Your Buyer Is A Group, Not A Person. What Are You Doing About It?

Kerry Cunningham, VP and principal analyst, Forrester Research

Buying groups are a curious thing: They’re the reality in B2B, but most B2B organizations still don’t act accordingly.

In our recent revenue operations survey, 94% of respondents told us that they sell to groups of three or more individuals. Thirty-eight percent sell to groups of 10 or more. A different Forrester survey — this one aimed at buyers, not sellers — showed slightly different, but largely consistent findings. Buyers report that when they were involved in the purchase of a solution that cost more than $5,000, it was a group of three or more making that decision 84% of the time. We’ll cover the possible reasons for the different perspectives in another blog post, but it suffices to say that buyers tend to count people they think were influential, not everyone who was involved. Not surprisingly, sellers tend to have a more complete perspective on who is involved.

Tuning Your Revenue Engine to Buying Groups

As Forrester analysts, we talk to many B2B organizations, and it’s very rare that we encounter one that has already tuned their revenue engine to buying groups. It’s all about leads and accounts, but rarely groups. And yet, as the data above illustrate, the buyer is neither a lead nor an account, but a group. And the truth is, it has always been like this. When IBM was selling mainframes 40 years ago, it was selling to buying groups.

So, what happened? Well, back in the 2000s, marketing automation came along, and we all got drunk on leads. I was there. The notion that there could be dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people giving us their names and contact information was … very heady stuff. But the methods applied to addressing those leads were never right. This was one of the worst cases of losing sight of the forest to stare at the trees in business history.

Now, we’re not saying you shouldn’t produce leads. Produce lots of leads. But, 1) produce them from organizations that you can sell your products to, and 2) make sure you notice when those organizations show up with more than one lead. That’s it. That’s the correction. The best buying signal you will ever get is the presence of multiple individuals from the same organization researching your solutions at the same time.

Marketing to Multiple Personas

If you’re already marketing to multiple personas, or if you’re taking an account-based approach (you should be), the only way to capitalize on those approaches is to make your demand management processes buying group aware.

But that’s not all. Many of you reading this will have already evolved to an account-based strategy, and you may be thinking: I’m all set. But, if a prospect account represents more than one possible selling opportunity, your account-based approach has to accommodate the fact that in any account, you may have multiple types of selling opportunities, each with its own journey. Trying to track multiple opportunities at different lifecycle stages requires an opportunity-based approach.

In our new e-book, we lay out the case for why your organization must become buying group-aware and opportunity-centric. We also explain a great deal of the how, including how to use the latest version of the waterfall — the Forrester B2B Revenue Waterfall — to do it.


Author Kerry Cunningham is VP, principal analyst at Forrester Research. Read more from Forrester here.

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