“Sellers use their sales process to place solutions.”
“Buyers use their buying decision process to figure out how to resolve their problem with the least disruption.”
This is how Sharon Drew Morgen explains it. She’s been working to expose and close the gaps between buying and selling for years—and to share a process for helping people through their uncertainties so they can become buyers.
You’ve got to admit there’s very little overlap in those descriptions above. One is a solution looking for a problem to solve based on needs that are likely not clearly defined or agreed upon given internal resistance to disruption and uncertainty. The other is a change management initiative with individualized criteria sales reps lack insight to.
This is because our marketing-to-sales models and processes are not built to help buyers buy. They are sales-driven, not buyer-driven. At best, they aren’t even relevant until people have done the hard work of solving the change management problem so they can choose to become buyers.
As humans, we’re wired to dislike change. We do everything we can to avoid it to maintain the status quo we’re comfortable with—no matter if “better” options exist. Status quo is known, it’s the default option—something humans are predisposed to embrace. Change introduces risk and the potential of loss and failure.
People will also try everything they can to solve a problem internally—within their system of operations—rather than introduce something new that might dramatically upset the status quo. They must exhaust all their options, from workarounds with existing software to a custom build they can control before an agreement for change with consideration of an external solution can happen.
Sounds dismal for marketers and sellers, doesn’t it?
It’s also a huge opportunity, if you’re willing to risk changing the way you’ve always done it.
Deciding to Solve a Problem Is Not an Indication of Buyer Intent
I’ve been struggling with this one ever since I started working with intent data platforms. Just because someone searches on a term related to what we do or sell, this does not mean they are a buyer. It’s akin to filling out a form to get a paper making them a lead, instead of just a contact interested in the topic.
When I help clients build buyer personas, I start with status quo. Others often start with “why you need our solution” or “why choose to buy our solution.” But that’s assumptive, and often off the mark. To boost engagement and effectiveness we must help people become buyers first.
- What’s their current situation? How do they do things today?
- What’s happened that has them considering change?
- What do they need to know to choose to do the work of managing the change?
- Have they tried workarounds? Which ones? Where did they come up short?
- Do they have the means to solve the problem internally?
- Who else needs to be involved for the change to occur?
- What will making a change impact or disrupt (people, processes, systems)?
- Are there ways to manage and minimize those disruptions? How?
- Where are the points of risk in the change?
Marketers have a tremendous opportunity to help people become buyers. People need to find answers to these questions, and more, to create the consensus and confidence to become buyers and choose to search, find, and consider bringing in a new solution.
Sellers also can help people become buyers by learning to recognize when they aren’t ready and help them step through their change initiative—instead of trying to place a solution. If you want your reps to become trusted advisors, here’s the opportunity.
In either case, it’s not about your solution, it’s about their problem and their ability to manage change. Getting them to the point where they can see that change is less costly than status quo is when that magical transition to buyer readiness happens.
So back to the intent data platforms. When you model the mapping of your website and you tag pages in the taxonomy for product and solution, as indicative of intent, do you consider the impact of content that’s designed to help people assess what change entails?
A case also exists for how we develop our lead scoring schemas. It’s not about volume of content viewed, but which content. What context does that content indicate? What part of their change initiative are they working on?
We’re so quick to jump to the conclusion that the person is a buyer because they’ve looked at our product information that we fail to consider they may be looking to see what it does so they can figure out if they can solve the problem internally.
Moving from Sales-Driven to Buyer-Driven
Making the shift to close the gap between B2B buying and selling is not for the faint of heart. It takes “the way you’ve always done it” and pushes it out until buyers are ready to receive product information and consider choosing a solution. It’s a change management problem for your side of the process.
How many deals have stalled or ended in no decision? What if that outcome began to diminish?
People are going to do what they need to do to manage change—with you or without you. This determines the length of their buying cycle.
The encouraging part of this is that the process of change involves the same steps, no matter the problem. By adding the appropriate context, you can become the mentor and trusted advisor that helps them manage change and make that transition to buyer readiness. And help to shorten that buying process—which most buyers say they are in favor of.
They drive, but you can enable. And that’s a value-add with transformative potential…if we’re willing to give up the idea that our current sales process has anything to do with their buying process.