It’s time for B2B companies to rethink their sales machinery. The way buying decisions are being made has changed, yet how it is measured has not, says Carbon Design’s Scott Gillum. Here’s what you should be rationally considering in order to convince increasingly emotional buyers.
Selling something to someone is risky... for them, not you – especially if this is a first-time purchase. You’re asking a buyer to take a risk by making a decision with the organization’s money, on a vendor or solution they don’t know, with only the promise of a reward to come.
The first part of the buyer’s journey involves three things – collecting information (about vendors and solutions), defining/understanding the need/problem, and trying to mediate risk (see the first two).
The point: where there is risk, there is an emotional buyer. The rational driver of the decision-making process takes a backseat to the emotional side of the brain. And now for the problem – the way we qualify and measure the quality of a lead or buyer is almost completely rationally driven.
Let’s take BANT (budget, authority, need and timing) as an example. Do they own or have access to a budget? Rational. Are they the decision maker? Rational. Do we understand their needs? Check, rational. Do we know the decision-making timeframe or when the budget might be available? Check and check.
Maybe it’s unfair to use BANT, so let’s try using Strategic Selling as a framework. Are they the economic buyer? Rational. Are they the technical buyer? Rational. Insert your own process or steps from marketing automation, ABM program, or CRM platform, and you’ll come to the same conclusion.
The point is our performance is poor and does not improve because we are not capturing half or more of the key elements of the purchasing process. We track an action or activity without understanding the reason behind it.
Downloading a white paper, attending a webinar, or requesting information may or may not indicate intent. Without understanding the reasons behind those actions, we can only use metrics based on similar actions from the past, and that is why our performance is so poor. It’s also the reason why it is so difficult to improve performance.
Our metrics too often reflect rearview mirror actions, recording what happened in the past without insight into what will happen in the future. AI will begin to fill in that blank, but it will be informed only by looking at what actions happened in the past as well.
We have no metrics for tracking the emotional involvement of the buyers involved in the purchase decision. And the most important of all of them is motivation.
Plenty of organizations and decision makers have needs. The question is, are they motivated to solve them? Most importantly, are they motivated to advocate for your brand or solution? The more you understand the differences in buyers’ personal preferences and motivations, the more you’ll understand that the way we measure our sales and marketing activities, and performance, is incomplete.
For example, some buyers are motivated by bringing new ideas into the organization, but will not advance the buying process. Others will champion ideas and drive them forward, but only if it benefits them. These behaviors ebb and flow within the corporate culture – a culture that also has its own motivations and behaviors, impacting how buyers behave within it.
And all of this is happening in real-time – not in a well-defined process, with rational steps neatly constructed within a linear timeline. Contributing to the challenge is the ever-growing investment in the sales and marketing tech stack that chases optimization through machinery. Because we can’t get better, we must go broader.
What to do about it
Sales is not just a ‘numbers game’, it’s also a head game, and it’s time for us to get our heads into that game. There are three steps that can help you track the ‘softer’ side of the buying process:
Understand that corporate culture impacts decision making – start defining the dominant corporate culture. Is it sales, product, science or engineering? Track competing initiatives inside the organization that may disrupt your sales success. This will help you understand the organizational motivation and how to align your efforts. Also, as a start, see Hank Barnes’s insightful work on corporate culture.
Understand that buyers have personalities that impact motivations – marketing has recognized that emotions exist in B2B and are being used to motivate audiences to act, but this has not made its way into demand generation and sales.
Add the right tool to the martech stack – invest in personality profiling tools like xiQ or Crystal Knows to add the emotional elements that you are currently missing.
To improve, we need to add ‘why’ metrics to the ‘what’ currently tracked. As Kurt Vonnegut put it in his novel Player Piano: “If it weren’t for the people, the goddamn people always getting tangled up in the machinery ... the world would be an engineer’s paradise.” For better or worse, our buyers are people, not a role or a title, and those people are rational and emotional.
The way we have constructed our measurement systems is based on an overly rationalized process driven by legacy manufacturing management practices that seek optimization through repetition. It’s not working. It’s time to rethink the machinery so we can stop ourselves getting tangled up in it.
Scott Gillum is founder and chief executive at Carbon Design.