What The Masters taught us about B2B buying
I love this time of year – New Hampshire begins to thaw out, my daughter’s outdoor track season begins, and my husband and I start thinking about golf – especially on Master’s weekend. Who would have believed that Jordan Spieth would go bogey, bogey, quadruple bogey in the final round to give the victory away to Danny Willet? It was painful to watch, perhaps because the epic collapse so closely resembles my own game.
One thing I find interesting about Spieth is that when he answers questions, he often uses the word “we.” An example of this can be found in this quote from Sunday’s post-final round press conference.
“I’m very confident in the way that we play the game of golf. I think that when we’re on, I believe that we’re the best in the world. I believe we were the best in the world getting by for the most part this week with what felt uncomfortable over the ball with my iron play.”
— Jordan Spieth, April 10, 2016
What’s interesting here is that he doesn’t view golf as an individual sport. Even though he’s the one hitting the shots, he genuinely believes that he – and his caddy, his coach, trainer, chiropractor and manager — all make up the Jordan Spieth team and their collective commitment has made them one of the hottest brands in golf. A similar shift has occurred in the business world, where buying has become a team sport. Whereas a golf tournament has four distinct rounds, the B2B buying journey has three rounds or phases – Awareness, Consideration, and Decision – and, like the Spieth team, multiple players contribute different expertise and levels of influence throughout each phase. We’re seeing this shift more and more in the buyer persona research we conduct on behalf of clients here at Demand Spring. Buying teams are more in control now than ever and they have very specific expectations of vendors at each phase of the journey.
“Educate Me and I’m Like Butter in Your Hands”
That’s an actual quote from a B2B buyer we interviewed. Because I’m still thinking about The Masters, let’s call him Phil. When he said this, Phil was referencing his particular needs during the Awareness phase of a buying process. Phil wasn’t the ultimate decision maker, but he was a key influencer in this early stage and he has a high thirst for knowledge. Over time Phil’s role in his company has changed in that he, like everyone in his company, is expected to bring demonstrated value to the business, whether it’s growing revenues, controlling costs, or driving profitability. Phil wants vendors and consultants to be proactive in bringing him innovate ideas and in some cases, to recognize his needs before he even does. For vendors, that means the challenge today is less about how to contact a prospect and more about how you can pique their interest with a highly relevant story – one you present in their language. Buyers like Phil are doing more online research so they can be smarter when they do talk to vendors. Vendors have to place high-value, educational content where Phil is looking so they can be found at the right point in time.
“Make Me Say Wow”
Another buyer we interviewed – we’ll call him Rory – recently summed up what B2B buyers are looking for in the Consideration phase. “I want to be persuaded by proof and testimonials and I want a vendor to make me say wow!” In this stage, RELEVANCE has become the most important word for B2B marketers. You must be able to present a simple, straightforward, and compelling case on how your solutions align to each buyer’s needs. The VP of IT and the VP of Marketing may both be members of the same buying team, but their information needs will be quite different. You must speak to each of them in the language they expect to hear and remember that it’s become less about capabilities and more about relevant use cases.
“Am I making the right decision”
If you watched The Masters this year, you saw several instances of Jordan Spieth walking up to the ball, getting ready to hit, and then backing off. His head and body weren’t in synch and ready to make the right shot. In the final stage of the buying journey, your buyers want to be sure they are making the right decisions. They’re asking themselves questions such as:
- Am I making the right recommendation?
- Can I trust this vendor to deliver as promised?
- Will the steering committee agree with my recommendation and how hard will it be to convince them?
At this stage, the onus is on the vendor to give all of the participants in the journey the confidence and tools they need to make that final decision. Going the extra mile here builds the foundation for a longer lasting relationship. It may also be the point at which new players come into the picture; for example, procurement. As a vendor, you must be prepared to speak their language, provide the tools they need, and help to make this part of the process as easy as possible on the influencers, recommenders, and decision-makers.
The Human Touch Still Matters
Despite the shift to digital, the human touch still matters. For complex or custom solutions, people buy from people. Events and networking opportunities (like a round of golf?) are still critical for building relationships. The trick is to do your homework, understand each of the buyers that comprise a buying team, and provide relevant information to each of them at each stage of the buying journey.
To paraphrase the words of many buyers we’ve spoken with “Look out for my business and make me look good. That’s how you win my loyalty.” To paraphrase the words of many buyers we’ve spoken with “Look out for my business and make me look good. That’s how you win my loyalty.”