How to Market and Sell to the B2B Buying Committee
By Josh Baez, Client Engagement Manager at Heinz Marketing
Last month, I talked about how to create an ideal customer profile. Today, I want to continue the conversation and talk about how to map the B2B buying committee.
What is the B2B buying committee?
The B2B buying committee is a group of people involved in a purchase decision.
When you think about how you sell and market your solutions, you might think you’re only addressing a single person – maybe it’s the one who signs on the dotted line; or the person in charge of implementation; or even the end user. But unfortunately, a one-person decision is rarely ever a reality.
Today, there’s likely a whole group of individuals in the background – people you may not ever speak to who possess significant influence and decision-making power in making a purchase. And in order to effectively drive the buyer’s journey forward, these influencers and decision makers cannot be forgotten.
According to Gartner, “the typical buying group for a complex B2B solution involves 6 to 10 decision makers;” and each of these buying committee members comes with their own perspectives, backgrounds, biases, needs, and goals that must be addressed in order to push a decision forward. And as organizations grow larger, so too will their buying committees.
Therefore, in order to effectively sell and market to today’s (and tomorrow’s) B2B organizations, it’s imperative you think beyond the people you immediately interact with and create materials and campaigns that generate engagement, address concerns, and affirm decisions with the entire buying committee. Otherwise, your efforts only account for a small portion of a much greater sum. And your ability to predictably accelerate revenue – let alone generate it – is disabled dramatically.
Today’s B2B buying committees (and buying decisions) are growing more complex
Accounting for the entire B2B buying committee isn’t as easy as flipping a switch. Especially as B2B buying decisions and B2B buying committees only continue to grow more complex.
According to Gartner, 77% of B2B buyers stated that their latest purchase was very complex or difficult. It was also reported that today’s B2B buyers have greater access to information – from content to resources to reviews to product comparisons – than they’ve ever had before. However, these wide-open fields – made even wider by the explosion of new categories, solutions, and suppliers – have simultaneously left buyers overwhelmed – paralyzed to make decisions. And as a result, “the average buying group spends 15% of the buying cycle reconciling and prioritizing information” that each member has collected separately.
The need for buyer enablement in the B2B buying committee
The need for buyer enablement – that is, the ability for B2B sellers and marketers to enable their buyers to complete critical business tasks – is loud and clear. But it’s not as direct of a path as you might think.
As reported by Gartner, today’s B2B buyers only spend 17% of their time meeting with potential suppliers. Which means that “sellers [and marketers] have very little opportunity to actually influence customer decisions.”
On top of the complexities mentioned above, this makes the path to buyer enablement one that doesn’t necessarily lean on your sellers’ ability to sell or on your marketers’ ability to market.
Instead, the path to buyer enablement relies on 2 parts. The first is a deep understanding of who your buyers are, their roles in the buying committee, and how each member makes decisions throughout every stage of the buyer’s journey. The second is your ability to then turn those customer-centric insights into action – creating content and experiences that resonate with your buyers, foster consensus among the buying committee, and push decisions forward without friction.
“With more information, options, and people involved in a buying process, buyers are paralyzed when trying to move forward.” And now, more than ever, “sales [and marketing] teams must affirm customers’ confidence in their decisions to drive account growth.”
The question now is how. How do you build the foundations to address each member of the entire buying committee? How do you account for the new B2B buying journey? How do you enable buyers to drive better, accelerated outcomes for your business? Let’s explore these questions next.
2 questions to help B2B marketers and sellers map their target account’s buying committee
As we’ve discussed, today’s buying committees are incredibly complex. And in order to gain the attention and engagement of your buyers, your messaging, content, and buyer experiences must take this complex ecosystem into account.
To start the process of mapping, defining, and reaching your target account’s buying committee, consider 2 key questions:
- What is the buying scenario?
- Who plays a role in that buying scenario?
What is the buying scenario?
When we ask about the buying scenario, we’re really asking about how a decision gets made.
Understanding factors like purchase timeframes, number of buying centers and members, as well as what level a purchase decision can be made can massively help marketers and sellers more effectively plan and go to market with the right content, message, channels and expectations in mind.
According to SiriusDecisions, there are 3 types of buying scenarios to be aware of:
The Committee Scenario
- The Committee Scenario is a highly complex purchasing process where deals must be brought forth to the executive leadership team for approval.
- It is typically representative of price ranges in the hundreds of thousands to more than $1 million.
- It is a vertical, hierarchical, and structured process most typically associated with “solution selling.”
- This scenario has the longest purchase timeframes (1-2 quarters or more), as well as the greatest number of buying centers (5 or more) and buying members (6-10)
- The Committee Buying Scenario requires the highest level of interaction between the buying members to facilitate a purchase decision.
The Consensus Scenario
- The Consensus Scenario is a team-based decision, requiring multiple people from multiple teams to be involved.
- The typical price range for an offering in this scenario was $50-500MM.
- Here, the decision is horizontal, and it does not go to a senior-level executive team.
- However, this scenario is still moderately complex, requiring you to facilitate consensual, cross-functional decision-making across multiple buyer personas that must be influenced and informed in order to make a final decision.
The Independent Scenario
- The Independent Scenario is the simplest purchasing process where just one or two people are involved.
- Here, decisions remain within a specific function or department, which also makes it much easier to craft messaging, content, and campaigns.
- Deals associated with an independent scenario are typically transactional or e-commerce purchases.
Once you’re able to clearly identify the buying scenario within a target account, you can then start to determine who plays a role in that scenario.
Who plays a role in that buying scenario?
When we ask who plays a role in the buying scenario, we think about the roles and responsibilities of the people involved. And by grouping roles and responsibilities into specific categories, we can start to think about these as buying personas.
Traditionally, buyer personas identify personality traits, likes and dislikes, and lifestyle attributes. But these details alone don’t do anything to help marketers or sellers take action. While they might help paint a snapshot of who your buyers are; they do little to add any valuable insight on someone’s role in the buying committee, how they progress through the buyer’s journey, and what motivates them to make decisions.
Therefore, we believe that aligning your buyer personas – first and foremost – to the distinct roles in the buying committee gives B2B sellers and marketers much greater customer-centric insight that can, in turn, be used to create more resonant, meaningful messages, content, and experiences for different buyers at every stage of the buying journey.
We think about buying personas and roles in 4 categories:
- Decision Makers have the final decision on a purchase.
- Depending on the buying scenario and purchase type, they may be part of the C-Suite, a VP, or even a director.
- Decision Makers fall into one of two categories:
- Business Decision Makers, who are focused primarily on how the purchase impacts business ROI and revenue.
- Technical Decision Makers, who are focused primarily on how the purchase impacts business technologies, processes and operations.
Decision Sponsors or Champions
- Decision Sponsors or Champions are those who drive the purchase decision forward internally.
- They act as the primary spokesperson for your solution among their internal teams.
- They are likely going to be your main point of contact throughout the decision-making process.
- Purchase Influencers may not have a direct role in the purchase decision, but they have influence over the outcome.
- Purchase Influencers fall into one of two categories:
- Business Influencers, who are focused primarily on how the purchase impacts business ROI and revenue.
- Technical Influencers, who are focused primarily on how the purchase impacts business processes and operations.
- Users are those who will use the product in their day-to-day jobs.
- They are directly impacted by the purchase and are focused on how the solution will help them be more efficient, effective, and productive.
Mapping the B2B buying committee is a process that relies on a deep understanding of your buyers. It leans on your ability to know how decisions are managed, who’s involved, and what the needs, goals, and motivations are for each unique buying member. And to act on those insights in a thoughtful, customer-centric way.
But identifying the buying scenario and buyer personas is only the beginning of building a predictable, profitable pipeline. Because once you complete those tasks, you can begin to more thoughtfully and strategically develop your personas into highly-actionable, highly-valuable resources; refine your buyer’s journey and sales process to account for each member of your target account’s the buying committee; and create messaging and content specific to each persona to affirm decisions at each buying stage.
For now though, focus on filling in the gaps in your buying committee map to enable each and every buyer with the resources and information they need to make decisions and seal the deal.