By Kevin Dixon, Founder at Boxxstep

BRM is Buyer Relationship Management of B2B Buyers…..what, why?

Of course B comes before C, we learn that not long after we take our first steps as a child. As we grow up and start our business careers in sales we learn another simple fact that a prospect is a buyer before they become a customer. There are two sides to a sales engagement; we have SRM (Supplier Relationship Management) solutions for B2B buyers to manage vendors and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solutions for sellers, the former being less widely known or deployed.

I want to take a look primarily from the perspective of the seller; specifically does CRM fulfil their needs. This is not going to be an in-depth analysis of CRM and what it can do or does for your business as there are many far better qualified individuals to write about it.

One of the big boyz in CRM states that it’s a strategy for managing all your company’s relationships and interactions with your customers and potential customers, and it helps you improve your profitability. Sounds feasible, if that’s how it was used and the costs and administration requirements for the most advanced solutions were not prohibitive to an average business.

We all have an opinion on CRM and it would probably be a split decision between those for and those against. I’m one of those that believe you get out of it what you put into it. Used well and in a disciplined way it can aid your business, but, and it’s a big but for me, does it really help most of you to sell more successfully and is the ‘R’ in CRM really relevant?

What do I mean by this? Let’s start by looking at the meaning of the word ‘Relationship’, according to the English Dictionary it means the way in which two things are connected’  , the context can change according to the situation and another term used to describe it is ‘the way in which two or more people or groups regard and behave towards each other.

So a relationship evolves based on what you know about someone and what you do upon knowing it, this knowledge and your actions will result in a relationship being good, bad or indifferent.

Now think about your CRM platform (I know they vary considerably in both capabilities and price, but as a rule they all have similar weaknesses) and think about what it does that actually helps you to manage relationships, bearing in mind a relationship needs you to know the relevant things about the other person to be able to build it successfully. You still with me? The ‘R is not really relevant in CRM because there is very little in the way of relationship creation or understanding within it, in effect its really Customer Management, a place to keep a bunch of data about your customer/prospect and what you are trying to sell to them or have sold to them. CRM is really a means of aligning salespeople with the needs of their internal management rather than the needs of the buyer prospect, one of the main reasons why so many salespeople see it as a burden rather than a productivity tool. There are a bunch of bolt-on third-party applications for the top CRM vendors that can help focus more on the relationship management, but these are generally for large enterprise and come with a price ticket that reflects it.

We all know that selling is complicated; it’s tougher than it’s ever been before and the tables have been turned as the power now lies predominantly with the B2B buyers in complex sales engagements. In my mind that is not a bad thing as all too often in the past salespeople took advantage of the fact that the buyers relied on them for education and information, and weren’t always focused on the value to the customer. So it’s different now, we get it, so what? Because its changes the requirements on B2B salespeople, we’re expected to know much more about the prospect and the buyer team than ever before and we need to work closely with them to help achieve their business goals.

Now think about the sales tools that you have that can truly help you with this? Not many are there? I have no doubt that will be some of you that are disciples of the CRM cult who upon reading this are choking on an overpriced muffin and spilling a triple venti, soy, no foam, half sweet, Mocka Wocka caramel Macchiato and vowing to challenge me to a dual to the death in the morning to protect the honour of your application or service. I’m not a Sales Enablement software industry expert, I read somewhere that there are now over 3,800 applications that are supposed to support salespeople, some categories will have more choices than others and CRM will undoubtedly be a major one. There are truckloads of applications that are focused on lead generation and an equal amount on managing the customer, but significantly less that aid the sales professionals to navigate through the sales engagement, especially not within the SMB market.

There are great solutions like Membrain , Altify  or Revegy that integrate with Salesforce CRM for larger enterprises selling big-ticket deals, but not every business uses Salesforce (80% use alternatives) and not every business is a large enterprise or can justify the investment into a complex sales effectiveness platform and strategy.

Buyer Relationship Management – Why would you need it?

Start with the old adage that ‘people buy from people’ whilst that still stands today it needs to be extended with ‘so what do you know about the people that are buying’? In the current B2B market of complex sales, the size of the task is much bigger because of the increasing number of people in the buyer teams. Over time it’s moved from the simplicity of focusing and targeting the solitary decision-maker to an environment of consensus-based decisions where you need to engage with and understand a buyer team comprising individuals with different roles, responsibilities and agendas.

Research states that the average buyer team is now around 7 people, if we then assume that a typical B2B salesperson will have between 20-40 active opportunities at any given time that means there could be at least between 140 and 280 B2B buyers that will impact their chances of success or failure. Of course, there will be key stakeholders that will get more attention than others but we also know that the power of the influencers in the process should not be underestimated. Decisions are now rarely about product or service differentiation, opportunities will often start with the internal business case, the seller then has to show how they can deliver relevant business value and ultimately success will be measured with the business results that are achieved.

What does this mean, well it means that if sales professionals don’t know what they need to about the buyer team and process then how can they do what needs to be done to close the deals? Therein lies a problem, research also show

          4 out of every 5 salespeople don’t identify the full buyer team or understand what the decision and buying process is.

Knowledge enables context, context is King in sales

We’ve been told that preparation and planning is the key to good sales engagements, we’ve also been told to research the business and buyer team individuals to avoid using face to face meeting time as a means to gather basic information. Then questions, questions and more questions, we’ve had the concept of asking good probing and needs-based questions rammed down our throats for many years. What we end up with is a bunch of plans, steps and a huge amount of information about an awful lot of people. If the salesperson has taken a methodical approach they will understand the prospects business drivers and objectives as well as what’s important to each of the B2B buyers in the prospects team, this will enable them to apply context to their discussions, presentations and proposals.

So where is this information in your business? Information that is absolutely invaluable to improve your chances of success, aid targeted marketing strategies and assist replacement salespeople who have to seamlessly pick up the opportunity baton when their predecessors leave. This is intelligence that a business owns; intelligence obtained in the course of a sales team daily activities, intelligence that will make a difference. So why isn’t it captured and managed in the same way that CRM is used as a repository for information about customer’s general business, your communications with them and the opportunities pipeline.

Smart should be a strategy

Sceptics will say that we shouldn’t expect salespeople to do this as its just more admin and they’ve already proven with existing poor CRM management that it’s a low performance discipline for them.

  • But, smart salespeople will see how managing this information will help them
  • Smart salespeople will focus on business value, not product or service differentiation
  • Smart salespeople will also know that understanding what they need to know about each buyer is crucial for their success
  • Smart salespeople know that selling is a team sport so they need to share and review this information with colleagues and management who will contribute and collaborate on the sales engagements
  • Smart sales leaders will focus more on the business drivers, decision-making process and buyer teams with their salespeople ahead of the close dates, probability and deal values
  • Smart businesses will implement processes and tools to capture and manage this information

Why now? 

Every salesperson wants to increase their conversion rate, and every sales leader wants the same from each team member plus improvements in their qualification and forecasting. The more salespeople in a business the bigger the challenge.

Some of you will start beating bloody big drums about how AI is going to change our worlds and that business will never be the same again, that may well be true but I think it will take some time before it becomes mainstream and effective for the majority of us, and I think it will be an awfully long time before AI will compete with the power and emotion of the human brain and its ability to manage relationships. The current hype around AI reminds me of my time in the Telco industry when I was working for one of the largest providers of VAS (Value Added Services) solutions for mobile service providers. 3G was announced and the operating licenses were auctioned and sold by governments around to world for huge sums, on top of this the service providers then had to spend around the same amount again to implement the infrastructure to support this new revolutionary advancement that would change mobile communications and deliver huge upside for both provider and user. 3G was going to deliver all sorts of rich media services, especially video conferencing, messaging, streaming etc. The industry was constantly telling us things would never be the same again and that this would change our lives forever. Well over a decade later and this has not materialised anywhere near to the levels that the industry experts predicted, which in turn has not led to the revenues anticipated, so everyone’s expectations have been realigned. I suspect that AI could follow a similar path in that it will take longer than expected to become a useful, financially viable and workable solution for most of us.

In the meantime, B2B sales are still about people and we need to create more sales processes and sales tools focused on managing their business and personal needs and agendas. Boxxstep Buyer Relationship Management is a  SaaS solution for complex B2B sales that complements any CRM. It enables users to:

Capture, manage, share, review and action the important prospect information including their opportunity business drivers, the decision making process and buyer team structures.


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