an effective way. By nurturing the characteristics and behaviors that make salespeople productive and combining that with impactful messaging, sales enablement practitioners can increase salespeople’s capability to bring true value to buyers.

As the market landscape and buying processes continue to increase in complexity, companies need to dig deep into the capabilities of their sales teams to ensure they connect effectively with buyers. This begins with understanding exactly what is changing in the customer’s world and why.

How is the Landscape Changing?

1. Number of stakeholders involved in a purchase decision

As more people are involved in evaluating a purchase, the chance this ‘buying group’ comes to consensus and makes a decision to buy declines significantly. When just one individual bears the responsibility, he or she has an 81% likelihood of taking action. However, this likelihood drops to 55% with the addition of a second buying group member due to the increased probability of clashing opinions and friction slowing the process. The trend continues as more buyers become involved; with six stakeholders, odds of a favorable decision drop to just 31%.

When paired with the fact that the number of stakeholders involved in a purchase decision is also steadily on the rise, sellers must learn to effectively engage the entire buying group – especially as these trends show no sign of slowing.

Challenger graph 1

The average number of stakeholders involved in complex B2B decisions rose from 5.4 in 2015 to 6.8 in 2016. This year, that number leaped to 10.2 individuals. Such massive changes in buying group dynamics can dramatically affect the likelihood of sellers being able to close business. There are a few factors that influence the complexity of large groups in evaluations:

  • Diffusion of risk: Organizations are typically risk-averse, so individuals want to push risk to as many stakeholders from as many departments as possible. Rather than make a decision alone, they can share the blame if the risk proves unsuccessful.
  • Information overload: A single individual could never feasibly process all the information out there about solutions and come to an informed decision from it. They need more people involved to help digest information.
  • Globalization: As companies grow, the important teams and stakeholders in an organization that need to be involved in decision-making spread further across the globe.
  • Complex solutions: Solutions increasingly integrate into more aspects of the business, which warrants the involvement of more stakeholders representing diverse perspectives and departments in the decision-making process.

2. The time it takes buyers to decide

As complexity in buying processes increase, sales cycles are stretching, with the average lasting 4.9 months. This length may not seem surprising for a complex B2B buying decision and the distribution around this mean is likely significant. What is concerning, however, is that it takes nearly as long for buyers to come to no decision, or 4.7 months on average.

Challenger graph 2

Where there has historically been a wedge in the sales funnel – a steady decrease in the number of deals moving forward or out over time – there is now an upside-down obelisk. This means that almost every opportunity moves forward in the funnel until the end when only a few become closed-won.

It is tremendously wasteful to have salespeople spend four months in all kinds of meetings, negotiations, demonstrations, and presentations for only a small percentage of those deals to close in a win. Modern sales teams must address the fact that it takes just as long to not buy as it takes to buy.

3. The influence of buying experience in purchase decisions

Looking beyond whether the seller closes a deal, it is equally important to measure the impression that the seller left on the customer. No matter the quality of the solution, if a buyer has a negative experience with a seller, it can lead to regret and lack of trust in the supplier. Ultimately, this makes it more difficult to upsell, cross-sell, or retain existing customers. While also having the potential to lead to the spread of negative word-of-mouth that can have a domino effect on other buyer relationships.

In fact, there is a near-linear correlation between the degree of purchase regret and whether a buyer found the purchase experience overwhelming or difficult.

Support throughout the entire buyer journey

With increasingly complex B2B purchase decisions leading to a higher likelihood of buyer’s remorse, it is imperative that salespeople are equipped to manage relationships with customers throughout the entire buyer’s journey.

Spencer Wixom

Spencer Wixom

Spencer is Senior Vice President of Marketing at Challenger, and has helped transform sales and marketing teams in some of the biggest and best companies in the world.