Do you know the language that your target customer speaks? Is your sales and marketing messaging all delivered in your ideal buyer’s language?
One of the first rules of marketing is to know thy customer. However, if you’re marketing or selling products to businesses, I guarantee you will come across multiple different stakeholders. These stakeholders speak different buyer languages.
So, who is your target customer and how do you communicate with them?
In B2B sales, there are three types of prospect you will come across:
- Users – speak the buyer language of functionality
- Gatekeepers – speak the buyer language of benefit
- Decision makers – speak the buyer language of value
Users are the prospects who are likely to use your product if it’s deployed across their business. They don’t have a massive influence on the purchasing decision, but if you fail to win them over or they rip your product apart, you’re in trouble.
If you’re selling social media marketing software, your users would be community managers, social media managers and customer support representatives.
If you’re in the cloud or IT services industry, these people identify themselves as SysAdmins, DevOps Engineers and IT Managers. In smaller businesses, you might even be communicating with software developers or engineers.
These prospects speak the language of FUNCTIONALITY.
They will continuously make comparisons to the currently deployed solution. They want to know if your product is faster, easier to use, has more features and so on. They care in detail about how the product functions. They want to understand your product’s features, so be prepared to demonstrate how your product works.
Gatekeepers are the prospects who are likely to buy your product and evaluate it against competitive solutions for business suitability. They will be responsible for presenting your solution to Decision Makers, so your value proposition is important to them. They will also manage the deployment of your product – either directly or indirectly, depending on the size of their organisation – should you win their business.
Using the same examples above, for social media marketing software, you would be talking to heads of marketing, marketing leads and senior marketing managers. In smaller organisations, you might be speaking as high up as Director or Vice President of Marketing.
For cloud services, you’d be speaking to heads of engineering or technology, technology directors, IT directors and so on. Again, in smaller businesses, you might end up speaking to the VP of engineering or CTO.
These people speak the language of BENEFIT.
They’re also fluent in the languages spoken by both Users and Decision Makers.
They want to understand the benefits of your product. They control the budgets, so they want to know what their return on investment (ROI) is likely to be. They care about efficiency and effectiveness – how will your product make my team more efficient and effective? If indeed it will.
They should define your sales and marketing process because they decide whether to pursue a buying process. They are the Gatekeeper for the Decision Maker and they make a series of decisions before you will likely ever get near a Decision Maker.
Your Decision Makers are going to check whether you are credible and whether you will help them reach the business’s goals.
They are typically business owners, CEOs or members of the C-suite. They also care about the size of the market, how much of the market they have, how they can get more with less and so on. They want to reduce their exposure to risk. They care about brand and leverage over their customers.
They speak the language of VALUE.
They do not speak the language of FUNCTIONALITY.
The Gatekeeper is must translate FUNCTIONALITY into BENEFIT. Even better they’re able to translate into VALUE so that the Decision Maker can understand.
Interestingly, Decision Makers don’t actually make the decision.
The Gatekeeper has already made a series of decisions before the final decision is made by the Decision Maker. They are presenting the Decision Maker with a decision of two, maybe three solutions at most.
How did they get to just two or three?
They made decisions to whittle down the long list to a short list, and the short list to a list of viable solutions.
The Gatekeeper did this by establishing the business need and evaluated fit for the various solutions on the market. Also, if you’ve done your job right, they’ve already demonstrated the VALUE of your product to the Decision Maker with a well-developed business case.
This helps to get your Decision Maker onto a decision call. It can also help to get budget allocation approved. It’s a very important stage of the buying process that many miss if their sales process is not buyer-centric.
How to implement the three buyer languages into your business
With most B2B or enterprise products, you will speak to each type of user at different stages in the sales process. This adds complexity to your commercial communications strategy because you need to speak different buyer languages at different times.
You also need to think about who the right person is to deliver a credible message to your prospect. This is not always the same person, so you need to think this through.
It’s important to remember that buyers buy backwards. Your buyers know when they want to start deploying the new product into their business. But they will not know what needs to be done to start the rollout.
It’s on your head to understand this intimately from both yours and your buyers’ perspective so that you can guide them through the buying process.
Sales and marketing alignment is essential if you are going to deliver a cohesive message and experience at every stage of the buying process. One broken link in the chain could spell game over for your chances of clinching the deal.
The importance of customer experience
Buyers hate being sold to, but love buying. So, you must build an experience that makes your buyers feel warm and fuzzy inside. Think about the details and how you demonstrate that to each of your buyers through actions and words.
Then, once you’ve clinched the deal, how do you follow through? This is when you need to bring sales, marketing, product and even customer success together to deliver an end-to-end customer experience. It’s important that this is consistent from first touch point (moment of discovery) through to the last (the day they are no longer paying you for your services).
This is why I like to differentiate between customers and clients.
Customers are people who interact with your business and are identifiable – whether they spend money with you or not.
Clients spend money with you.
This definition makes it much easier to consider customer experience in a more holistic, end-to-end manner.
To bring all of this together, your business needs a person or department who acts as your customers’ champion. This is where a dedicated Product Marketing function can really help take your business to the next level. The customer is at the centre of everything they do.
They also care deeply about converting customers into clients.
And who doesn’t want more clients?