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The key challenge of B2B selling today: Customer purchase processes are overwhelmed by an increasingly large and diverse number of customer stakeholders who can’t agree on a common course of action. As a result, suppliers’ primary challenge isn’t improving their own ability to sell; it’s addressing their customers’ inability to agree.

The trouble with too many stakeholders

Ultimately, it is far less the failure of individual customer stakeholders to connect to the supplier and far more their inability to connect with each other that undermines sales efforts. In this environment of dissension, the best companies don’t focus on building an ever tighter connection between their capabilities and individual customer priorities. Rather, they focus on building a broader, more productive connection among customer stakeholders that is essential to the buying process and purchase decision.

The customer consensus challenge is nothing new. Various stakeholders have always been involved in — and have always slowed down — the B2B purchase. But CEB research indicates the problem has become far worse. In fact, nearly 80% of senior sales leaders report that the number of customer stakeholders involved in a typical sale continues to rise, further complicating the customer purchase process.

What you are really selling

All B2B suppliers essentially sell the same thing: change. Sometimes it’s convincing customers to buy from them instead of the competition, or to outsource to them what the customer traditionally did on its own. Or perhaps it’s persuading customers to upgrade to a supplier’s newer or broader solution instead of maintaining an older or smaller one.

Whatever the case, nearly every solution sale revolves around a supplier’s attempt to convince customers to change their behavior. Unfortunately, most organizations seek to avoid change at all costs rather than embrace it, as many executives see change as unacceptably disruptive, expensive, unpredictable, and risky.

How to impact change

From that perspective, it’s no wonder that creating customer consensus is so difficult — or that most suppliers’ single biggest competitor today is actually the customer’s own status quo. Getting all stakeholders on board with disruptive change is no easy feat. So how should a sales rep help the entire team reach consensus? Our research indicates that the best sales reps pursue a very specific kind of customer stakeholder: a mobilizer.

Instead of prioritizing stakeholders with title, seniority, or decision-making authority, high performers seek those who can win over the group and marshal the internal resources necessary to push the organization to change its behavior. Sales reps must focus less on selling their product and more on working with mobilizers to build customer consensus on achieving something beyond the status quo.

The best sales reps pursue a very specific kind of customer stakeholder: a mobilizer.”

Brent Adamson | Principal Executive Advisor @ CEB, now part of Gartner

Learn More

How to Craft the Perfect Sales Pitch By Annie Simms,
Account Executive, Salesforce
The Simple Client Meeting Rules Every Salesperson Should Follow By Laura Stack,
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