Biasing Buyers

The oddest request I ever received from the head of a sales organization was “Can you stop promoting the product for a couple of months?”

It was an old company with a new product that had gone nowhere before I took the reigns of their marketing department. I established a strategy that relied on precise market segmentation, focusing on the top two segments, then making buyers and strategic partners believe we were the only serious product in the market. Sales jumped 26% in the first year, we chased two competitors completely out of our target segments, and had a sales close rate above 80%.

The poor sales folks couldn’t keep up with incoming calls.

The strategy was to bias the opinions of buyers. This required them believing that we not only cured the generic problem (which our competitors did too) but we also cured the buyers personal job-related problem (in this case, that we could reduce their job stress) and that we were a safe bet (which reduced their purchase decision stress). The product was mainly used as a plug-in to enterprise-class applications and IT utilities. By focusing on two product categories therein, and partnering with the top three competitors in those segments, we were able to clearly target 66% or more of the potential buyers in those two segments.

In periodicals read by users of strategic partner software, we bought full page display ads (remember buying those) whereas out competitors kept their 1/4 page ads. This demonstrated greater strength to the buyers, clearly attached us to the partner products, and gave us ample space to communicate our solving buyer generic/functional and emotive problems. We also treated our strategic partner’s sales teams like our own, coaching them on what motivated buyers, what our brand and key advantages were, and why our solution made their product whole. Buyers heard the same story in ads and from their enterprise application vendors (which included HP, IBM, CA and some other obscure firms).

Appearing at partner trade shows merely solidified the concepts we were planting in their craniums.

Being boosted by both presence (ads and trade shows) and partner sales teams, set a brand that biased purchase decisions. When the need to solve the generic/functional problem arose in a prospect’s company, we were perceived to be the only viable choice. A default buying decision was created for them. This all demonstrates the difference between lead quality and lead viability.

harley-headA quality lead is one that meets certain criteria (qualifications). The problem with merely qualified leads is that the motivation to buy your product does not exist. Qualified leads are simply people who are approachable and might consider buying your product. A viable lead is one where the likelihood of selling them your product is enhanced. IBM develops viable leads largely through historical brand strength — nobody ever got fired for buying IBM. Creating viable leads requires creating positive differentiation in the minds of buyers. The differentiation can be functional — such as broader or superior features — or it can be entirely emotional.

Studies show that emotions sell better, even for B2B software products.

Interestingly, people will echo your biasing once they own your product, even if the branding is not entirely accurate. People need to believe the decision you forced helped them to make was the right one. Thus, biasing decisions to create viable leads then starts a cascade effect, turning buyers into brand advocates and generating more buyers — the buzz effect. Buyers not infected with biasing won’t do the same.

Pick a differentiated brand then find all the vectors through which your target buyers receive brand biasing. They soon will have no choice but to call your sales team.

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