For several years now, trends in B2B sales have shown that buying has changed. There’s a noticeable increase in the number of buyer interactions before purchase and buyers are doing more upfront research into solutions and vendors on their own.
At the same time, the number of people involved in the buying process within an organization has grown also. According to a Forrester revenue operations survey, 94% of respondents…sell to groups of three or more individuals. In many deals, particularly those that are more complex and expensive, there may be 10 or more individuals involved.
Where IT Comes In
We’ve also noticed an increase in the inclusion of IT or formal procurement offices in purchases that used to be the sole purview of the marketing or sales team.
As organizations factor in their own growth projections with recent economic outlooks in mind, it’s no surprise that IT is being asked to review software deals and terms to help consolidate the organization’s tech footprint, negotiate better rates and manage security.
Additionally, as more solutions integrate with more and more technology in the enterprise, IT teams do, in fact, have more “skin in the game” than in years past. So, like it or not, if you’re selling B2B marketing or sales/revenue technology, you might be dealing with a CIO or Director of IT as one of your personas.
Know IT’s Motivation
It’s really important to understand IT’s underlying mission when they are brought into the procurement process. This can range from having less integration points (and vulnerability) to a desire to have one procurement and security process to negotiating cost savings by leveraging existing vendor relationships.
In many cases, it will be application or vendor consolidation. For example, IT may want to move their whole organization to one messaging platform, even though sales and marketing have already purchased — or are considering — different tools. (It should be noted that more often than not IT will have multiple, interrelated motivations.)
Keep in mind that IT might be a late entry to the sales process. In some cases, the timing of their involvement could throw a monkey wrench in your plans. So, it’s best to be prepared.
Work with your product marketing team to develop IT personas and research roles and responsibilities to better recognize where and how IT might stall the sale and how to counteract that. Also, ask the prospect earlier in the sales cycle if they anticipate IT’s involvement and if so, what you should expect.
For example, if security is a concern, have collateral at the ready, like a quick hit security guide that can answer the most common questions and detail your company’s security certifications and standards. Or, be even more proactive and have your marketing team create an on-demand webinar with your own security and product team to highlight these details.
Get customer references
There’s nothing quite like a solid, satisfied customer reference to help put a prospect’s mind at ease. An existing customer can be invaluable to your sales process and in cases where IT is involved, it helps if they can talk to peers (other IT leaders) that have gone through the process with you and had their questions and concerns answered.
Let’s say you have a deal and the CIO is worried about their team’s involvement in setting up the integrations to their internal systems. Speaking to an existing customer who has walked that path before is very encouraging.
Work with customer marketing to find IT references within your existing customer reference base. If none are available, work to develop a group of references that can be used specifically to talk to IT when appropriate.
If there’s one thing I learned from working with CIOs over the years, it is that they love sharing stories about their accomplishments — and setbacks — and are more than willing to get into the weeds when it comes to technology
You’ve satisfied your prospect’s IT team in terms of security, integrations and maintenance requirements. But if cost is still an issue, it might be time to raise ROI.
Be careful of the timing and the language used when discussing ROI, though. According to a study by Gong, “presenting ROI at any point in your sales process correlates with a 27% drop in close rates.”
This doesn’t mean a skilled salesperson can’t use ROI powerfully, however. After all, if the return is greater than the cost of the solution, it’s a good deal.
In general, demonstrate how your solution meets (and exceeds) your prospect’s business needs, and be well versed in the nuances of cost and returns. Your prospect should already want your product and see the value it brings – ROI is simply the icing on the cake.
There are three way can express ROI to your prospect:
- The first (and easiest) is to give them an average ROI seen across existing customers. While this isn’t typically enough to sway IT, it can show them what types of customers and the value they received and what their own organization can anticipate.
- The second is to provide customer case studies that demonstrate real value and are relevant to your prospect’s industry, company size and business goals. This method is extremely powerful if coupled with a customer reference from a case study. IT can do the prereading and come into a conversation with specific questions to go deeper on value.
- Third and finally, offer to help your prospect with the ROI calculation as part of the agreement. If your organization has the resources and expertise, lead a prospect through your methodology on how you’ve helped customers calculate their ROI and achieve greater value and results.
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