Buyer’s Inertia is killing competitive advantage – here’s how procurement can avoid it.

Speak with any salesperson and you’re likely to hear just how hard selling has become today. And while yes this is true, it’s nothing compared to being the person on the other end - you guessed it, I’m talking about the buyer.

As hard as it has become to sell in today’s world, it has become that much more difficult to buy. The single biggest challenge of selling today is not selling, it is actually our customers’ struggle to buy.” Brent Adamson, Gartner.

Gartner argues that 77% of B2B buyers found their latest purchase to be very complex or difficult - here’s why it has become such an issue.

The typical buying group includes multiple decision-makers (sometimes even 12 - 16 people in the more complex decisions), with each buyer having their own agenda. Coupled with the ever-expanding number of solutions available, it’s no wonder things aren’t easy.

And the cherry on top of the pie? Over 60% of RFPs result in sticking with the status quo. All that time, resource and sheer grunt work to remain with an existing supplier more than half of the time.

Let’s be crystal clear here, sticking with the status quo just because consensus could not be reached is not a strategy for the future. The only time when the status quo is OK is when everyone agrees that it really is the best solution for the business. But all too often, that’s not the case. This quote from Anthony Iannarino perfectly captures what I mean:

Sometimes when reasonable people disagree, they decide to do nothing, even when it is the wrong thing to do, even when it doesn’t serve them, and even when it puts their future at risk.

We call it Buyer’s Inertia - it will kill your chances at a competitive advantage, be both a time and resource suck, and drive contention within your business. One client of ours described the problem as ‘akin to herding cats’. Sound familiar?

There’s no silver bullet when it comes to trying to herd cats - but in our experience here are a few learnings when it comes to getting consensus in purchasing decisions.

Begin with a clear idea of what the most important criteria are
It’s important to enter the buying process all being on the same page. What exactly are you looking for in this RFP, and do you all agree on the most important outcome?

A customer who hasn’t reached consensus about the problem and if it justifies disrupting the status quo, is not ready to discuss solutions, and certainly is not ready to discuss your product” - George Bronten.

There’s absolutely no point beginning to search for a new solution if you haven’t yet reached internal consensus - starting consensus building early is critical. Here are a few questions George Bronten suggests you ask as a group to kick things off:

  • Is there a problem? What is it?
  • Is the problem important enough to invest in? Is it a current priority?
  • What kind of solution is appropriate?

Use insights to drive common understanding
Often buying groups come from different backgrounds and areas of the business, with completely different priorities. It’s important to ensure mutual understanding between individuals - and this needs to be backed up with fact-based insights to enlighten the group as to why something is a priority. Come to the initial conversation prepared, and clear on what you want to communicate and why. Equally, you need to be ready to listen just as much as you speak.

Start small to prove (or disprove) assumptions
When all else fails, where possible, consider starting small with one or two solutions to prove (or disprove) the assumptions of different decision-makers. This way you can keep multiple decision-makers happy, insuring that you are removing any pre-associated bias, and the best solution should come to the surface. Just make sure you all agree on what’s being measured from the outset, and what success looks like.

At the end of the day the biggest loser in a no-consensus buying decision is your business. While it might feel safer (and easier) to stick with the status quo, there’s one thing for sure: today’s business isn’t standing still, and if you’re not changing with your customers, you’re only creating a serious competitive disadvantage for yourself in the long run.

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