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The Number of Customer Stakeholders Has Exploded

5.4? 6.8? 8.2? Depending on who you believe, that’s the average number of customer-side stakeholders involved in making complex, B2B purchasing decisions.

Not included in this tally: product evaluators, procurement advisors, even outside consultants — all of whom are in the mix to evaluate solutions, make recommendations and…most importantly…depress cost.

For high-growth accounts at best-in-class suppliers, Gallup sees an average of between 10 and 30 strong, active customer relationships. Now think about your most critical customer relationships, the ones you literally can’t afford to lose. (I’ll wait.)

Do you have strong, zippered relationships that penetrate high, wide and deep? Do your executives meet regularly to discuss strategy? Do your Quality people have relationships with their Operations people? If you call, does your counterpart pick up the phone?

If your answers are anything other than a chest-thumping “Yes,” then you are at risk of losing strategic accounts because of inadequate customer stakeholder management.

CUSTOMER DECISION MAKERS AND INFLUENCERS ARE INCREASINGLY CROSS-FUNCTIONAL

And you don’t just need to influence more people inside your customer, you need to influence different people. Today’s decision makers are geographically dispersed and straddle a diverse spread of product and functional areas.

Demand Gen Report’s latest B2B Buyer Survey Report shows that:

• Nearly 40% of buyers say the role of executives in purchasing decisions has increased

• More than a third (37%) say the role of Operations has increased

• Nearly one-third (33%) say the role of Finance has increased

As an account manager, you have to understand what motivates each and every one of these buyers. A technical buyer may only care about how well your product solves a specific technical problem. (Or, in some cases, whether your product will create more complications for him.) The business buyer needs to understand your product/solution’s total cost of ownership and projected ROI. The Procurement lead may be motivated only by price, compliance or the reliability of your supply chain.

Knowing what matters to each individual stakeholders will help ensure you get the right message to the right person at the right stage of every deal cycle. Which brings us to the third challenge significantly impacting account managers’ ability to influence their customers stakeholders…

SUPPLIERS HAVE LESS TIME THAN EVER TO INFLUENCE THEIR CUSTOMER STAKEHOLDERS

Not only do you have more decision makers than ever before. And not only do they come from increasingly diverse areas of your customer organization. On top of that, they spend less time than ever engaging with their suppliers.

That’s because when customers are considering a purchase, they spend just 17% of their total time meeting with potential suppliers. And if they’re weighing multiple suppliers, that number drops to just 5% or 6%.

And yet! A whopping 90% of buyers say they are open to engaging with sellers earlier — especially when they think the problem they’re trying to solve is risky or complex. As a strategic supplier, this is where your opportunity is hiding in plain sight.

But before you can influence your customer stakeholders, you have to know who they are.

To get some actionable steps wait for next week to get part 3 or get the Full Guide to Relationship Management

If you missed part 1 read it here!