Mastering the Consensus Sale: Do you know your 5.4?

By Dan Sixsmith
The creators of the 'Challenger Sale' are back with a new wrinkle. Not only should Sales challenge its prospects, armed with new intelligence and personalized insights to win more business, but now the research shows it also needs to proactively identify and build consensus among all of the decision makers. CEB's research around the increasing role of buying committees tells us that there are an average of 5.4 individuals involved in signing off on a typical B2B purchase decisions. Those sales execs who successfully uncover the identities of and build consensus with 'the 5.4' in their deals are winning more business today.
First, despite an improving business climate, there is still an overall slant toward risk aversion. Not many individuals want to stick their necks out alone. Further, CEB says that the selling organizations themselves have some culpability for the rise of the decision-by-committee process. 
Many companies have unknowingly elongated the buying process through the creation of more complex solutions and packages which require the expertise of several stakeholders at the client organization. In short, CEB says that the B2B buying process today is broken. The successful companies of the future will need to deploy integrated marketing and sales teams who will research, inquire, investigate, mediate, counsel, problem solve, and repair the buying process on the way to building consensus for a greater share of wins.
What will be key is to understand each member's individual perspectives and challenges and then connect the dots around a common language among all of the potentially diverse constituencies. CEB also calls out the need to find the 'mobilizer' in the buying committee and work to reduce the risks for her to successfully lead the charge against the status quo within her organization. The mobilizer seems like another name for 'champion' which has been used now for years. When we think of a champion, it is usually around someone going to bat for you and your solution within the organization. 
What is new and backed up by CEB's research is that consensus building is required much earlier in the decision journey. We know that buyers are 57% through the decision journey before reaching out to sales. In the new research, CEB tells us that group conflict peaks at 37% of the way through the journey. That means organizations need an integrated effort between marketing and sales to connect earlier, be more consultative and to make the case for change--not necessarily for your solution, but helping prospects acknowledge and agree that there is an issue and it needs to be addressed. Alinean CEO Tom Pisello and I outlined a strategy to more effectively connect with your client's buying committees in a recent blog post:
The research proves out the importance of making the connections within your client organizations. The top performers evaluated their recent wins and losses and found that for the deals that were successfully closed, they typically had identified and connected with 6 or more stakeholders. For the deals lost, the number was 5 or less, which brings us to the question: "Do you know your 5.4?"


Brian MacIver said…
WHO is "in" the Buying Decision?
"WHY" will they BUY, or not BUY?
Remains a Key to B2B selling and buying.
Its worth taking into account that $100 of loss, still trumps $200 of gain!
Mitigate Loss! and bring defined Value [Pisello's Value tools being an effective way of doing this]

But don't forget to QUESTION Competitor's Value, and CALCULATE possible LOSS, by not selecting YOU!

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