Family Factors – What’s Really Driving Business Development Outcomes?

Stu Perlmeter

Perhaps a better title for this post would be Family – OR – Factors. Regular readers of my posts know that Win-Loss Analysis is a central theme. After all, if you’ve been focusing on something for over 20 years, you tend to – I’ll admit it, ‘obsess’ a bit about that something.

OK, so let me explain the cryptic title. Particularly in B2B, where technology is a big factor, your marketing content stream and your sales qualifying is aimed at “factors”. By that, I mean, what are the initial issues or opportunities a company might be focused on, as they perform an online search that might put them in your content stream to begin with? And what are the factors they consider important in pursuing a potential vendor and solution?

Also, as you well know, the buying organization goes down the path of their journey toward making a selection and a purchase, they go to school on the content and messaging coming from your marketing and sales teams, and importantly, that of your competition as well. Think of their journey as not one of meandering quietly down a groomed trail, but more as one of a pinball cascading franticly between pop-bumpers and flippers.

As you would expect, the factors that influence their decision constantly evolve, as well as their definition of the issue of opportunity being addressed by their impending buying decision. This dynamic nature of decision factors makes the final decision much harder to predict.

If that weren’t crazy enough, consider the family aspect – yes, “family”. If you are in a Wealth Management practice, you are commonly dealing with families as clients or prospects. In B2B, it’s a common pitfall to fail to see the decision team within a corporate buying entity as a de-facto family.

There’s a clever homily that goes something like, “the definition of a normal family is one other than your own”. Most of us didn’t grow up in a Norman Rockwell painting. Similarly, in a corporate environment, similar quirks are at play; power centers rest in places that wouldn’t make sense by just a simple reading of the prospect’s org chart.

Further obfuscating the issue is that often the final decision is often influenced by someone whose job will be minimally impacted by the actual selection. For example, someone from the CIO’s organization or the Corporate Counsel’s office might be more concerned about network security or liability than what the proposed solution is supposed to do, to help them move the ball down the field. Not that those are trivial concerns, but these pivotal concerns are often misplaced and overblown.

The obvious impact for the seller is that their task becomes quite complicated selling into an enterprise environment. From our perspective, after having completed over two thousand win-loss customer interviews is that sellers tend to go way overboard on the ‘factors’, emphasizing the ideal fit of their solution’s features and benefits, at the expense of recognizing the ‘family’ aspects of the buying organization.

Understanding who is the ‘papa bear, the mama bear and who are the baby bears’, is worth your while. If the sales conversation over a period of months, or even years, is exclusively with baby bears – the new business pursuit can end with tragic results.

About the Author

Stu Perlmeter

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Stu brings 30 years of marketing and research experience to 1st Resource, which he founded in 1996. Stu’s primary expertise is in understanding the market insights that tie to success formulas for companies seeking to grow their business in strategic ways.