Ecosystems? Sure. We all play our part. We give, we get, contribute, create, and operate in a system of causality.
An HBR study from 2012 says that 60% of 1,400 B2B decision-makers made purchasing decisions before they talked to their external vendor representatives/sales people. Digital age decision-making isn’t rocket-science; customers self-educate. In 2016 it is reasonable to believe this trend continues. Which leaves direct sales teams to wrestle competitors for the 40% of our customers/prospects within their control to influence.
Who are these elusive 60% talking to? How can you get to them?
Upstream and Downstream Constituents. The Ecosystem View recognizes that finance, marketing, sales, operations, human resources, and the unknown outside influencers, are highly interdependent. For instance, if my product is sales automation then other functions benefit through increased cash flow. If my product is CAD, production and procurement benefit from having tighter products specs. If my product is HR benefits management, each functional group depending on HR wins through improved employee retention.
Develop value propositions for each functional group. Ensure that your message is relevant to your target decision-maker’s peers. Leverage their peer influence, so when they speak to your prospect, everyone knows what they get from buying your product/service. Your total value is greatly increased.
Surround your prospects in advance of contact. When your target decision-maker becomes aware of your product through a peer reference before you start to sell to them, their “anti-buying” defenses are low. Subsequent dialog with or about your company will only build the business case about why your company is a good choice.
Upstream and Downstream Vendors. Each functional group above is a target prospect for some company’s product or service. So, even if that’s only partially true, then partnering with the companies selling to your prospects generates 3rd party credibility, competitive differentiation, lead generation, and additional opportunities for market sensing. Distributing through these partners also gives you pull-through of your product on their deals, and potential access to their sales teams for increased scale.
Bottom Line: Individual decision-makers within your customers/prospects are part of an ecosystem.
Surround them! Market to your ecosystem and stack the odds in your company’s favor!