The Current State
For years, the number of people who sit on the buying committee for large software investments has grown. These committees now average 11 people, and 77% of buyers report “high purchase difficulty” because the process is “overwhelming”. The reasons for this are:
1. Software solutions are more comprehensive than ever. As incentive compensation solutions have evolved into sales performance management, technology investment decisions require input from more people and departments in the organization.
2. More people influence decisions. Because more workers than ever are remote, it is that much easier for new people to join meetings. Larger committees mean more people have a say.
3. No one wants to make the wrong decision. With more scrutiny on spend, and budget pressure, buyers include others in the decision journey, so they don’t make mistakes alone.
As the size of these committees grows, so has their complexity: different functions, goals, motivations, regions, and personalities. And dysfunction follows. According to Gartner, buyers spend 15% of their time de-conflicting information from other sources and committee members.
The dysfunction has become so bad that nearly half of B2B buyers report not advocating for a solution they want to purchase. This has huge implications: purchase cycles slow. Top of funnel narrows. Otherwise good leads delay or avoid entering the buying journey altogether.
What To Do About It
1. Understand Their Needs
Most buying committee members seek three types of value in purchase decisions:
1. Company - Meet industry standards, ensure reliability, gain required features.
2. Work - Simplify work, save time, be more productive.
3. Personal - Feel pride in my work, earn others’ respect, advance my career.
During discovery, it’s critical to understand and record these needs from as many stakeholders as possible. Initial messaging that highlights personal benefits is more likely to motivate action. For example, “Done right, an investment in SPM increases job satisfaction because it streamlines quota attainment and incentives paid.”
2. Find Common Ground
Collective wisdom says the best way to convince a large group is to pursue a “yes” from each stakeholder, built on value to that individual. However, you’ll earn a collective yes when you build shared value for all members.
To build common ground and shared mental model:
- Identify key stakeholders.
- Conduct workshops designed to create consensus. By establishing common ground, you lower buyers’ likelihood to default to the lowest common denominator.
- Seek points of agreement and disconnect. Be especially careful of decision makers who share business objectives but have differing personal priorities.
- Connect to an individual mobilizer. A prime way to influence the buying committee is to have a champion with credibility among colleagues.
Contrary to what sales leadership may have taught earlier in your career, there is no single decision maker any more. Today’s technology investments are decided by committees.
3. Activate Your Mobilizers
Mobilizers play a critical role in moving the deal forward. They ask tough questions, value team success and buy-in, tend to be positively motivated, and like to act as teachers in their organizations.
The key way to activate mobilizers is to understand the type of business case they use and position your messaging accordingly. Otherwise, you risk wasting valuable time. The four most common business cases are:
1. Comparing costs of alternative vendors.
2. The total cost of ownership.
3. The timeline and size of a return on investment.
4. No business case.
In follow-up messaging, equip mobilizers with content and tools to support their business case and connect diverse stakeholders. For example, “At this stage, you’re probably asking, how does SPM support our revenue operations and hiring objectives? Click here to see other questions your colleagues may be asking.” The more you provide content for independent, digital research, the better.
Getting aligned on common ground, finding individuals willing to fight, and offering the right content to guide buyers through their journey ultimately means achieving group consensus on a purchase.
- Bryan, Jordan. “What Sales Should Know About B2B Buyers in 2019.” Smarter With Gartner, Gartner, 2019, www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/what-sales-should-know-about-b2b-buyers-in-2019/.
- Buyer Enablement, Gartner, 2019,