Buyer behaviour is changing the way solutions and services should be sold. Partly this is because decision making involves more and more people but –perhaps what is more troublesome is that buyers are engaging less with suppliers and if Gartner is to be believed the buying process is increasingly non-linear. This means we need to create and close demand differently.
Businesses with product-led growth strategies may think they are immune, but sadly, they’re not. A few enthusiastic subscribers are unlikely to transform into enterprise wide adoption, and a long-term customer relationship, by osmosis.
Providers have always needed people within their customers’ organisations to ‘sell’ for them – advocates who will put their case on their behalf. The shift in buying behaviour has made these people much more important but, in my experience, companies aren’t making them as effective as possible. Don’t get me wrong, many organisations have programmes in place to create, cultivate and nurture advocates. They see them as a useful resource and do their best to actively maintain a positive relationship, but they usually stop there. This overlooks a key issue, they may be supporters, but your advocates aren’t sales people.
I believe organisations should work to make their advocates more of an asset, by which I mean equip them with tools and techniques to (1) understand value and (2) build consensus for change within their organisation. To put it bluntly, the changes in buyer behaviour means evolving your advocates from supporters into an effective indirect sales resource – and that means you’ll need to build their decision enablement skills to ensure they can fight your corner successfully.
If I were to prioritise, then these are the three skills most useful to give your advocates:
Bringing clarity to the decision process – even the most chaotic of buying processes will have some linear steps (particularly in large organisations).
Understanding the beliefs help by colleagues and prioritising those that help the cause rather than trying to change someone’s mind.
Explaining the value of your proposition from the perspective of each stakeholder.
Taking responsibility for upskilling your advocates is win-win. It gives you a more effective indirect sales person and makes them better at moving their own projects and interests forward too. Experience tells me your advocates will welcome this additional support, which in turn will reduce your risk of decisions going awry.