Rebalancing Risk in the B2B Buying Equation


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Let’s face it – today’s B2B buyers are scared. They are concerned about the risks and consequences of making a bad buying decision. The impact can be seen in extended buying decisions, growing numbers of participants in the buying process, elevated approval levels and more and more apparently promising opportunities ending in a decision to do nothing.

Risk has both a personal dimension – up to and including the possibility that a choosing the wrong solution could result in being fired, and an organisational dimension – the risk that making a bad purchase decision in a strategically important area could negatively impact the performance of the department, or the whole company.

Under such situations, it’s no wonder that many prospects are increasingly choosing to live with the status quo. The risks of making a bad decision are simply too great. For many vendors, their greatest competition is now “do nothing” – having the best solution isn’t always enough.

Of course, vendors can attempt to mitigate risk through the traditional methods of providing references, offering guarantees, completing proofs of concept or (as so many software as a service solutions are doing) enabling prospects to try before they make a long-term commitment.

But there’s another aspect of rebalancing the risk equation – and that’s to elevate the consequences of inaction in the mind of the buyer. The consequences of inaction are all about what happens if the issue that triggered the search for a solution is allowed to continue.

And whilst risk avoidance increasingly preys on the mind of the buying team as they get closer to having to make a buying decision, confronting the consequences of inaction can help differentiate vendors who grasp this concept from the start of the buying process, and cement their position as trusted advisors.

Sales people should be encouraged to probe for the consequences of inaction from the start of their interaction with the prospect. How is the issue affecting their contact? Who else might be involved? How have they tried to deal with the issue before? Why are they searching for a solution now? What would be the impact of not dealing with the issue and choosing to live with the status quo?

Risk mitigation is not something to be left to the end of the buying cycle, when the prospect starts to signal their nervousness – it’s a process that should start from the early stages of engagement with the vendor – and it needs to balance the risks associated with making any decision with the consequences of doing nothing.

Bob Apollo
Bob Apollo is the CEO of UK-based Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners, the B2B sales performance improvement specialists. Following a varied corporate career, Bob now works with a rapidly expanding client base of B2B-focused growth-phase technology companies, helping them to implement systematic sales processes that drive predictable revenue growth.


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