Sales Management

The Great Sales Fallacy

Unknown Player Steals Victory with Brilliant Pitch; Flashy Smile

Here is the start of the dream sequence. You know – Charming salesperson enters active buying process and through their distinct offering, good looks, stellar communication skills and sheer will, goes from relative unknown to WINNING the big banana. The story gets great airtime within organizations, recounted by sales leaders who relish how players snatched victory from defeat. The legend grows as it serves as a badge of honor for sales or as a convenient management tool to motivate others to reach such heights. The truth is that it almost never happens because major new research reveals that these days, if no one is carrying your perceptual flag into the buyer meeting, no one is going to notice you.

That’s because buyers rarely form favorites while the buying team meets. They determine who they favor before the conversation ever starts.

Recent IDG Connect and Wallace & Washburn research involving hundreds of B2B buying team members confirms this with no room for doubt. In fact, ninety-seven percent of B2B buyers who participate as part of a buying team go into the active purchase process with a pre-favorite in mind. It’s all about what you do in advance of the first meeting to carve out your perceptual niche.




Battle Scenarios Are Usually Cast Before the Team Ever Meets

So the buying process kicks in and the subtle or obvious tug of war begins. The advocates push for their favorite, the challengers go on the attack and the collaborators hope for team consensus. Who’s pre-favorite will win? How does initial consensus form and why? Sure, one on one salesmanship does play a key role here, but vendors need to have achieved a pre-favorite status, and that means marketing oneself early on, and in new ways.


The pre-favorite is defined as a vendor who has an offering or service a buyer knows enough about relative to his or her organizational needs to support them as a viable purchase choice for the team to consider.

So if you have not become a pre-favorite of one, or more, buying team member prior to the start of the active decision process that goes through building the business case, deliberation and choice you might as well forget it. In this case the premise to never quit, never give in, is just not a good use of your time. You must seize upon the pre-purchase window to build up legitimacy, expertise and presence among those making or involved in the decision of what to buy and who from. It’s a steady drum beat of visibility and effort so when the cadence of interest picks up, you’re offering is not left behind. And new IDG Connect research indicates that the best way to become a pre-favorite is to leverage emotion-based goals that resonate with buyers. In fact, emotion now influences over 50% of the buy decision according to hundreds of buyers surveyed.


The Pre-Purchase Window


What matters most is how a vendor seizes upon the pre-purchase window to build up legitimacy, expertise and presence among those making or involved in the decision of where and what to buy. That comes from visible thought leadership that compels with clear, concise insight. That insight needs to be relevant from a practical and emotional perspective. You have to connect with the buyer, not in the possible heat-of-purchase battle, but over time with perspective, context and insight that forms the way they think about and approach a specific business issue.

Who’s Sharing Your Pre-Favorite?

The research confirms that about half of buying team members find that once discussions begin, they share a pre-favorite with someone else. When discussions begin, the positioning, posturing and debate intends to get everyone aligned in terms of who makes the shortlist of two to three finalists. In fact, buyers state that over seventy percent of the time their favorite does makes the shortlist. Sometimes the scope changes, delayed decisions occur and, once in a while, the un-favored entrant steals a victory.

Becoming a Pre-Favorite



Don’t simply think becoming a pre-favorite in terms of historical brand awareness as if this is about ad impressions or recall, because it is not. It is deeper than that as you’re not selling soda pop. Vendors who will succeed in the new battle of pre-favoritism will engage in research to scope buyer territory, especially their emotional-based goals. They will influence the buying team members (Advocates, Challengers and Collaborators) with a specific message and strategy in mind (See IDG Connect Cloud Security example above). They will measure thought leader or leadership status and propensity to recommend to others within one’s organization.

So, ask yourself what questions you pose today pre and post campaign. Take an approach that uses truly educational content, not promotional material dressed up as an independent case study. Nobody likes such a bait and switch approach. Provide modular, short, concise and focused content in assets that can combine together to form a story, a path of learning, and a frame of reference. Develop comparison charts featuring your strengths for use by your supporters on the buying team. Share the insight of customers who have already experienced the solution, not to have them cheerlead your offering but explain the reasoning for pursuit, the goals that were met, the challenges face. You want the buyer confident that you are a voice of reason with sound advice. That will help you achieve what really matters, status of being one or more team member’s pre-favorite. Only then do you stand a chance to come through the buying process as not only a shortlisted vendor but the ultimate winner.

By Bob Johnson Principal Analyst at IDG Connect & Kimball Wallace CEO at Wallace & Washburn Marketing


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Bob Johnson

VP & Principal Analyst, IDG Connect

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