12 Questions on the Social Buyer’s Mind

What is going through the Social Buyer’s mind?

Have you grown weary of all the talk about social selling? I understand. So let’s forget about social selling for a little while. Instead, let’s talk about social buying.


Back in the late ’80s, Neil Rackham wrote about a model for buying behavior known as the “Buyer Cycle” based on the research that he and his team conducted into how buyers make decisions. That simple model served as a sort of de facto standard model for the B2B buying process for over two decades.

But over the past 25 years, a lot has changed in the way buyers buy. The most recent driver of change has been the advent of social media. By way of their social media connections, buyers have real-time, all-the-time access to information regarding challenges and opportunities facing their industry, potential solutions to their problems, and all the news that’s fit to print about potential suppliers. The pace, flow, and focus of buyers’ decision-making has shifted as a result.

Who is the social buyer?

For the purpose of clarity, social buyer in this context refers to anyone (whether a middle manager, C-level executive, business owner or otherwise) who uses social media to inform their purchasing decisions.

Before the birth of social platforms, buyers identified issues or opportunities affecting their businesses in a deliberate way. They went through a protracted phase in which they discovered challenges and steadily moved from their once satisfied state to a state of dissatisfaction.

In contrast, today’s social buyers are always conscious of issues affecting their businesses, and they are empowered by information available via social platforms to identify and classify them quickly. In short, the pace at which a buyer moves from satisfied with the current state to dissatisfied has accelerated because of social platforms. The social buyer is in a state of nearly constant evaluation and change.

The social buying process is complex, but sellers must understand it if they want to have a prayer of being successful. Rather than dive into a blow-by-blow narrative of what each phase of the social buying process looks like, it might be more productive to think about the questions to which a social buyer seeks answers as they progress through their decision-making processes. In so doing, we may discover opportunities to create value and insight for them.

What is the social buyer thinking about?

Here are some common questions that social buyers turn to their social networks to find answers to.

1) How do we compare to others in our industry?

2) Is there evidence on the social platforms I use that others in our industry are dealing with the same issues that we are? Which opportunities are they pursuing?

3) Do we need to take any action now?

4) Have others I’m connected with found a way to cope with the issues we’re experiencing? 

5) When did those people reach the point where inaction was no longer an option?

6) What can I do on my own to capitalize on this opportunity? 

7) Can I find like-minded businesspeople on LinkedIn or another social network who’ve dealt with this sort of situation before?

8) If I cannot do this on my own, who out there has relevant experience? 

9) Can anyone recommend potential suppliers?

10) Can I find proof that those suppliers can deliver the sort of result I need?

11) Once I’ve identified a solution/provider, how will I know if I can trust them?

12) Who has experience working with a specific provider? Does anyone have any success stories? Horror stories?

The point of thinking about these questions is to discern whether and where there is opportunity to create value or insight for a social buyer. If we can put ourselves in their shoes, how might we approach them differently over social media? How might we react to buyers’ questions or comments in LinkedIn groups or on Twitter? Can we be different from all the other “social sellers” who are quick to jump in with answers about their products or services without first considering where the buyer may be in their decision-making process?

I won’t supply the answers to these questions here. After all, I told you we were going to forget about social selling for a little while. I will, however, look forward to your feedback on this view into the mind of the social buyer. Let me know what you think in the comments.

This article by contributor Matt McDarby was first published on the HubSpot blog.

United Sales Resources to Launch Sales Leadership Advisory Services

Sales Leadership Coaching Firm Will Offer Advisory Services And Content Library Starting In Early 2015

12/1/14 — ROCKVILLE, MARYLAND — United Sales Resources, LLC (USR) announces today that it will launch new sales leadership advisory services and a world-class knowledge base for its customers in the first quarter of 2015.

“We are very pleased to announce our new advisory services offering, as it will create a new path for our customers to take advantage of our research, expertise and insights on effective sales leadership,” said USR’s founder and President, Matt McDarby.

When released in early 2015, the new offering will empower sales leaders of all levels of experience and capability to lead more effective sales organizations and to accelerate their company’s growth. The new Sales Leadership Advisory services and knowledge base will distill the USR team’s sales leadership expertise into actionable intelligence, insight, and practical advice for business leaders seeking to grow their sales.

“We listen closely to our customers, and we have learned from them that there is a great need for practical, real-time advice focused on the issues facing sales leaders today. If they have questions, for example, about structure, sales process, pipeline management and forecasting, improving performance, or perhaps simply winning their company’s next big deal, we want to be their go-to resource for guidance. Think of it as a way to have support from a world-class sales leadership advisor any time you need it, regardless of the issue or opportunity you need to address,” said McDarby.

USR’s Sales Leadership Advisory Services will include access to an online knowledge base that will be available to customers starting in January 2015. The knowledge base will include exclusive content, research, and tools geared toward sales leaders seeking better sales performance and results. Advisory services and the knowledge base will be available on an unlimited basis to customers in exchange for a monthly or annual subscription fee.

About United Sales Resources, LLC

United Sales Resources (USR) helps small and medium-sized companies to win new business and grow.   Headquartered in Rockville, Maryland, USR provides world-class research, coaching, and advisory services to companies seeking better sales performance and results.  For more information, please contact United Sales Resources at (888) 877-1956, extension 102, or visit our website at www.usr-llc.com.

Media Contact: Matthew McDarby United Sales Resources, LLC, 301-325-4851, matt@usr-llc.com

Revenue Growth Hacks for 2015

Revenue growth is a nearly universal objective for small and middle-market businesses, and there are a number of different paths that companies can pursue to achieve revenue growth.  There are also at least as many traps and obstacles along the way.

I’m frequently asked to give my point of view on the best path to revenue growth by the leadership teams of small and middle market companies.  Before I prescribe, of course, I diagnose.  I typically ask questions to clarify and confirm some things about the current state and also about their future, desired state.  Important questions that I will tend to ask first are…

“Can you define success for this coming year?  How much revenue growth do you want to achieve and why?”

In the course of these discussions about future revenue growth, some common issues and opportunities arise.  One of the more common issues that we have to confront is the fact that small and middle market companies have limited resources with which to pursue growth.  We are forced to focus only on those ideas that offer the most benefit while mitigating the risks associated with stretching for growth.  Some of these ideas are more ingenious and creative than others.  We’ll call those ingenious ideas “hacks,” and they are crucial weapons in the fight for revenue growth that might just be relevant for you.

Did somebody say 'hack'?
Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As you consider your company’s plan for revenue growth in 2015, consider applying some of the revenue growth hacks that we’ve identified and applied elsewhere for very positive gains.

Attack the Discount Monster! — It may be an obvious point, but discounting to win in B2B sales has a direct impact on revenue.  Some companies aren’t even aware of the extent to which their sales team discounts to win new business.  I’ve personally witnessed relatively successful businesses operate without a handle on how much discounting goes on, to whom those discounts are being offered, and why.  They literally give away large chunks of their revenue based on an assumption that the only way they can win is by knocking down the price of their offerings.  In reality, instead of discounting, they should be focused on creating more value for customers throughout the buying process.  How much more might your company be able to drive to the top and bottom lines simply by attacking the discount monster that lurks within the sales organization?  Let’s consider a simple process for attacking this issue and increasing revenue simply by holding onto more of it:

  1. Focus on the early-stage opportunities in your sales pipeline.  It is in the earliest stages of a sales opportunity’s development in which your sellers can raise the importance and relative value of your solutions in the eyes of the buyer.  Plan to help customers understand the scale, cost, and impact of the problems you can solve for them BEFORE you propose solutions, and you will likely reduce or possibly eliminate the need for a discount to win.
  2. Propose your offer to the buyer, and hold firm to your price.  If you can’t hold firm, then look back at your process and why your customer doesn’t fully see the value of what you have to offer.  If necessary, go back and revisit problems and their impact and the potential value of the solution before repositioning your offer.
  3. Commit to avoid discounting as a means to overcome value gaps in the customer’s mind.  Focus on the “benefits” side of the equation instead of the “cost” side.

Focus Where You have the Best Opportunity to Differentiate (and try to avoid those opportunities where you do not.) — Dismiss opportunities where you cannot win, even if they look like big revenue opportunities.  They are a waste of time and they cost you money!  Don’t over-invest in selling opportunities where your only point of differentiation is price.  Following is an illustration of what I mean:

  • A middle-market firm, NewCo, has a huge sales opportunity worth roughly $1 Million over the next couple of years.  NewCo and several of its competitors are invited to participate in a competitive bid and bake-off.  All of the competitive solutions are very similar and the customer’s procurement process is designed specifically to narrow down all of the differences between competitors until there is only one difference left, price.
  • NewCo has another sales opportunity to pursue at the same time.  The NewCo sales rep has been in dialogue with key players involved in the decision making process for the last few months.  It is likely that competitors will be invited to offer a proposal, but the NewCo sales team clearly has the inside track.  The deal is worth roughly $500K, and NewCo has an excellent chance of winning without offering significant concessions and discounts.

Assuming NewCo has limited resources with which to pursue these opportunities, they have to choose which one will get priority attention and a full complement of resources.  To which opportunity should resources be applied?  If you’re thinking it’s the second one, then you just might be a revenue hacker.

Prioritize opportunities where your company can deliver a product / service / solution successfully and easily. — Sell what you’re good at delivering.  If your sales team is more inclined to offer highly customized solutions instead of your core offerings, then your company’s ability to deliver its products and services is likely taxed.  Answer the question, “What are we really good at delivering?”  Once you know the answer, direct / encourage / coach your sales team to fill the pipeline with opportunities that look like that.  The less that your delivery organization has to strain to deliver customized solutions, the less they will need to drag sales and revenue producers back into the fray.  Revenue generators unencumbered by delivery or operational responsibilities are better enabled to deliver revenue growth.

Those are my top three revenue growth hacks for the coming year.  What sorts of ingenious things will you do to drive revenue growth?  Please offer your idea in response to this post.  The best hack will earn a special shout out from yours truly in a follow up post to come in early 2015.  Thank you again for your time.

3 Reasons I Won’t Take Your Call

Note To All Salespeople: If you plan to call me, you should know that there are 3 reasons I won’t take your call.

I am a senior executive in my company, and you should do everything in your power to understand what matters to me if you want to do business with me.  However, if you plan to call me, you should know that there are 3 reasons I won’t take your call, Mrs. or Mr. Salesperson.

First, I’m busy, and I don’t have to.  I have plenty to do during the course of the day…problems to solve, opportunities to try to capture, details to which I need to attend.  When I need you or someone like you, I will look you up, doing things like the following:

  • I am going to try to clarify how I can solve my problems or address my opportunities on my own.  I can educate myself on what other companies have done to address similar issues without your help.
  • If I conclude that I should take some action, I will visit your company’s website and the sites of several other companies that appear to do the same thing you do.  I’m a bit of a do-it-yourselfer, so I may also look for solutions that I can implement on my own without outside help.
  • If I think we might gain advantage by bringing in some outside expertise and help, I will ask a lower level manager to gather some information.  That person will take your call, and though you will see them as your ‘primary point of contact,’ you should know that they have no power whatsoever to make decisions.  I have the power, and I won’t use it until or unless they pull together a strong business case that convinces me that I should take action to address the problem or opportunity I asked them to investigate.

Second, I make decisions on my timeline, not yours.  While I appreciate that there is some urgency for YOU in our getting together, I don’t have that same urgency.  I act with urgency when one or more of the following conditions are met:

  • I have a problem that is so big and gnarly that I must act.  Sure, I have business problems.  Who doesn’t?  But if I spent time addressing every little problem that arose in our business, I would get nothing done.  I have to prioritize, and unless I believe a problem is costing us significantly and creating a bunch of other knock-on effects, I simply won’t act.
  • I have an opportunity I absolutely must pursue.  Nothing motivates me more than identifying a big opportunity for my business, but those opportunities don’t arise and make themselves known every day.  When they do, I act as quickly as I can without disrupting my business.
  • I have arrived at a new or different way to address the issues that exist in my business.  Did you ever have one of those “Eureka” moments?  When I have them, I move quickly to put the new idea or solution in place.  I will act swiftly on creative ideas that help me to achieve an outcome that I really want or need.

Third, your message (whether it was a voice message, an email, or some marketing material that I happened upon) didn’t help me understand why I should talk to YOU versus someone else.  Don’t make me work hard to figure out who you are and why I should speak to you.  My job is hard enough.  Maybe you should work harder at yours, and figure out what you want to be known for!  Once you’ve done that, try to reach me again.  No promises, but I might get back to you.

** Does this peek into the mind of a busy executive resonate with you?  If so, why?  Can you really do anything about these 3 reasons why a senior executive won’t take your call?  Responses are welcome.  I look forward to your comments.  Thank you again for your time and your interest.

Sales Depend On Two Things

Successful sales depend on two things, conclusions and invitations.


I think we all know that buying behavior has changed over the last several years, mainly driven by advances in technology and the relative ease with which a buyer can investigate potential solutions and suppliers.  The result is that buyers interact with sellers less frequently and later in their decision making process than they once did.  Depending on whose research you read, it appears that buyers are getting through anywhere from half to three-quarters of their buying process without speaking with a salesperson.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

There are two things that have not changed about the buying process, though, and they are vitally important to understand if you want to succeed at selling in the current era of buying behavior.  First, buyers still find value in the process of gathering information that helps them draw conclusions about their businesses.  Those conclusions might be about problems they haven’t fully recognized, opportunities they haven’t identified before, or new or different ways to address issues of importance to their business.

Second, when they are ready, buyers will still offer invitations to those who appear to fully understand the issues and opportunities that exist within their business.  They will invite those others to share information, to talk, to meet, to present, to discuss capabilities, depending on what is most useful to the buyer in that moment.

The challenge for sellers (and all those responsible for a company’s revenue generation, for that matter) is to find new and appropriate ways to help buyers draw meaningful conclusions about their businesses and to elicit invitations from them.

One way that many sales organizations have chosen to address this challenge is to commit to a certain sales approach or set of sales methods that are meant to ensure that they engage with their customers in an appropriate and value-creating sort of way.  I encourage small to medium-sized companies to make that sort of commitment, but I won’t recommend any specific methodology here.

If your chosen sales methodology encourages your sales team to plan to help buyers draw conclusions about problems or opportunities that exist in their business and to elicit invitations from buyers before demonstrating your firm’s capabilities, then it is probably a sound methodology.  Call it what you want.  But you must be honest about your team’s ability to execute those methods if you want to run a successful selling organization.

There are a few questions that I would encourage every leader who is responsible for sales growth to consider right now.

  1. Does my team help buyers draw new or different conclusions about their businesses?  What evidence do I have of that?
  2. Do we recognize invitations from buyers when they are offered, or do we somehow misinterpret them?
  3. Do we approach every buyer interaction with a plan to help the buyer draw a conclusion and/or to earn an invitation to discuss our capabilities?

There is a fourth question to consider, particularly if your answer to any of the three questions above is “no” or “not sure.”

What can I do as a leader if my team struggles with these fundamental elements of successful selling?

If you have some sales leadership wisdom to offer in response to the challenge I’ve highlighted, please share it with others by offering a comment in response to this post.  We would all value your input.

If you have concerns about your team’s ability to drive conclusions and elicit buyer invitations and you’d like to invite me to have a conversation with you, I would love to take that step with you.  My email address is matt@usr-llc.com, and my direct phone number is 1-301-325-4851.  If you are not ready to take that step, then I would like to encourage you to please get to know our team a little bit better and check out our blog on the USR website.

Thank you very much, once again, for your time and attention.  I appreciate it, and I hope this last few minutes has been useful to you.