Some 200+ attendees were welcomed by Chapter President Jeanine Gaffke as she spoke briefly about member feedback and focusing on a few key initiatives for the upcoming year. These included having a slate of top-notch speakers for the breakfast and lunch series, greater accessibility of board members, and more “local” events for ease of access and attendance (including a new dinner series that will be happening in suburban locations).
And the first speaker did not disappoint, as CEB’s Brent Adamson, co-author of The Challenger Sale, provided a preview of their new book The Challenger Customer. This groundbreaking book flips the entire premise of B2B “selling” on its ear, as it embraces the fact that buyers are almost 60% through their process before ever engaging with a supplier organization.
Crunching data gleaned from over 100,000 buyers, CEB found that it is really HARD TO BUY … not because of supplier issues, but rather because of the dysfunctions within the buyer’s own organization. Not surprisingly, the data also showed that the chances of doing a deal, any deal, decreased as the number of stakeholders increased. With 5.4 stakeholders involved in the typical buying process, the long cycle from interest to closed deal often winds up in what Adamson calls the “Solutions Graveyard.”
Adamson also talked about the typical B2B marketer’s solution to this issue: to “track them down and win them over,” mainly through the definition of personas and the building of content and tools needed to “persuade” each persona in the process. But, in one of the biggest “A-HA” moments of the session, the data shows that the more marketers try to tailor content and the sale to any individual persona, THE LESS LIKELY the sale is to happen. He theorized that this is because focusing on the smaller issues of individual stakeholders (versus a larger unifying theme across all stakeholders) actually promotes individual agendas to the detriment of the whole.
What the research did show was that there are seven distinct buyer personality types that categorize into three overarching categories: “Mobilizers”—those that will champion a concept through an organization and build consensus across stakeholders; “Talkers”—those that sound like they can but actually cannot; and “Blockers”—those that will try to stop change at all costs.
And in the end, just as with The Challenger Sale, Adamson discussed the need to provide buyers commercial insight, focusing on a buyer’s current beliefs versus the supplier’s desired beliefs and behaviors, essentially moving the buyer from “A” to “B.” But in another interesting and counterintuitive plot twist, he said the focus should be on winning the battle for the “A,” providing insights to the buyer that the pain of same is greater than the pain of change. Once that battle is won, the buying (and selling) cycle will compress and go to the provider of the insight.