In his recent Forbes article You’re Doing It Wrong: Demand Generation, Patrick Spenner* lays out a strong argument to suggest that marketers who focus on individual decision-maker personas may be doing more harm than good. The crux of Spenner’s argument rests on the notion that current content marketing strategies don’t account for the complex and powerful group dynamics of buying committees, which underlie the decision-making process of B2B purchases. Nor, Spenner suggests, do content strategies address the early stage at which these “group dysfunction dynamics” are at their peak: when the buying committee is “wrestling with the nature of the solution” (typically 37% into their buyer’s journey, whereas sales teams are only invited into the conversation, on average, at the 57% mark).
According to Spenner, the marketing challenge is to influence multiple decision makers early – before they actively engage sales – helping them reach the right consensus opinion (i.e. to buy the marketer’s product or solution). Yet, at least for this article, he stops short at explaining how best this should be done. Another article, The Challenges of Engaging with Multiple Decision Makers**, points out that identifying and focusing on the most influential decision makers isn’t really an option, as individual decision makers rarely wield more than 30% of the influence.
However, what Spenner doesn’t make clear is that his research is primarily focused on large companies, with an average buying committee size of 5.4 people. In reality, buying group size depends on the size of the purchase. For purchases under $50k, as well as for small and mid-sized businesses, the buying committee is likely to be smaller – perhaps only one or two people.
Here are six steps marketers can take to increase target account engagement and sales:
- Consider whether an account-based marketing approach, which focuses deeply on individual accounts as a market of one, makes financial sense. ABM can be advantageous for both seller and buyer in expanding business within large existing accounts, especially in complex sales with long cycles. Research supports our own common sense in believing it is significantly easier to sell to existing customers, rather than sourcing new prospects***.
- Research target accounts, identify the key decision making roles and develop multiple personas (one for each of the major decision-making functions e.g. sales, marketing, IT, finance).
- Use prospect surveys as a way to identify current challenges and deliver early sales engagement – these are a great way to initiate contact with decision makers during the investigation phase of their buying process. Consider surveying each persona type.
- Analyze each account and develop the commercial insights necessary to challenge existing mental models and approaches of the buying committee – as recommended by Spenner’s organization, the Corporate Executive Board Company (CEB)****.
- Working closely with sales, provide the intelligence, insights, and sales enablement capabilities necessary for the account sales team to be valued as thought leaders and trusted advisors by the members of buying committees.
- Build a strong feedback loop between account reps and the account marketing team. Share results from insights tested with targeted decision makers and make modifications as appropriate.
Is there more that marketing can be doing to help with sales enablement and to get better aligned? Download the SimplyDIRECT Sales Enablement Checklist to get additional ideas about supporting sales in their efforts to close business. Click on the button below.
What steps do you find most effective when it comes to increasing prospect engagement and sales enablement?