The biggest challenge facing sales and marketing teams today is not a selling problem, but rather, a buying one. It seems that the ability to make any decision inside a company has ground to nearly a halt. Consensus requirements are higher than ever before, and the likelihood of customers reaching purchase decisions continues to decrease. This is due to the hangover from the global recession leaving organisations more risk-averse than in the past. Not to mention the growing complexity, breadth and cost of solutions, which results in more and more diverse customer stakeholders weighing in on the decision. Add to that today’s flatter organisational structures, and it’s no wonder there are more people involved in buying decisions.
Our new book The Challenger Customer: Selling to the Hidden Influencer Who Can Multiply Your Results shows that on average there are 5.4 people making a buying decision in any organisation. Indeed, decision-making has been deferred from the senior leader to the committee. It’s not just more people, but increasingly more diverse – often divergent – perspectives. Because of this, it is critical to find the person within that buying group who can help stitch together consensus.
Sounds simple enough, but, it turns out that the point of contact most sellers call upon to do this is the wrong contact all together. The traditional advocate or champion – one who is collegial, approachable, a true fan of your solution – is rarely able to drive consensus. Instead, sellers should be targeting the sceptical stakeholder, the person who couldn’t care less about your solution or its features and benefits, and instead values great ideas for their business. This person will challenge your sales team to make sure an idea is right for their organisation. But, once they commit, they will quickly forge consensus, challenge their internal colleagues to think differently, and drive the required change within their organisation. These stakeholders are the Challenger customers, or as we like to call them, Mobilisers.
Interestingly, Mobilisers aren’t always the most senior people in the organisation. Rather, they’re determined by a set of characteristics that will allow them to drive decisions forward. Mobilisers are the people who push their organisations to do better and demand more than the status quo. A character trait all Mobilisers share is that they are more difficult to convince, but because of this they have the credibility to secure buy-in among their colleagues.
So, how exactly do sales and marketing teams identify the right person in an organisation who will be able to help make a decision and drive a purchase? They need to focus on “unteaching” customers. Instead of thought leadership – that focuses on showing the customer how smart you are – sales and marketing teams need to offer up Commercial Insights. Done correctly, Commercial Insights will challenge the customer’s perspective and show them respectfully and tactfully that their current way of thinking about their business is wrong. This exposes the cost of the status quo, then provides a more precise view on the problem, its causes, and the right course of action. Mobilisers require this new vision (and evidence) to initiate their own change process.
The route to a purchase decision is not as straightforward as it once was. But, identifying the Mobiliser, and arming them with a new way of thinking, will help put you a step ahead of the competition.