The Complexity Of Selling To 6.8 Stakeholders

Previously we took a close look at how buyer expectations have shifted due to the immense amount of information and options available. As a result today’s buyers struggle to analyse and process this information to make an informed decision, and the right decision. Therefore “buyers are now looking for intelligent sales engagements. They want less salespeople and more trusted advisors. They know about the product features and functions. They want someone to add value to them” (Arman Masoudi, Microsoft Australia - Qotient Sales Disruption Seminar, Sydney).

Whilst it is harder for buyers to make a purchase decision in today’s connected landscape, in turn it is now harder for salespeople to sell. And this is not just because buyers are faced with too many options and too much information. LinkedIn (n.d.) recently released their key takeaways from a seminar presented by the Corporate Executive Board on The Challenger Customer, where two selling roadblocks were examined:

  • There are now on average, 6.8 stakeholders per B2B deal, and
  • Sales-led organizations are selling the one thing customers don’t want to buy; change

So today we are going take a detailed look at challenges salespeople face when selling to 6.8 stakeholders. 

6.8 STAKEHOLDERS PER B2B DEAL

In today’s B2B sales landscape, salespeople are no longer dealing with one executive (where there is an 80% likelihood the deal will close) (LinkedIn, n.d.). Today salespeople are now dealing with 6.8 stakeholders on average (Gabriel Tsavaris, CEB - Qotient Sales Disruption Seminar). As a result, the likelihood a deal will close drops significantly to 30% (LinkedIn, n.d.). 

Selling is complex not only because salespeople are now dealing with multiple stakeholders, but because now they must also manage each stakeholder who has their own profile with distinct behavioural characteristics. LinkedIn (n.d.) established seven Stakeholder Profiles following a recent CEB presentation on The Challenger Customer, highlighting the characteristics that differentiate each profile:  

  • The Go-Getter - Looks for new ideas and ways to improve organizational practices. They’re great project leaders that are focused toward driving the project forward.
  • The Skeptic - Like the idea of new ideas and the change it can bring. However completing a careful analysis from every angle before moving forward is their top priority. Even if they are in agreement they are still skeptical and cautious about this change.
  • The Friend - Always ready to share updates of the discussions amongst stakeholders, with regards to any current roadblocks or decisions that have been made.
  • The Teacher - Keeps the end result in mind, and constantly emphasizes the benefits to the rest of the group.
  • The Guide - Demonstrates their wealth of knowledge to the group, expressing what they know and others don’t.
  • The Climber - “The person who’s all about individual advancement rather than organizational winning”
  • The Blocker - Like to stick with the status quo, they are the ones that don’t see the need for change.

Thus salespeople are now faced with a number of diverse perspectives as each stakeholder holds their “own motivations, concerns and priorities” when it comes to a purchase decision (Soderberg-Arpedio, 2016). As a result buying dysfunction occurs.

Salespeople can often reframe a buyer’s beliefs and get them onboard with the idea of change. However the real challenge lies in their ability to get the entire stakeholder group in alignment, and sharing a common vision and end goal. This can be particularly difficult when stakeholders are reluctant to make decisions or compromise, make decisions based on a single factor or on those that prevent losses rather than deliver gains (Adamson & Toman, 2014). This slows the entire sales cycle, and can sometimes bring it to a complete halt (Salesforce, 2015). In turn deals start to fall through as 37% of the way through the sales process, and 46% of stakeholder groups report that agreeing on a course of action as a group is highly difficult (Salesforce, 2015).  

The number one reason stakeholders are reluctant to make a purchase decision is because every sales-led organization is selling the one thing buyers don’t actually want to buy; change (LinkedIn, nd.). And when we don’t want something to change we resist it, and this resistance has added a whole other layer of complexity to selling. Stakeholders, employees and individuals alike are now skeptical about making purchase decisions, as investing in a new solution is risky, unknown, and ultimately disruptive (Bacharach, n.d.).

Sources:

Adamson, B. & Toman, N. (2014). Why You Should Teach Customers How to Buy. Retrieved from https://www.cebglobal.com/blogs/sales-why-you-should-teach-customers-how-to-buy/

Bacharach, S. (n.d.). 4 Reasons Your Employees Resist Chnage -- And How To Overcome Them. Retrieved from http://www.inc.com/samuel-bacharach/four-reasons-your-employees-resist-change-and-how-to-overcome-them.html

LinkedIn. (n.d.). The Challenger Customer: The New Reality Of Sales. Retrieved from https://business.linkedin.com/content/dam/business/sales-solutions/global/en_US/c/pdfs/The-Challenger-Customer-vF.pdf

Salesforce. (2015). The Challenger Customer - Are you targeting the right decision maker? [PDF] Retrieved from http://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/359201/The-Challenger-Customer.pdf?t=1448282743431

Soderberg-Arpedio, J. (2016). Who's Buying? Identifying the Right Stakeholders in Your Deal. Retrieved from http://www.inflexion-point.com/blog/whos-buying-identifying-the-right-stakeholders-in-your-deal