Making meaningful connections along the path to sales
For the first in our series on how innovative B2B 3D printer brands are benefiting from sales and marketing alignment, we'll start with the three distinct players involved in making a buying decision.
If your marketing and sales efforts, individually and collectively, don't make a meaningful connection with each player in the sales cycle, you can be leaving valuable new business dollars on the table.
In B2B, it's critical to make sure you're having the right conversation with the right person at the right point in the sales cycle.
There are three archetypal players involved: influencers, validators and deciders.
Influencers: talking tech
The influencer does not make the final buying decision, but they guide the process — and can derail it. The influencer is often your first point of contact, especially if they find you before you find them.
Influencers are actively seeking the kind of solution your company provides. They are techies: engineers, fabricators, scientists. They're reading white papers, watching webinars, requesting product demos and active on industry forums.
Effectively connecting with influencers involves talking tech-to-tech with specs. They want to know about speed, accuracy and dependability. Influencers are excellent B.S. detectors, so you'll need the math, data and science to back up your value proposition. They'll see through unsubstantiable or hyperbolic marketing claims and torpedo the process before it goes any further.
Influencers want to spend more time innovating and less time troubleshooting. They're looking for a solution that will make their lives easier and give them their nights and weekends back. Communication at this stage is more about science than selling. If your company is actively run by the chief technologist or has tech folks in sales and marketing positions, these are the easiest conversations to have.
Once you've passed the influencer's muster, it's on to the validator.
Validators: the quest to qualify
The validator determines if the influencer's recommendation has merit and is feasible. They're a tough nut to crack. Whether they're in R&D, procurement or middle management, the validator's job is to vet vendors and make sure the proposed solution fits into their company's overall ecosystem.
If your prospective customer is purchasing through an open bid process, the validator is master of the RFP. They can kill a deal over things that marketing and sales people rarely think about, like payment terms, guaranteed delivery dates and even the bidding process itself.
The validator won't buy a solution that boosts innovation if they can't sufficiently mitigate the risk. Industry references, customer testimonials, satisfaction guarantees and strong post-sale support help make sure your product checks all the validator's boxes.
Once the validator sees you as a safe bet, it's on to the decider.
Deciders: big pictures and bottom lines
The decider needs to see the big picture of how your product will provide return on their investment. As the name suggests, the decider has the final say — whether it's approving a recommendation from their team or selecting one of several options. Entrepreneurial by nature, the decider is less risk-averse than the validator and more big-picture-focused than the influencer.
This is the most critical stage of the sales cycle and the point where many B2B 3D printer brands struggle most. The stakes are higher and the conversations are often shorter. Sometimes you'll get a direct audience with the decider, but often the decision will be made based on materials and information their team provides.
If you've interested the influencers, allayed the concerns of the validators and dialed in your high-level, benefits-driven messaging, the decider will trust their team, follow their instinct and give you the green light.
Distill first, then dive deep
The biggest mistake in sales and marketing for B2B 3D printer brands is to skip over the why and jump right to the how. While you'll always need clear data to support your marketing claim, when you lead with specs, your potential buyer can get mired in data and miss an opportunity to make an emotional investment in your brand.
While each player in the sales cycle has their own distinct motivations, they will all respond to an emotional appeal.
Develop your sales and marketing messaging from the top-down. Start with why people should care — why those who love your brand love it. To get there, boil your 40-page presentation down to four pages, then one page, then one paragraph, then one sentence. Start every piece of communication with that sentence.
From there, create marketing materials and conversational paths by which you can deliver the deep-dive data influencers need and the assurance validators require — all the while establishing and reinforcing a strong emotional connection between your potential buyer and your brand.
Next: there are three types of customers in this universe
Next up in our series on sales and marketing alignment for B2B 3D printer brands, we'll explore the three types of customers: available, convertible and long-shot. We'll cover how to find them, distinguish them, adjust your messaging and allocate your resources accordingly.
Other articles in this series:
Part 6: Educate, inspire, reassure
Part 5: The power of positioning
Part 3: Mapping the buyer journey
About Toolbox Creative:
Toolbox Creative is a B2B Brand Engineering firm, helping the 3D Printing, Ag Tech and Clean Tech industries change the world. We distill complex technologies into powerful identity systems, websites and marketing tactics that align sales and marketing efforts, create lasting impact and build brand love.