The Challenger Customer: Finding and Engaging Mobilizers in B2B Sales

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Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 5.00.43 PMBrent Adamson, principal executive adviser at CEB and best-selling author, led one of the most popular sessions at XANT’s Sales Acceleration Summit 2016.

Brent discussed the different stakeholder personas in B2B sales and which ones star performers focus on.

It’s been ingrained in our minds that success in B2B sales is all about making the right connections. And while that’s true, we have a warped perception of whom we should connect with.

Don’t let the title fool you. The best person to speak with isn’t always the highest on the chain of command. Instead of trying to reach those with budget ownership, seniority and decision-making authority, quota crushers have trained themselves to find customer stakeholders with the right personalities.

7 stakeholder personas

Through rigorous study and research, CEB has discovered that every stakeholder involved in a B2B purchases has one of the following personas:

  1. The Go-Getter is constantly looking for new ideas and delivering more than they’re asked to do. They learn from their mistakes and look to champion other’s ideas.
  2. The Skeptic is open to new ideas, but they like to analyze and dissect every detail. They perceive unclear projects as risky and believe that changes require small wins first.
  3. The Friend is readily accessible and is always looking to network with sales reps and colleagues.
  4. The Teacher is great at explaining new insights, and both colleagues and executives seek a teacher’s input. Teachers are seen as visionaries and are particularly gifted at motivating others.
  5. The Guide is good at providing information typically unavailable to vendors. They are open and speak the truth when interacting with sales reps.
  6. The Climber values personal gain over the company’s. They always want to know what’s in it for them and always look to brag about their personal success.
  7. The Blocker believes stability is a goal in and of itself. They rarely help vendors, not because they don’t like them, but because they are opposed to change. Blockers believe improvement projects are distractions.

Obviously, these personas aren’t mutually exclusive and there will always be some overlap, but according to Brent, stakeholders always gravitate toward one of these profiles.

Who should you connect with?

As CEB spoke with top sellers and star performers, they realized there are only two things these sellers cared about when deciding where to hitch their wagon within a customer organization.

Instead of focusing on role or title, like they are trained to do, these sales reps are looking for someone with the ability to build a consensus and willing to drive change.

In our list of seven personas, there are only three that fulfill those requirements:

  •      The Go-Getter
  •      The Teacher
  •      The Skeptic

Brent has dubbed this group the mobilizers.

Mobilizers are the ones who rally the troops. They’ve earned their nickname because they mobilize action and build consensus.

Others on the list may be friendly and talk with you (except the blocker), but they won’t get anything done.

What now?

Apply this to any prospects or customers you’re working with. Think of real accounts and the people you’re speaking with.

Which persona group do they belong to? Are you speaking with mobilizers or are you stuck with talkers and blockers?

Once you identify the people you should be speaking with, focus on these two tasks:

  1.     Engage mobilizers with commercial insight, not thought leadership
  2.     Equip mobilizers to coach customers toward collective change

As you work with and empower mobilizers in the companies you’re selling to, you’ll achieve greater B2B success.

You can watch Brent’s full presentation, or any of our other sales summit speakers, on demand by registering today.

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