How to Build Customer Consensus
Set the agenda and help it grow
Every working day the people in your key accounts discuss your products or those of other sellers. They communicate with each other, without you, through emails, group meetings or internal memos. And, in a more laid-back mode, in the corridors or around the coffee machine.
Some are more influential or knowledgeable than others. Some have operational and budget responsibilities; others would be personally affected by the investment that you are proposing. Others may represent special interests like safety or environmental considerations.
No wonder business decisions take so long.
Where your salespeople don’t want to be
According to recent research, an average b2b decision involves more than a dozen individuals over many months, or even years. That is far more than most potential suppliers realize, partly because they are not directly engaged.
Apart from the actual information gathering or possible negotiations with your competitors, much of that time is used to reach some degree of internal consensus: What are the immediate and long term business objectives? How would this affect the bottom line? Are there any risks involved? And, not least, which knowledge and services should we demand from a potential vendor?
Once the buying organization has reached an agreement about all that, the rest of their buying journey is mainly about price and delivery terms. Which is probably where your salespeople
don’t want to be – especially when they haven’t even spoken to them yet.
Reach everybody that counts
Now, imagine if you could influence that complex internal buying journey much earlier – reaching everyone who could influence your project. Introducing some alternative reasons-to-buy or, say, a different perspective? Suggesting some other sources of factual knowledge or referring to peers or experts with qualified experience?
When you are dealing with high value accounts, generic advertising messages tend to be inefficient or worse. Providing meaningful food for thought to stimulate internal discussions is a totally different matter, but only if you do it right.
Doing it right means knowing exactly what the target account wants; providing useful and easy-to-grasp information; reaching everybody that may influence the decision to buy; updating the dialogue, throughout the buying cycle. And beyond, because solid business relations should never end.
Account based strategy, alignment and technology
To really influence the agenda of your key accounts, and help build consensus you need a defined account-based marketing strategy. And, to do that, you need to focus on fewer accounts, rather than chasing the maximum number of leads.
Internally, you’ll need complete alignment of both Sales and Marketing with the objectives of the identified needs of the target accounts. Which makes it a key C-suite issue. You will also need a technology platform to sense anonymous buyer activity, drive and direct your customer interaction every step of the way.
So, rather than letting the buyer organization push you into a corner, set the agenda early and help it grow. One thing is certain: it is way more cost-efficient than what you’re doing now.