Discovery is most often considered a function performed by sales reps. But in this context, it’s more about discovery FOR the sales rep, NOT B2B buyers.
One of the problems marketing and sales have as B2B buyers’ roles shift is that they start too late in the process. I firmly believe this timing factors into why conversations with sales reps push to the back of the bus.
And this isn’t because sales reps don’t have and share information or add value. It’s the type and focus of the information that’s the issue–usually all about your product and functionality. So, they’re not considered relevant while B2B buyers are dealing with early discovery about the change process they must complete before they can buy anything.
There’s an entire change management process buyers must navigate before your potential customer is wearing their buyer hat. Until they complete all those jobs to be done, a gap still exists between buying and selling.
ABM is a Great Construct for B2B Buyer Discovery
ABM is a terrific vehicle for enabling marketers and sellers to work in parallel to help B2B buyers do their own discovery and complete their pre-buying work to enable them to buy what you’re selling.
The premise of ABM is to focus on accounts, rather than leads. What this means is focusing on the buying committees within target accounts that fit your company’s ideal customer profile (ICP).
If done well, you establish relationships with all those involved in the buying process. But, taken further, you can help all those stakeholders engage proactively with each other in relation to deciding how to solve the problem at hand.
First, consider the problems your future customers encounter trying to decide to whether to solve a problem, if the payoff is worth it, and how to go about it.
Diagnosing the Problem. Buyers often can see what they think is the problem in how an outcome or goal is missed when it used to be achievable. Something has changed that the current system isn’t factoring in therefore the current process is now underperforming. But, why?
Is it the process, the people, or the technology that’s underperforming? Or a combination?
- If your buyer identifies process, then it may be a workflow issue that needs to be redesigned.
- If your buyer identifies people, then perhaps they look for training or coaching.
- If your buyer identifies technology, then is it an upgrade, an integration with a point solution, or perhaps using a technology used elsewhere in the business that could solve the problem.
How will they know? What work do they need to do to get to the true cause of the problem they’ve identified?
Even more so, if it’s a combination of people, process, and technology, the complexity increases – which is usually the case. It’s hard to change just one of those without impacting the others.
Enrolling the Right Stakeholders. Who are all the stakeholders to involve? This may differ depending on the type of problem diagnosed. And how will your buyer know when they’ve enrolled all the people who need to be involved in solving it? What happens if they overlook someone?
Marketers (and sellers) must realize that consensus isn’t a one-time thing. It must be reached continuously at each step, or the buying committee cannot move forward. When surprises happen, such as overlooked stakeholders showing up, stalls follow bringing that person up to speed and consensus could falter as stakeholders revisit once completed jobs.
When taking an ABM approach, focusing on all stakeholders is the point. You’re not just engaging and helping one contact advance. You must help them all make progress, as well as helping them to collaborate and compromise during that progression. Each contact in the account will come with their own perspective and responsibilities, concerns, and objectives for solving the problem. Getting alignment at each step is critical to maintaining consensus.
Evaluating Risk and Disruption. Fixing a problem means embracing change. Every company runs on a system. It’s the way companies are designed or there’d be chaos. Changing a system isn’t easy. There’s bound to be disruption and there’s the risk that things could go wrong.
Fixing a problem usually has impacts beyond the department where the problem resides. Just as the missed goals and objectives that resulted from the problem rumble beyond the department where they’ve occurred.
A business is an interconnected system. One broken thing can break others. Likewise, the fix to the problem will also have pass-along impacts.
- What are they?
- How will they be managed?
- Are they acceptable?
- What tradeoffs or compromises will need to be made among stakeholders to arrive at a solution that can maintain consensus?
Back to ABM…and Seamless Transitions
The beauty of ABM is that marketing and sales can work together to impact your B2B buyers’ discovery path when armed with the right insights, content, and plays aimed at helping with discovery. And the consistency of relevant and timely engagement will be surprising and welcome enough to get your relationship off on the right foot.
Consider that most buyers don’t make complex purchases every day. Chances are that the fix to their new problem has a bunch of unknowns to consider they didn’t deal with the last time they solved a similar problem. This leads to a lack of confidence in where to begin or even where to start to solve the problem. And a lack in confidence in themselves to move forward.
Gartner research, when looking based on size of deal, found that 50% of respondents said that surprise steps delayed buying efforts. In essence, buyers don’t know their own buying process. They need help.
Marketers and sellers often assume that buyers know what problem they’re solving and what they need to buy to fix the problem. Some of them may. Those are the folks who’ve gone through their own discovery process without your help and figured it out (or think they have)—perhaps with the help of your competitors.
Take a step back and start even earlier than you are today. Your future customers need your help to navigate their buying process. And, while you’re helping them embrace the idea of the change needed to fix the problem, you’ll be building relationships and engagement that will result in downstream revenue. And that transition will be seamless, as the next step in a well-orchestrated buying process that they are able to justify making.
As Hank Barnes asked at the end of this post, “Can we afford not to educate and guide our prospects on how to buy effectively?”