Complex is complex!

Why do you need relationship mapping in complex sales?

We all know that B2B sales are getting tougher and one of the key reasons is the continuing growth of the number of people involved in the buying process. We’ve gone from focusing on a C Suite decision maker to engaging and understanding a prospect committee. They’re now referred to as the buyer team and are part of a consensus decision-making process.

So, it’s no wonder that sales cycles have gotten longer and the number of ‘no decisions’ have increased.

These types of deals are now referred to as ‘Complex Sales’ and there are a number of reasons for this. The main reason they’re complex is because of people. The more people you add to the equation the more complicated it becomes.

Traditional decision makers have abdicated sole responsibility and accountability in favour of a more team-based definition, evaluation and decision. They’re mindful of the fact that internal business is now bordering on a ‘Game of Thrones’.

Let’s focus on this concept for a moment. Consensus is a group decision-making process in which group members develop, and agree to support a decision in the best interest of the whole. Consensus may be defined professionally as an acceptable resolution. One that can be supported, even if not the “favourite” of each individual.

So, what we’re saying  is that decision makers and key stakeholders are far more mindful of the impact of their decisions on the wider organisation. Therefore, they embrace the cooperation and collaboration of a wider internal group before making decisions.

There are all sorts of research results floating around at the moment relating to B2B sales. Around half of all forecasted deals end up in a no-decision and 25% of all deals are no decision because the buyer team isn’t aligned and can’t reach consensus.

If your ability to engage and understand a wider prospect team as well as identify and navigate internal politics is weak then you’ll face some tough challenges in sales.

To do or not to do, that is the buyer’s question

Let’s not kid ourselves, our biggest competitor in B2B sales is ‘No Decision’ and in many cases its borne out of our own failings.

The easiest and most convenient answer for the buyers is to do nothing. Getting them to make a change requires more work by sales people than ever before. Firstly, buyers have to deal with their uncertainty.

Will this solution work?

Will it work for us?

Is this even the real problem?

Then there is the fear of change. Is the pain and work of implementing this change worse than the pain and work of leaving it alone?

Another reason that buyers opt to do nothing is simple inertia. How many times have you heard something like;

That might be a problem in a few years, something we’ll have to eventually deal with.

For now, everything is manageable.” When buyers don’t feel the need to change the status quo or are faced with other demands that seem more pressing – it’s nearly impossible to get consensus and get them to make any decisions.

Identify the buyers and facilitate consensus

The typical buyer team is now between 6 and 10 people according to Gartner. Each member of the team will have a voice of varying levels of authority. Do not underestimate the power of the influencers and spend your time solely focused on the decision makers. Not unless you want to increase your chances of losing the deal.

Gartner research also shows that only 1 in 5 salespeople identify and engage with everyone in the buyer team. A surprising outcome given the growth of the buyer team over the past 3 years.

An average B2B salesperson manages somewhere between 20 and 40 active opportunities. If each one has an average of  7 contacts in the buyer group that’s a total of between 140 and 280 people to manage. That’s a lot of people to remember. Even more complicated when you need to remember their roles, responsibilities, reporting lines and what’s important to each of them.

It ’s hard to get everyone to agree. But success beckons for the salesperson who’s the first to help buyers to connect with each other to develop and agree on the problem and solution.

Salespeople fail here when they only focus on the latter stage of the buying process – the ‘pick me’ part. Instead, they should focus early on identifying those involved and helping buyers determine the solution. Then focus on the best products or services to implement the solution with.

When salespeople don’t help buyers to address these things, they come up against a lack of goal consensus. Sometimes not everyone wants the same thing. Sometimes not everyone knows what they want. When buyers can’t agree on where they want to get to, they certainly can’t agree on how to get there.

The reason that most deals never happen is salespeople don’t do the upfront work to understand the perceived value for each individual and then combine those for the group as a whole. They leave it to them to figure out, and when they can’t (or they would have by now) nothing happens.

The whole point is to build an agreed consensus in the group of people trying to solve a problem and buy the right solution. The mission of a salesperson is to be the connection between the people, the problem and a solution.

Visualising is better than memory

The more we have to remember the more there is for us to forget. As sales professionals, we’re expected to understand everything about a prospect opportunity, not just their requirements and needs.

We have to understand all of the variables and nuances of the ever-expanding buyer team. Each member has opinions, criteria, concerns, challenges, priorities and pains and gains associated with change, and they don’t want to be ignored in the process. Not by their colleagues and certainly not by you the sales professional.

The bigger the buyer team the less the likelihood of a decision being made. Whilst 7 is an average there are many instances in complex sales where the number is much larger. The larger the team the better your memory would need to be to share all of the relevant and important information with your internal team and management.

I have lost count as to the number of times sales leaders talk to me about unproductive deal reviews (as opposed to forecast reviews). Salespeople often waffle on about who they know, what they do, who they report to and so on. All too often clarity is lost during an attempt to create a verbal summary and unnecessary time is burnt to get clarifications from the confusion.

Some better prepared sales professionals knock up an organisational chart using PowerPoint or a specialist software application. But this is generally limited to a hierarchy which in today’s market means a lot less than in days gone by.

The exponential growth of sales tools to aid salespeople and leadership has seen a few solutions (including Boxxstep) provide visualisation and relationship mapping in complex sales. This presents the prospect buyer teams in ways that provide greater clarity on how to navigate an account.

Effective selling is built upon who and what you know. Progress comes from what you do with it.

By mapping out the buyer team with all of the relevant information next actions become much clearer.

Opportunity relationship mapping in complex sales

As a salesperson, your mind is full of information and knowledge about the people you’re trying to sell to. But it’s not structured, it’s not relational. What and with whom is not always clear.

The bigger the buyer team, the more difficult it is to rely on memory. Plus, you can’t easily share what’s in your head or on notepaper with colleagues and management supporting the sales opportunity.

Relationship mapping in complex sales will help you to identify what you need to do and with whom, as well as the route to the right people.

A salesperson can use relationship mapping to help capture, track, visualise and action what they need to know about the team dynamics and each individual in complex sales.

Relationship mapping in complex sales will help you to identify common pains and gains between conflicted members of the buyer team. This will give you an opportunity to reduce the possibility of a ‘no decision’.

Sales leaders will be able to use relationship mapping to understand what the salesperson knows and doesn’t know, which makes for much better deal reviews and coaching.

As a sales leader it’s also important to be realistic, sales people come and go. Maintaining internal records of important buyer team information is crucial for your success.

By building relationship maps you can provide the platform for replacements to inherit some momentum in the account. And as buyers don’t have time for the meet, greet and research meetings any more it would be wise to implement a process to capture information beyond the basics that are stored within your CRM.

In larger and even more complex opportunities relationship mapping becomes a process of deciding who needs to do what and with whom. Your engagements could involve multiple people of varying authority levels from the seller team engaging with targeted individuals in the buyer team. You don’t need to be a sales expert to see the benefits of visualising an opportunity relationship map in this situation.

Channel sales are the future!

There’s another scenario that will become even more commonplace in the coming years if the industry research and forecasts materialise as expected. Channel and partner sales are forecasted to see exponential growth, adding yet more people into an already demanding situation.

For many organisations, indirect sales models are the backbone of their sales activities as they strive to deliver their product or service through a 3rd party. Sometimes there is as much work to convince the 3rd party to choose and include you in their prospect proposition as there is in selling to the end customer directly.

Having the ability to create relationship maps for both channel and end customer enables the salesperson to have full visibility of who and what in the complete chain. It’s easy for sellers to just focus their efforts with the channel partner and leave the end customer management to the partner. Smarter sales people mitigate their risks by understanding beyond the partner. The more they know about the partner sales team and the customer buyer team the better they’re positioned to do the right things at the right time.

Food for thought

Salespeople and sales leaders are renown as being creatures of habit. They have ways and means of doing things in a certain way. Despite many of them selling solutions that require a new approach by their customers, it’s often something they’re not willing to do themselves.

Let’s summarise what we know about complex B2B sales today.

You have to manage opportunities from the buyer’s perspective

The number of people in the buying process is growing rapidly

There is an expectation of know me and know my business

Decisions are made after consensus has been achieved

‘No decision’ is the most likely outcome

Politics exists in the buyer team and needs to be navigated and managed

Your indirect partner sales will add additional complexity and provide less visibility

You don’t have to be Einstein to understand that visualising buyer information is better than memory.

Your path to success is more visible when a light is shone upon it.

Check out how Boxxstep Relational Mapping will help you in complex sales

You may also want to check this blog on Account-Based Selling by RampedUp

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