Buyer Intent Data Helps Bridge Gap Between Buyers and Sales Process

Ed Marsh | Oct 26, 2018

You must map your traditional sales process to contemporary corporate procurement habits - Buyer Intent Data can help

Introduction to SignalsFromTheOP

Guide to episode

  1. Buyer expectations demand more vibrant website interactions
  2. We prefer to chat with buyers live - why not make it easier for them and us
  3. There are lots of ways besides live chat to incorporate conversation into our B2B marketing - these include video, voice, chatbots and more
  4. AI is changing this rapidly and it's allowing companies to manage leads which might otherwise have been ignored by sales reps

Transcript follows

Hi, I’m Ed Marsh. Welcome to this episode of Signals from the OP. An OP, or observation post, is a spot out ahead of the lines, beyond the noise and light, which provides early warning of enemy activity. That’s what I do with these videos – not enemy activity of course, but changes that will impact companies in the industrial manufacturing space.

Today I’m going to explore the mismatch between how most companies build their sales process and implement their sales methodology – vs. how companies are buying.

buyer intent data can help sales teams manage the complex buying team journey

This graphic recently produce by Gartner and titled “A Hard Slog” illustrates it incredibly well. Complex sales now must maneuver teams which average about 7 people from various disciplines within companies – and often with very different departmental priorities in addition to the biases and preferences each bring individually.

The process is brutal – for the buyers and the sellers. The landmines and booby traps are present throughout the process. It’s really hard to sell to teams – and it’s getting harder as they’re bigger and busier.

And yet most of the capital equipment manufacturers I speak to still have a sales process that includes a step of identifying the decision maker.

There isn’t one! 

I’ve tackled consensus decision making in another Signals episode, and often refer to the great work from Bob Apollo who writes about complex sales and the need for sales reps to qualify rigorously, uncover needs, illustrate outcomes, and focus attention on the value gap.

But most sales teams go forth talking about features, talking about them some more, and then talking about them yet more. That may be acceptable to the deal champion who’s willing to endure that in hopes of getting the project approved and past their colleagues – but for those with other perspectives like IT, HR, operations, finance, legal, safety, etc. it’s worse than irrelevant. It diffuses the focus and allows departmental and individual agendas to bubble up.

So what’s the solution?

It’s complex for sure. It involves hiring and training sales people that are capable of multi-dimensional thought, are very empathetic, and have lots of business acumen. It requires building marketing and sales enablement content that speaks to each of the buying team members – meeting them on the battlefield of their priorities.

And it means enabling the deal champion with the information, perspective and materials to sell their colleagues. 

During a recent persona discussion with a plant engineer that I contacted on behalf of a capital equipment client in the bulk material handling space, she told me that the best sales reps she worked with focused on helping her sell her colleagues on the buying team.

Companies that don’t take these steps will lose at an ever-accelerating rate to the status quo. That’s right, more and more deals are resulting in no decision. 

Sales teams will look at competitive losses and often overlook the number of deals that are lost to indecision. They’ll wonder why so many deals go quiet and the quote state of the pipeline bulges, but they rarely think of the status quo as a competitor. 

The tragedy in that case is that everyone loses. If in fact the prospect would have collectively benefited as an organization from implementing the solution, their company loses. And clearly the seller loses the deal.

This is one of the biggest challenges facing industrial manufacturers – and fixing it is a huge culture and change management project, involving lots of personnel changes and organizational adjustments to meet it.

But there’s an interim step that can help.

Simply knowing who’s actively buying, and who at a customer or prospect is actively researching products and / or services can help to provide rich, detailed marketing and sales intelligence.

Imagine if after several months of detailed engineering discussions with maintenance and operations teams you discover someone from IT, finance or HR departments at your prospect suddenly researching alternative solutions or direct competitors?

That would be an unwelcome – but, if we’re going to be honest – not unexpected development. The bigger risk is that it happen and that you not know – or even worse that your deal champion doesn’t even know! So knowing, even if it’s unpleasant, is the far better outcome.

With this intel you can adjust your complex sales process, coach the champion proactively, begin to target ABM ads at other participants and find ways to engage other members or advisors to the buying team.

Sound too good to be true? It’s not – you could be doing it today. That’s one of the fabulous use cases of buyer intent data. By identifying the actual users (not anonymous IP address based observation with imaginary contact details “overlaid” on top) by job title and action taken, your marketing and sales teams are able to adjust the approach to successfully manage the complex sale.

Real buyer intent data provides actual contact details. Not the mirage of anonymous IP address based observation with imaginary contact details “overlayed” on top!

Companies do themselves a disservice with process and language which perpetuates an obsolete approach to complex sales. The defined step qualification and sales process may have worked when decision makers really were – but it doesn’t work in today’s complex sales. But buyer intent data at least gives them a fighting chance.

I’m Ed Marsh. Thank you for joining me for this episode of Signals from the OP. If you enjoyed it, please share it and subscribe – either to my youtube channel EdMarshSpeaks.TV or at the related blog