Each of us makes hundreds or even thousands of decisions every day. Most of these are minor considerations, such as “What should I have for breakfast?” It’s easy to make decisions for oneself. But what about when you are making decisions that will affect your coworkers or even your entire company? Undoubtedly, these decisions require greater consideration and planning.
In cases of B2B buying, decisions are almost always made by a group rather than an individual. The logic behind this is obvious. The kinds of products and services one purchases for their business affects the team the individual works with, as well as the whole business.
Unfortunately, most B2B sellers fail to recognize this simple truth. As marketers and salespeople qualify leads, they tend to do so on an individual basis, i.e. qualifying how likely that person is to continue through the sales cycle.
But if buying decisions are made by groups rather than individuals, ranking an individual’s likelihood of purchase is incomplete – at best. This is known as “buying group blindness.” Below, we will identify what a buying group is, why it’s important, and how to evolve a group-centric approach.
What Is a Buying Group?
A buying group, as the name implies, is a group of individuals within an organization who influence buying decisions for the company. Each person within the group provides prospective to the overall team. This reduces the risk of investing money in inappropriate products or services and ensures that the wider team is on board with the decisions made.
Let’s say a Marketing team is weighing the cost and benefit of adopting a new technology. While the salesperson may have contact with a single individual, that touchpoint is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. That singular contact is communicating with the wider Marketing team (and perhaps even beyond the Marketing team) to determine whether they will purchase the new technology.
This is very common for businesses of all sizes. Research conducted by SiriusDecisions, an influential research and advisory firm focused on business and technology, reveals that 59 percent of buying decisions are made not by individuals, but by groups of people working together who engage in an average of 15 interactions with sellers. These groups consist of individuals with varying roles in the buying process.
Knowing this, it is crucial to understand and measure the influence of buying groups when it comes to lead qualification. Failing to recognize and match this reality with strategy will result in missed marks and time/focus spent in the wrong places.
Why Don’t B2B Companies Focus on Buying Groups?
Many Marketing organizations still focus on individual leads and not buying groups. The rationale is reasonable, if not misguided.
Consider the following scenarios. Abir, a CMO at The Business Group, Inc. downloads 10 gated content assets from your website within a two-week period. Abir demonstrates an interest in your technologies and scores relatively high as a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL). Conversely, 10 people from the Super Grouper company have each downloaded one gated content asset over the same period. Which company is more likely to be conversation ready for your sales team?
The obvious answer is Super Grouper because the company has several interested individuals. Regrettably, automation lead qualifiers will most likely raise Abir at The Business Group in the queue ahead of Super Grouper due to various scoring factors based on the individual lead. Or as SiriusDecisions puts it, “One of the most important buying signals a buying organization can transmit – is not even detected.”
The consequences of buying group blindness are wasted time and energy. And that’s not a small consideration when you consider the ratio of qualified leads converting to business wins; fewer than one in 100 inquiries converts, per research by SiriusDecisions.
But don’t let that ratio fool you. There is an upside to this equation. B2B sellers who understand and re-engineer their demand management processes to account for buying groups drastically improve their odds and establish a competitive advantage.
The Next Evolution: Moving Towards a Buying Group-Centric Approach
We’ve identified the oversight, now we need to identify the solution. To properly evolve your approach to lead captures, you will need to focus on the buying group experience. You can accomplish this by implementing the right systems and processes to identify the buying group perusing your marketing materials. This includes:
- Demystifying anonymous web traffic.
- Lead-to-account matching (automated or manual) to reduce duplicates.
- Identifying the number of unique individuals coming from the same organization who are all interested in the same solution at the same time.
- Considering the nature of the buying groups including job titles, organization levels, target buyer personas, etc. and matching these to expectations.
Note that identifying buying groups does not mean you fully understand the intent of the buying groups. Account and lead scoring methods typically only provide a probability that the buying group is conversation ready. To determine intent, you must have a conversation with key members in the buying group. People are best equipped to hold conversations with other people and groups of people. Unfortunately, it is tough to scale people to match a large number of leads – especially when you have hundreds or even thousands of leads in a queue.
Augmenting the Workforce with AI Assistants
To better address this challenge, many B2B sellers are choosing technologies like Conversica’s Sales AI Assistant to bridge the gap. AI Assistants augment your workforce by ensuring every lead is engaged and nurtured. This helps businesses determine which buying groups are truly in the market and ready to take the next step in the buyer process.
AI Assistants strategically target accounts and personas to help your Sales Development teams follow up with the buying groups most interested in what you’re selling. Specifically, AI Assistants can:
- Configure and deploy different conversation types for different target personas.
- Check in with target accounts that your reps engaged but didn’t convert.
- Reach scale in your outreach to a broader and more diverse set of influencers in your target accounts.
Furthermore, AI Assistants can:
- Help you go beyond the account pool you’ve marked as strategic to see if there are any other accounts that you should prioritize.
- Handle all inbound engagement with non-target accounts so your reps can focus on their target accounts.
As you can see, AI Assistants are an important partner in engaging leads and nurturing them into opportunities. By combining this sophisticated, yet straightforward customer engagement solution to a proper understanding of B2B buying habits, you can overcome buying group blindness for good!
Read more in the SiriusDecisions Research Brief “Identifying and Overcoming Buying Group Blindness” about how to better identify buying groups. Then complement your approach with Conversica’s Sales AI Assistants to identify the intent of these buying groups. For more information on how Intelligent Virtual Assistants could benefit your business, request a Conversica demo today!
You might also enjoy watching the Conversica webinar with Kerry Cunningham discussing how AI is maximizing lead conversions.