You’re on cloud nine. You’ve made an introduction to a representative of a lead and have engaged in a conversation about your solution. The ball is rolling, and you’re on the playing field. Now the real work begins. While you may be working with just one person at the company, you no longer have to convince only one person that your solution is the right one. You’re now dealing with multiple people, all with different personalities, wants, and interests.
You’re now dealing with a buying committee.
Having success with a buying committee is arguably the most important part of an ABX (account based experience) strategy. If you win the buying committee, you’ll win the deal. So how can you tailor your approach to ensure that you’re maximizing your chances with a buying committee? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is a buying committee?
B2B purchasing processes are rarely ever simple, especially for complex solutions. Since a purchasing decision likely affects multiple people in an organization, there are almost always multiple people who can influence the final decision. Market research firm Gartner says, “the typical buying group involves six to 10 decision-makers, each armed with four or five pieces of information they’ve gathered independently and must deconflict with the group.”
This creates complexity in an ABX strategy because you’re no longer simply tailoring your approach to one person. It’s now being tailored to multiple different people who respond differently to sales and marketing strategies. And it’s these people who have the most influence on whether or not you win the deal.
The importance of the buyer personas and sales/marketing alignment
It’s not a one-size fits all approach. Think of the buying committee as a family. Why would you create content for a mom, when in reality it’s for the dad or kids? They’re all involved. So in that regard, it’s a one-to-many approach.
But there is a one-to-one approach that is part of this strategy as well. You need to look at the buying committee holistically, but also note that individual rapport is crucial too. For example, you could be looking to send a piece of direct mail to the entire buying committee of six people. That’s a one-to-many approach. What you actually send, however, is prescriptive and can be seen as an individual approach–like a specific piece of swag from someone’s university, a baby onesie to a new parent, or something else that highlights a personal connection.
These buying committee members can often vary widely in terms of role. Some of them may be the end-users who will use the solution every day. One of them may be a high-level VP looking at the potential ROI and impact on the overall strategy of the company. Maybe someone is spearheading a digital transformation effort and is focused on executive buy-in. This makes buyer personas for the ABX lifecycle incredibly important, since they will help to shape the overall targeting strategy.
With ABX it’s all about personalization. Not just for the individual you’re directly communicating with, but also with the members of the committee that you won’t be directly engaging with. Understanding someone’s role, where they come from, what they’re interested in, and what’s really fueling them at the intent layer is extremely important to understand.
This leads to one of the most critical components of a successful ABX strategy: sales and marketing team alignment. Salespeople like to have a target list, but if they are targeting a persona that marketing isn’t, then you’re completely missing the point. Salespeople could be registering an opportunity in their CRM targeting one persona, like a controller, but marketing could be creating content and campaigns around a completely different persona, like a CFO, which leads to a clash.
Therefore, it’s incredibly important that marketers sit with sales people and understand who they are targeting and why, so that the entire team is on the same page and increases the chances of approval with a full buying committee. Engaging with and actively listening to the sales team and how they are targeting members of the committee is important since people aren’t right next to them in the office and are often working remotely in this newly prevalent hybrid environment. Regularity and consistency with these meetings are key so that everyone is on the same page at all times.
A great example of how personas come into play comes from Zendesk. As Ad Age contributing editor Christopher Hosford explains in this LinkedIn article, “For each account Zendesk targets, it develops what it calls a ‘message source document,’ detailing the key personas on the buying committee, their sources of information, and what motivates or blocks them in making tech-buying decisions. Marketing and sales teams develop a customer journey map for the various personas, and the best ways to reach them.”
How to engage with a buying committee
Now that you have an idea of who makes up a buying committee, the next step is to effectively engage them. It may not be feasible to talk to every single member of the committee, but it is possible to work with marketing to target them with personalized content.
That is why it’s important to align with not only your contact at the company on their needs, wants and pain points, but with the other members of the buying committee as well. Gaining that deep insight into what makes these people tick and what they are focused on during the sales cycle will allow you to connect with your contact and allow you and marketing to effectively target the other members of the committee with content specifically tailored to their personas. A contact gap analysis to discover who the members of a committee that aren’t in your database and what their personas are so you can incorporate them into your ABX strategy.
Some examples of the channels you can market to members include avenues such as direct mail, virtual and in-person events, and other tactics that create a strong link between you and the committee and build a solid rapport that will help the group advocate for your solution.
It’s also important to understand that the end-user of the solution is oftentimes not the decision-maker. Decision-makers are most concerned with ROI, strategy, and growth and how the solution will fit into their existing ecosystem and multichannel approach, as opposed to the day-to-day uses.
Especially when it comes to multiple people weighing in on a decision, understand that this isn’t a straightforward, linear process. Different members of a buying committee can be at different stages of the funnel. One person may be at the top-of-the-funnel researching possible solutions, while someone else could be seeking out bottom-of-the-funnel content such as eBooks. This is why having total air cover of all the possible members of a buying committee is critical. Running both top and bottom-of-the-funnel content at the same time will not only cover members of a committee you already have data on, but also potential unidentified members who may have slipped through the cracks.
The importance of data when engaging with buying committees
Data rules in the ABX world, and that is especially true with buying committees. Having concise and measurable quality data can make or break a potential deal. The data should also be tied together with sales and marketing, so both teams are working together from the same information.
Some of the data you should focus on acquiring when it comes to buying committees include:
- Firmographic data: company name, company size, job role, location
- Behavioral data: purchase history, search habits, downloads
- Intent data: where they are in the buyer’s journey and whether they are “sales-ready”
- Engagement data: communications with sales and customer support via all channels
- Look-alike models: to develop ICPs of your best accounts
If you can gather this data and make sure sales and marketing are aligned, you’ll be well on your way to winning over a buying committee and winning the deal.