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Adapt or Die- How to Adapt to the 2022 Buyer?  

Aparna Shah
August 30, 2022

Modern B2B buyers are more independent, informed, and demanding than they were a decade ago. They want end-to-end autonomy over their purchase decisions and want to drive their conclusions without involving your sellers. 

To remain competitive in this buyer-driven B2B landscape, sales leaders must understand and adapt to new buyer behavior and expectations. 

In a recent panel discussion with Modern Sales Pros, we shared our take on the modern buyer persona, their challenges, and what, as a salesperson, you need to do to align with their ever-evolving demands and expectations. 

The panel of speakers included: 

  1. Brandon Calley- VP of Sales, Qualia 
  2. Shankar Ganapathy- Co-founder and CRO, BuyerAssist
  3. Andrew Bothwell- SVP of Sales and Success, Spekit 

View the discussion below and keep reading for an insightful take on modern buyer behavior and changing B2B marketplace. 

# Who is the modern buyer? 

Brandon Calley 

Modern buyers are entering the marketing and sales funnel way further down than ever. It predominantly depends on your buyer's persona. Today, while selling to an IT buyer, you’ll notice that they are more educated about different vendors and their product offerings. Ten to fifteen years ago, as an AE or a salesperson, there was a lot to do with educating the buyers with the comprehensive discovery required. However, less technical discovery and increased mapping of the technical requirements are essential today. This is where sellers become their guide and help buyers get what's needed to change their go/no-go decision in your favor. 

If you shift gears when selling to vertical SaaS like Qualia, Toast, or Procore, you’ll notice that they’re engaging with their buyers further down the funnel. However, as a seller, you must be more thorough and strategic with the business discovery because you're engaging with buyers who deeply care about solving business problems and economics. 

No matter what segment you're selling into- SMB, mid-market, or enterprise, businesses are solving more problems with technology now than ever. And therefore, making sure you clearly understand the persona's objectives and pain points and mapping those to the future state is critical. 

Shankar Ganapathy 

In one of my recent B2B buyer interviews, a medical device company bought a $2.25 mn, 3-year contract with a marketing automation vendor. Towards the end of the buying process, the primary buyer realized that he had to sell to a new finance committee. Now selling to this finance committee is competitive as they may compare two solutions to solving different problems...and will buy only one of them at a given time. This is where enabling your champion on “why this” is the most critical problem and the solution becomes critical. 

As we talked about B2B sales being extremely competitive, B2B buying has become highly competitive too. Here, you’re not just bidding against a direct competitor but also pitching why you are the most relevant solution right now. 

Today the B2B buyer journey is overwhelming. With “digital” becoming the new frontier, creating and distributing compelling content has become incredibly cheap, paving the way for your competition to directly or indirectly push out something similar or contrasting. This also means your buyers are getting more confused and have started developing a sense of blocking vendors off until they’re confident about what they want to solve. The ability to recraft the narrative, recruit the problem, and recap the solution has become a much more challenging objective. 

Andrew Bothwell 

Our buyers are consumers at the end of the day. And so, as a sales organization, you should meet buyers’ expectations irrespective of where they're in the funnel. Your BDR team needs to educate the prospects rather than wait for them to ask for a demo.

From my experience, buyers tend to run away from unprepared sellers. If you're not prepared, you will not be able to meet their requirements making the evaluation of your solution a challenge for them. At the end of the day, as a seller representing the business, you need to be able to meet buyers and help them understand how to evaluate the solution to get to the business problem.  

# In the current view, what challenges does a modern buyer face in today's B2B buying cycle? 

Shankar Ganapathy 

B2B buyers find it difficult to differentiate you from your competition in the current macro environment. Every brand looks and sounds the same. This poses a big challenge for modern buyers in determining which vendor to pick to solve their problem.

The second problem that buyers face is the cross-functional nature of B2B buying. Sales could not live without marketing as it has a close cross-functional relationship with marketing. Therefore, you need to buy tools that integrate sales and marketing. 

The top 5% of your salespeople can sell anything - your product, their previous company’s product, and whatnot. The best salespeople are ruthlessly focused on customer advocacy. They care about what the customer wants and ensure that the customer achieves that. To make the right purchase decision, the best sellers carry their team, C-suite executives, and external team. They even take their champions and the buying team to ensure everyone's life they touch is made straightforward, ultimately making it easier for the buyers to buy from them. 

Andrew Bothwell

Each individual will look at various tools and technology when five to six people are involved in the buying process. In a business, everybody has a different perspective on how a solution solves that problem. Furthermore, the problem may depend on who you’re selling to. So guiding buyers through the process is essential. 

Asking tough questions relies on what outcome you're trying to drive. When you do that as part of your selling process, the top 5% of sellers get to bring the buying party together and align with the successful ones. 

With the growth of the PLG motion,  bringing buying parties together is extremely important and challenging. Even when working with one or two people, you must remember that two or three involved behind the scenes are looking at the competition or other tools. So, bringing consensus among them with a strong PLG strategy when you're tightly aligned with the marketing organization will also help drive the process. 

How do you plan to stand out with the follow-ups? In my opinion, sharing a quick loom saying, “hey, this is how we're going to solve your problem,” because you might only get one shot and sharing a bunch of links or words in that follow-up mutual plan, chances of getting lost in the fray of emails are very high. So again, try to set yourself apart and differentiate yourself and your organization; the problem you'll help them solve is just critical.

Brandon Calley 

There are more ways of solving a business problem than ever before. Companies can now build solutions for these business problems with more skilled developers. 

If you think about the enterprise sale or a complex sale today, you try to identify the economic buyer, the champion, and the other critical stakeholders in the decision-making process, but you're trying to figure out 

  • Who's internally on the selling team? 
  • Who needs to be involved in helping you win the deal? 
  • How do I make the right decision with all these options as a buyer? 
  • Do I need a go/no-go metric? 
  • Who in my organisation needs to be involved in the decision? 
  • Who needs to be a part of the committee? 

The buyers are trying to figure out that same piece on their side, such as 

  • Who should be involved in this committee?
  • What role do they play in the decision-making process? 

The great John Mcmahon coined this term the “seller deficit disorder,” which has two variables:  

  1. The salespeople don't listen to my business 
  2. The salespeople don't understand my business 

And how do we close that delta? With thoughtful discovery. We want to know where they are in their buyer’s journey. 

  • Are they in their awareness phase, which we commonly run with SMBs when selling to vertical SaaS? 

  • Are they in an education phase and consuming loads of content? 

  • Are they educated on your product and other vendors that can similarly solve the problem? 

  • Are they further down the funnel in the selection phase, where they want to discuss commercials? 

Thoughtful discovery ensures that you clearly understand the stakeholders and decision-making process. Will your product solve the problem in a meaningful way for their business, or is it just smoke and mirrors? Once you understand that you can solve the buyer’s pain and know exactly who on their side is involved in the decision-making process, you can start to map the current state of today to the future state where you want to go and how you can get there. 

Today, as a seller, you need to know how the key parties, the people involved in their decision to help you get to the future state. 

#How does Mutual Success Plan help your sales team align with the buyer and ultimately with modern buyer preferences?

Shankar Ganapathy

If you think about mutual success plans, we always discuss seller and buyer and their alignment on the shared outcomes. But if you take a step back and think about this from a leadership standpoint, the culture of having a mutual success plan at every active opportunity ensures that - 

  • Sales drives the best practice, especially if you're a growing team with new reps and deals in new markets. It also ensures you align your sales process and playbook with the buyer's preferences. 

  • If you're a sales manager or a sales leader in middle management, a mutual success plan streamlines deal reviews by giving visibility into the next course of action, weekly cadence calls, the reps activities and whether your reps are aligned with the buyers to win the deal. 

For the frontline team, a mutual success plan supports the sellers in educating the buyer on the best buying practices- whether they need to involve new stakeholders or if they need to have a different value proposition for the other stakeholders.

Equipping and enabling your champions to sell on your behalf is now more critical than ever. While the primary buying team may have a big say on what vendor to partner with, the extended buying team that sellers may not interface with has a much bigger base than they had a few years ago. So it becomes even more essential to enable your champion to sell on your behalf. For your buyers to become your salesperson, you need to build trust; that is where a mutual success plan becomes the proper framework for you to build trust with your customers. 

Brandon Calley 

The most significant risk to our revenue goals as sales leader is the inability to predict prospect behavior. A mutual success plan makes the revenue more predictable for the seller and the sales leader and makes positive business outcomes more predictable for the buyers.  

Buyers get their problems solved, and their business objectives are met more predictably now. For all those parties we talked about being involved in the process earlier, we keep them on the same page. We document their role, the decision criteria, and the process because of the timeline changes. The plan helps keep the seller and buyer from getting a more likely positive outcome for both parties.

Andrew Bothwell 

You engage with the buyers when you get the sellers to use the mutual success plans. However, the key to success is its measurement. Measuring the plan will help you drive predictable revenue and clarify your sales process. 

Every six months, things change, and you should consistently evolve as a selling organization. And so, you must use the mutual success plans to measure where your buyers are within the funnel. And if you’re not using it to measure that, you’re going to play guests with the deal, the forecast and most importantly, teaching the reps to win in the marketplace. 

The mutual success plans also extend to customer success. You should be able to measure the engagement of the customer. Are buyers following along with what their plan was after deployment? Are they moving into the next phase of their maturity model? Mutual success plans are for the customer's lifetime and should not be confined to sales. 

So, measuring these plans on an ongoing basis, using them to give great feedback to product and marketing, and sharing this information across the organization is equally important. 

# How do you bridge these critical performance gaps so sellers align with their best-in-class peers? 

Andrew Bothwell 

In the last few years, so many people have been buying technology. Modern buyers list four or five things and say: "Hey, we need to solve these use cases and these pains.” As a seller, it's your job to align with your buyer's problems. 

More often than not, the core buying stakeholders are two layers above buyers and have tasked the team to look for tools, which is why it’s essential to understand your position in the cycle. Ask yourself- “Do you understand the outcomes and the ultimate problem you’re trying to solve?” If you align to that, you find the best-in-class solutions making the customer successful. Getting the four-six-member committee aligned on the ultimate problem is complex. But when you map back to that solution and the results, that's where best in class happens. 

Shankar Ganapathy 

If you plot a graph around enterprise and senior buyers who buy for pain and solution,  you’ll notice that this breed of buyers is more outcome-focused and looking for vendors who can map a predictable time frame. 

It does not mean that correlation doesn't exist if you're selling to an SMB, but more often than not, they will come to you and say- “I need these four features, and I've looked at you and the competition; tell me why you're better than the rest?” Even if you come back to the solution, you’ve to go back to the pain and the outcome to validate the needs of the entire buying committee. It depends on who you’re selling to, what stage they’re in their buying journey, and what type of company they are to nail down. 

#Who in an organization should care about the experience you're delivering to modern B2B buyers and why?

Brandon Calley 

When selling a solution to your buyers, you should be concerned about responsibly managing your buyer experience. So you're getting that customer to the outcome they're looking for, setting accurate expectations, and ensuring that the relationship flows seamlessly from purchase to sales to post-sales. If you wish your customers' life cycle to be long, you must create a responsible sales process by helping the modern buyer meet their needs.

On the buyers' end, not all buyers know how to buy. Experienced buyers deal with salespeople frequently, are responsible for making several transactions, understand the know-how of buying, and even have a process dialled in. Buyers are looking for a partner to solve these business problems efficiently. 

Andrew Bothwell 

Everybody in the organization, from product to marketing, to sales, and customer success, should care about buyer experience. When buyers continue to buy, the renewal can turn into expansion. And so,  everybody in the organization should be aligned with that experience and care about it. 

From the messaging of the product to what our solution solves, everybody in the organization should be aligned with the issues in the marketplace. Now and then, our head of product marketing, Elvis, talks about how every single person in your company should be able to tell the market the problem. “ How will you explain what the product does to your CEO if you're in the elevator? “ So again, everybody in the organization should care about that experience all the way through. 

Shankar Ganapathy 

One of the things we notice is that the concept of mutual success plans exists both in sales and customer success. They live in their silos and hardly connect to each other. And there have been cases where I heard sales leaders say- “ once it is sold, it is a CS problem. I will come back to take care of the upsell and renewal”. 

Buyer experience is broken into silos. Marketing might have a different version of buyer experience than sales. The buyer only cares about an inevitable outcome. They hate it if your CSM asks the same discovery questions they spent the last six months educating the seller and the sales team on why they want to solve a particular problem, which is why a clearly defined owner that solves the buyer experience problem is becoming increasingly. 

Significant ownership of the buyer experience comes back to sales, especially if you are selling to enterprises. In these commercial and large accounts, they look up to you as someone who's made the promise, and if you do not deliver on the promise, you’re likely to get hurt the most. 

#If we have our audience walk away with just one thing from today, what would that be?

Brandon Calley 

Use a mutual success plan and be disciplined in the sales process. Don't just wing it. 

Andrew Bothwell 

Come prepared for these calls and conversations as a seller, measure those success points as a leader, guide your sellers through that process, and build that confidence with them. But measure that to create predictable revenue as you go forward. 

Shankar Ganapathy 

Genuinely care about your buyers, their preferences, and their expectations. They'll also make you successful if you plan to make them successful. 

Wrapping Up

The B2B landscape is challenging for your sellers and buyers. Modern buyers expect end-to-end visibility of their current and upcoming stages in the buyer's journey, and mutual success plans are built on the essence of making buying easy for your buyers and the sales process more predictable for your sellers. 

BuyerAssist is a SaaS platform that helps B2B revenue teams use Mutual Success Plans to align, collaborate and engage their enterprise customers in their buying journey. We typically partner with growth-stage companies as they look to operationalise a sales process and make things more predictable and faster.

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