Four Buying Scenarios to help you sell profitable business solutions

B2B Solution Buying Scenarios Slide
B2B Solution Scenarios – Can or Can’t the Buyer or Vendor ‘see’ the need and the solution? (click to enlarge)

Several years ago I found a B2B sales model that looked at different buying scenarios and how to approach the sale in these situations.

I was reminded of it the other day, as the model is also applicable to marketing and sales strategy, positioning, messaging in content marketing, and indeed many aspects of the B2B sales funnel.

You may gain insight from this model to help you assess your proposition and your prospects perception of their requirements. You may then be able to re-frame the requirements in ways that are more favourable to you, and increase your value in the eyes of your prospect.

Four Buying Scenarios

The axis of the model is essentially about whether the buyer or seller can or can’t see the problem and solution.

Whether you are a vendor or a buyer, by making a more accurate assessment of your situation and the situation of the other party you can increase the likelihood of a win:win – with a better quality solution and relationship, and save time and money.

Alternatively, if you start off on the wrong footing in your marketing and sales, or in the buying process, or if the position changes during the course of the sales or buying process, it can lead to unfortunate consequences.

Vendor perspective

For the vendor it could lead to the loss of the sale, (if a competitor engineers the situation to their advantage), or loss of profit if you win the business on the wrong basis.

Two big implications of these buying scenarios for vendors and their marketing and sales are:

  •     on your market positioning, content marketing and lead nurture
  •     on your qualification process, either as a fact-find or lead-scoring

Recognising these buying scenarios, and agreeing the ‘ideal’ sales lead criteria between marketing and sales based on this will help to increase lead conversion, sales revenue and profitability.

Buyer perspective

For the buyer it could lead to having a short-list of vendors with the wrong capabilities, or selecting a supplier without strengths in key areas that would make a project successful, or with a commercial arrangement that is unsustainable.

Two big implications for buyers and their approach to procurement are:

  •     do the work internally to determine what the scope and requirements are
  •     be conscious of what skills potential providers bring, and the value of those skills

Involving an external party to assist with requirements assessment, prioritisation etc. could be money well spent at the end of the project, equivalent to using an architect or an engineer to help with equivalent projects.

To illustrate the four different buying scenarios below I’ll refer to a website design and build project.

Four Buying Scenarios based on buyer & seller viewpoint

B2B Solution Scenarios Slide

1. Both Seller and Buyer can see the need and solution

This situation is fairly transactional and may exhibit characteristics of a commodity market. The buyer knows they have a need, they (think they) know what type of organisations can deliver, they can Google key phrases, give a clear brief for the requirement, and so on. The sales organisation supplies a quote or responding to a tender. The vendor has probably delivered similar solutions many times before therefore can accurately price, deliver and make a profit.

Other examples that come to mind include stationery, print, IT hardware like PCs and printers, some professional services, some marketing services, and a lot of lower cost public sector procurement. The Hosted, SaaS applications for Marketing and Sales are typically being offered on this basis. In the website design and build example it applies when there is a clear-cut case of a ‘simple’ new or replacement website.

Challenges for the vendor include, how to differentiate where price is often the main criteria, whether there is scope to move the requirement into another area in order to create differentiation, and conversely how to avoid the scope creeping into other areas while still being price competitive and making a profit.

2. The buyer can see the problem and solution but the vendor can’t.

This situation is more project based and consultative. When the buyer has a fairly clear idea of the pain and the solution that would relieve the pain, but their specifics are fairly unique, then the vendor needs to undertake a fairly thorough fact-find, diagnostic, and explore the boundaries of what the buyer has in mind.

Marketing Campaigns and IT systems are example in this area. The marketing campaign probably needs to fit with other marketing activities, with brand guidelines, with communications and sales channels etc. The buyer knows what these are, and it’s important that the seller establishes what these are, in order to come up with a creative solution and an appropriate price.

A larger and more complex website design and build project needs to take these into account as well as technology and integration with other systems that may be required to create a more integrated marketing and sales solution. This might mean integrating into back-office systems, or to an existing Sales Force Automation (SFA) or Customer Relationship management (CRM) system. Uncovering and suggesting how these needs can be met is a great way for a vendor to add value and create differentiation. Failure to uncover these requirements can seriously compromise the bid and the project, allowing another vendor to win the business, or the supplier wins the business at an unrealistic price.

3. The vendor can see the problem and solution but the buyer can’t.

This is typically where new ideas, innovations, products and solutions have been developed and are being brought to market. There is a good deal of awareness raising and educating the market required in order that the vendor can develop a pipeline of opportunities. There needs to be a focus on creating a need, based on a mix of developing the sense of pain that the prospective buyer may not even be aware of, and the vision of the potential gains.

The technology sector, and particularly technology for marketing and sales area typify this, due to the innovative nature of the sector. Cloud-based applications is one such area recently, where initial awareness needed to be raised, then concerns about things like security and resilience needed to be addressed. Within 2-3 years there is a much greater market awareness and acceptance of this approach. This has paved the way for the myriad of hosted application providers and solutions that are clamouring for our attention.

Back to the website example, the addition and integration of social media, email marketing, marketing automation, and many other applications around the website content publishing capability are areas of added value to the client. Going one step further, marketing and selling these additional applications as discrete areas can establish a foothold for a subsequent website redesign and rebuild with new clients.

4. Neither the Buyer nor the Vendor can see the problem or the solution.

This scenario is typified by change management and a partnership approach. Senior management in large businesses may recognise a business issue as a starting position, and call in management consultants to help them to identify business performance issues, and corrective actions. Small and mid-sized businesses may end up in this scenario through evolution from one of the other examples.

Getting into this situation may be the underlying reason why many IT projects, especially those for Marketing and Sales systems, end up failing to meet expectations or even to be delivered at all. The complexity of integrated IT, combined with the close inter-relationship with business processes, (that may need to be improved as well as mapped onto a new application), and with people who will need training on the new system, (and who’s roles may change, and who may be resistant to change for many reasons), adds a whole range of different demands onto a project.

To return to the website example, integrating a website with back-office and CRM systems, introducing sophisticated email marketing, introducing automation of lead generation campaigns, lead scoring, workflow, triggers, and so-on needs a level of understanding and indeed of updating to business processes, and also an impact on people within the organisation.

A supplier who has this range of skills may not be the first choice for an organisation who considers that what they need is ‘a new website’, and has budgeted accordingly. However, having selected a supplier that can ‘design and build a website’, if the requirements and scope increases, and the factors that create significant business benefits impact on business processes and people, there comes a point where there may be a fundamental mis-match in expectations and capabilities, in both buyer and vendor organisations.

An independent assessment of Buying Scenarios

One way for senior management of businesses to improve their marketing and sales, increase the potential benefits and align expectations and capabilities while reducing risk is to commission an independent assessment.

The value to a business owner, director or senior manager of a Review and Action Plan is that it identifies quick wins and long term strategy and benefits, along with resource requirements and risks. This enables a more informed decision to be made, before engaging potential delivery partners, or investing time in trial and error evaluation of ‘free trials’ of various marketing and sales applications.

There are also benefits to marketing agencies and website design and build companies of including a senior business development and systems strategy consultant on their team. This could be during the pitch and proposal stage, or having won or even started to deliver a project, and when discussing subsequent phases to grow an existing client.

Aligning your LinkedIn Activity with these scenarios

Your prospects may fall neatly into one of the four categories. In which case your LinkedIn activity can be very focused on them, their needs, and their buying process.

More likely your prospects could be in any of the situations. In which case you have a wonderful opportunity to educate them about the different elements in their research and definition of needs.

If you’d like to explore any of these ideas and develop your positioning, sales messaging and/or your LinkedIn profile(s), page and activity, then click the image below and set up a call with me, Mark Stonham. And let’s see which one of us can or can’t see a way to improve your lead generation, sales campaigns and sales conversions.

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Published by Mark Stonham

I help Business Owners and Sales Leaders to improve lead generation and create new sales opportunities through effective use of LinkedIn for themselves and their business. Techniques include Targeting, Trigger Events and Re-Framing the proposition to start sales conversations. In particular I work with technology businesses, professional services firms and knowledge sector organisations.