B2B Marketing’s a Game of ‘Yes’ and ‘No’

In any B2B buying situation, you have the people who can say ‘yes’ and the people who can say ‘no.’ Here’s how to get more ‘yeses.’

B2B sales are notoriously difficult to close. I’m not talking about the buy-monthly SaaS products you can expense on a corporate credit card — but rather “strategic purchases” such as buying an enterprise application requiring deep integration, or investing in a turnkey piece of manufacturing equipment, or switching your auditors.

These kinds of purchases are gnarly and complex. They carry with them endemic risk to operations and reputations. Put simply, they can go horribly wrong.

High Pressure of B2B Sales

In these kinds of sales, the stakes are high. Costs typically run into five or six figures, and switching suppliers or deploying a new product is always disruptive (however hard the vendor works to smooth the transition).

This upheaval can have knock-on effects on the person pushing through the sale — their job security and livelihood can quite literally be at stake — and on day-to-day operations, which has a financial impact on the business, too.

Then there are the gatekeepers. In high-ticket B2B sales, there are many people standing in the way of success. This is why we don’t talk in the singular about a customer; there are always multiple buyers. Who these buyers are depends on the company, but they all fall into two distinct categories. 

Related Article: Why B2B Marketing’s a Long Game, Not a Hit-and-Run SaaS Play

The ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ of B2B Buying Cycles

In any B2B buying situation, you have the people who can say “yes” and the people who can say “no.”

The people who can say “yes” tend to be the sponsors and do more (and more in-depth) research around the purchase. Even so, they won’t do as much research as you might think or would like. Many shortlists simply feature the three largest brands in the market and one or two others. Forget procurement. It’s these sponsors that will often be the ones to add an outlier to the shortlist — a solution that isn’t the market leader but that looks just as good, if not better, but that isn’t well known.

The people who can say “no” tend to be more senior. They’re probably a CEO, COO or CFO. They don’t have the time or inclination to do in-depth research. Faced with a shortlist featuring companies they’ve never heard of, they’ll ask “who?” and unless the sponsor is very convincing and/or is willing to put their reputation on the line, will tend to say “no.”

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