84 percent of customers report a buying journey taking longer than expected.

And that’s if the journey ends with an actual decision! 

In today’s complex world of B2B selling, it’s not uncommon for a group of customer stakeholders to reach gridlock instead of consensus and simply give up on a decision. The process is so painful that the status quo (as suboptimal as that may be) is seen as a better option.

No decision is very costly, both for your customer and for you: meetings, time, travel, effort, missed opportunities, missed forecasts.

How frequently does this happen? That depends on the size of the buying group. But the trend doesn’t seem to favor sellers. Back in 2014, as part of CEB, we started measuring the average size of a customer buying group in a typical B2B purchase. When we first looked at it, the number was 5.4. This makes sense; if you’re purchasing an enterprise software solution, you’ll have finance, HR, marketing, operations, and of course IT and procurement involved in the decision.

But more surprising than the size of the initial number was what happened each subsequent time we measured it. In 2016, the number jumped to 6.8—a 25 percent jump in just two years. Fast forward two more years, to 2018, and that number could be as much as 10.2. That’s an additional four stakeholders involved in decisions who weren’t involved just a few years ago.

Salespeople today encounter a very different customer buying group than they have in the recent past, and it’s not an easier group to work with. You see this displayed in the graph below, which looks at how growth in the number of buying team members correlates to purchase likelihood. When a single person makes a purchase decision, the odds of purchase are in the seller’s favor (81 percent). Add a second person to that buying team and the likelihood drops significantly (to 55 percent). A third person is helpful in breaking a tie (likelihood rises to 60 percent), but once you reach five or more people in the buying team, the likelihood of reaching a decision falls dramatically. In summary, without a significant change in strategy and behavior, your salespeople face significant odds in getting a customer decision to happen.

Source: CEB Analysis 

In the face of these statistics, the answer for most organizations is more sales activity.  More engagement with prospects, more responses to proposals and RFPs, more visits and conversations. But what we fail to realize, when running a machine more and more to get less and less, is that we can control this situation because we created it.

Why do we think more and more customer stakeholders are involved in these decisions? It’s not for fun, or because they have nothing else to do. It’s because the complex solutions we have built require this type of consensus. When a solution must be integrated across the business, it’s reasonable to expect that a good number of people will have an opinion on it.

Before we go and blow up our well-designed, value-added solutions, let’s consider a third path. A path that teaches customers to see the wisdom and value in our solutions, but also recognizes and addresses the reality of today’s decision-making journey. Visit us to learn specific ways to strengthen your sales experience so that you move this expanding buying group to consensus and close more opportunities faster.

Challenger, Inc.

Challenger is the global leader in training, technology, and consulting to win today’s complex sale. Our sales transformation and training programs are supported by ongoing research and backed by our best-selling books, The Challenger Sale, The Challenger Customer, and The Effortless Experience.