Who Really Does the Buying? Buying-Center vs Decision-Maker Marketing with Nima Asrar Haghighi


In this episode, Benji Block interviews Nima Asrar Haghighi, VP of Marketing at Airtable & Marketing executive advisor at Kong.

We discuss why marketing and sales teams must think more broadly about those who are part of the decision-making process. Nima, details how to craft messaging that hits both upper management and practitioners, creating buy-in from both.

Contact Nima: 



Contact Benji:



Mhm. Hello and welcome in to be to be growth.I'm your host Benji Block today. We're excited to be joined by Neema. Name isthe VP of marketing at Air Table and a marketing executive advisor at kong nam.A welcome into the show and we're so Glad to have you here on B two B growth.Thanks Benji, thanks for having me and I'm excited to chat with you.Absolutely. Now you have spent time at Ebay on the client side. You were atmule soft at a time of explosive growth but just give us a quick snapshot ofyour experience and uh what landed you where you are today? Yeah, happy toshare. So earlier part of my career I was mostly on the agency side thendecided to move to the client side where you could see the results of thework that you're doing and then a joint Ebay where you were able to runcampaigns that really high scale. And then of course I decided to join yoursoft smaller company and help build a kind of the whole demand generationteam from Scratch, going through from a 65 people company to go in through theI. P. O. Getting acquired by Salesforce and then decided to get all thelearnings and repurpose it somewhere else. Or I could do what I've done inthe past at a faster pace and decided on irritable because really goodcompany, really good product, everybody who has used it loves it and theproduct the go to market motion. It's also a product that growth and we aremixing it up with B two B sales motion as well. And it's it was a reallyappealing experience. And that's why I joined uh irritable about nine monthsago. Yeah, So you like seeing growth, but you also like being in at thebeginning when there's so much to be shaped and formed. And I love that. AndI think that will really shine through in our conversation today. That's wherethe fun is. And uh for better for worse, you're going to have your fingerprintson the growth side of it. So that's where you are able to see the result ofthe work that you're putting in too much faster and uh see the growth overtime. Yeah, absolutely. So over the next few minutes, what I want to do isI want to dig into your vantage point, your perspective when it comes toidentifying and selling to a buying center versus a single decision maker.So outlined for us, what we're talking about when we think of the differencesbetween a single decision maker and a buying center. Yeah. Happy to do that.Before I go there though, at a high level when when you're trying to sellto a BtV organization compared to when you're selling to a company. That isjust the decision making is much easier. It's a product that could be used onlyby one person. You could just sell to that one person and you know, whereyou're standing with them when it comes to the more complex sales emotions.Usually there Are more than one person who are involved in the decision makingwhether or not you see that person as part of the conversation or not behindthe scene. There is always other people who are doing the research and makingthe cow. For example, I remember back in the days at Mill South, uh somepeople were reaching out to our head of marketing, uh they wanted to sellsomething to him, he was basically training me on the side. What do youthink about this company? Should I even spent my time with them before evengetting in various. Right? So I was the one that I was doing the research earlyon and kind of making a point of view and then do do that selling right? Butit's like when you're Doing that B- two B cells motion to a more complexenvironments,...

...it's like a tip of an iceberg. When asalesperson is talking to one person, you're just saying what's happeningthere. Whereas the reality is that there might be so many people who aregoing to be part of that decision making. And then there is always somepeople who are supportive of their product and there would be people whowould not necessarily be supportive of your product. So you have to find whatwho those people are, how to engage different people and being everybodyalong. So the thinking is that rather than thinking about What kind of a 1-1sales and marketing motion, but we want to have to go after a whole buyingcenter and understand who the economic wire is, who's the technical evaluatoris, who is the, the person who is actually going to use the product,because each of those are going to have different requirements and be able tokind of have answers for all those situations and uh, communicatedeverybody in the buying sensor, right? As someone who was in the salesdepartment, but was not the decision maker. I've felt the tension here wherethere's a difference between what top was thinking and what the practitionerswere thinking. And so I think it's so important to kind of know your audienceand who you're talking to and being able to get by in right from all thevoices that really do need to have a say Ultimately for the product to be asuccess, one person may act like actually sign off on it, right, But youneed a team to buy in and adopt for true success with that in mind. Why doyou think some organizations lack this, this buying center approach? Why do youthink we get stuck In this 1 - one thinking? Yeah, so some of it is uh,kind of convenience. Right? So you build a relationship and it's alwayseasier to build relationship with one person versus multiple people, theother part of it is also visibility, right? Even if you want to do that, youmight or might not necessarily have that visibility into who else isinvolved into these processes and that's why I kind of building theinfrastructure and technology that helps you create that insight is goingto be super important and making sure that you provide that insight to thesales organization so that they know yes, you're talking to this Person, butthere are the other five or six other people who are also are researchingbased on what we see what they're doing on the website or on the third partywebsites, uh based on that identify other people that you could engage inthe process and get them in front of getting in front of them. So some of itis uh, lack of visibility, some of it is convenience. And if we find ways toautomate that process and create that visibility for the cells, it's going tobe important. The other part of it is also the systems. Right? So most of thecompanies for example use Salesforce as their platform, right? And for salesfor us to be able to measure things that they're looking at the contactthat is added to the opportunity. Right? So that's a lot of manual work for alot of the sales people and they don't not necessarily add every single personto the opportunities. And also there might be some times that they invitesomebody during the cull and then other people inviting their colleagues intothe meetings. But you don't necessarily have That 1-1 relationship with them.So you don't necessarily even have the contact information to go after themand chat with them. Right? So it becomes very important to kind ofcreate a account mapping what is the account that you want to go after? Whoare the decision makers and who are the traitors? Who are the promoters. Andbased on that try to create proper messages and get get in front of themwith all those related content and have...

...that conversation at a more granularlevel with them while trying to sell to the tough level decision maker uh beingthe rest of the buying center along as well. So let's talk about messaging fora second when it comes to thinking about messaging for these multipledifferent personas. What are you strategically thinking about? And maybejust could you provide an example of how that messaging may differ slightly?Yeah. So for example I use uh example at the muse of times, right? So forexample we were trying to sell to the C. I. O. S. Right? So the message thatmight have resonated with C. IOS would have been that how to kind of uh have a more efficient uh business. Thechallenge that they had was that the request that comes to the Icty wasgrowing dramatically. But the resources were not growing as fast. Right? So itwas a matter of how to find ways to accomplish more uh faster with limitedresources. Right? So that's the type of message that resonates very well withthe decision maker and the C. I. O. Right? But then if you go with the samemessage with the developer, yes. They might care to some extent, but theycare about how does this product actually changed my day to day job.Right? How am I gonna be connecting the data sources? That's the level of thekind of the granularity that they're looking for. And then there are somecases that they're within any company. There are people who have worked withother vendors in the past and they have their own preferences and they mightyou might not be the preferred account. So as a result, they might have uhthere might be your detractors right, identifying who those are and have thekind of the ballot cards that are available that you could use in yourconversations to make sure that you use kind of those uh battle cars to eitherhave traps in those conversations or basically, if the questions comes in,be able to answer them and show your unique value proposition. So is thatjust for you, like a couple separate sheets saying like this is a persona,here's the information you need when you're talking to this person and andthat's kind of how your team has access to it. Yeah, yeah, that's that's oneway to look at it for sure. And then at a high level and then you also build,for example, when you're at new self, we built this what we call S. T. O. P.Or single view of prospecting. So it was a platform that we built, which weare building here at air table as well using our own product table to create adam digital asset management that basically has, creates a kind ofcreative view of all the assets that we have available by persona, by type ofthe company, the customer stories that they could have visibility into. So byusing that to build that digital assessments must imagine for the salesprocess on top of their table, we are now able to kind of enable the salesorganization what type of communication to have each of the personas, What arethe right assets to share them? At what stage? So that's that's one that youcould sell for them. Hey, everybody Logan with sweet fish here. If you'vebeen listening to the show for a while, you know, we're big proponents ofputting out original organic content on linked in. But one thing that's alwaysbeen a struggle for a team like ours is to easily track the reach of thatlinkedin content. That's why I was really excited when I heard aboutShield the other day from a connection on you guessed it linked in since ourteam started using shield. I've loved how it's led us easily track andanalyze the performance of our linkedin...

...content without having to manually logit ourselves. It automatically creates reports and generate some dashboardsthat are incredibly useful to see things like what contents beenperforming the best and what days of the week are we getting the mostengagement and our average views per post. I'd highly suggest you guys checkout this tool if you're putting out content on linked in and if you're not,you should be. It's been a game changer for us. If you go to shield app dot Aiand check out the 10 day free trial, you can even use our promo code B two Bgrowth to get a 25% discount again. That's shield app dot Ai. And thatpromo code is B the number to be growth. All one word. All right, let's get backto the show. Let's talk about how this could impact marketing because thisobviously when we talk messaging, that's cross different parts of anorganization. So where do you think marketing is impacted here? How do theyhave a voice in some of the messaging that maybe sales ends up using? What'sthat that process like? Yeah. So definitely messaging. We try to buildit in the marketing and there would be a lot of collaboration and work for thecells leadership to understand what's actually resonating in the market ornot. But at the end of the day on the marketing side, you built thatmessaging and then once you build it, what is important. That's what one ofthe secret to success at me yourself was that we got everybody in thecompany regardless of the role that you were in. Okay enabled and educated onour messaging. Everybody got certified on our messages so that everybody inthe company uses the same language when they're talking to either the prospectsfor the family and what they're doing on a day to day basis. So once you havethat consistency, then you are able to kind of get the message into the marketand that way, what did that look like for you guys? How are you doing that?And uh as far as just making sure everyone was on the same page. Yeah. Soit was a certification program. So the way we did it, we basically created themessaging framework based on that. We created the video and uh we had a fewexamples that were built and shared it across the organization. And then theyasked everybody to review it. And then when everybody reviewed it, then uhthey had exhausted take and the way the example was like I assume this is theperson that you're trying to sell to just give that presentation and youhave to write your own presentation using the messaging framework and thenyou were going through a live presentation and then they had peopledefine, define as uh kind of uh 30 fires who were first certified as blackbelt after this messaging, and those guys were basically scoring and then itwas going down, each manager becomes the next level of black belt and thenthey were certifying their team and that's how we scaled it. And everybodyin the company was basically able to sing from the same sheet. That'sawesome. You said exam and you made, my heart starts beating faster, but thenyou said black belt and then I was back in. So I love that. Okay, I love it. Wehave the messages for practitioners, We got those that are executives and wethought through what we want to talk to that's really going to hit home forthem at some point, those things need to cross, right? At some point, we needto either have all of them in the same room. So what are some practical waysthat you've facilitated that to have that messaging eventually cross andhave those people talking to each other to make decisions? The challenge isthat when you're trying to sell is that when you go and high levels, forexample, to this talking to a C I O. They are thinking about the businessimpact kind of type of messages, right?...

Whereas where you're going to thepractitioners and you're talking to those guys, they care about their dayto day lives and how they could make stuff happen, Right? So, and those twomessages do not might not necessarily kind of be the same, but so if the ceogoes to the team, so I want to do this, and then if the rest of the team doesnot necessarily understand the vision, they might not necessarily buying tothe uh kind of the mission that the team has, right? And then it's viceversa if the kind of practitioners are brought into the product, but then theC I O, for example, has not understood how it fits into the strategy. Youmight not get enough budget to buy the product, Right? So it's all aboutBringing the two together and be able to go up and down the elevator. How doyou do that? Is basically identifying ways to connect The dots between thosetwo. Uh for example, you could run programs, right? So you would have asession on with the decision makers, and in that event you're talking aboutthe whole strategy and the vision of where you could go with the product andthen explain how it could impact the team's, right? And then you have aseparate one with the kind of the practitioners, and you basically saidnot only this does the jobs that to be done, and could be, take care of allthe jobs that you have, but also this is how it helps you uh kind of createthat vision for your overall organization on your C I. O. And thenyou would also run a kind of the joint program that is basically Bringing thetwo together and how to think about the potential workshops that uh how theproduct is helping the practitioners kind of create that vision for thecustomer, for the customers. So that's how you're able to kind of bring thosetwo messages together, so someone's listening and they'regoing you got me convinced. We we have to get more specific in our messaging.We need to have strategy to reach both executives practitioners. Where wouldyou tell them to to start? And let's try to kind of get a little specifichere. Where would you tell them to begin? Yeah. The debates uh the answeris depends on where you are in your journey in the company and the type ofbusiness you are. Right. So if your your your product is a product that isa very kind of the top down approach, you probably want to start with kind ofthe uh top level messaging and then after that goes buttons up. But if it'syour habit product that is very uh for example, like news of being open sourceor with air table being very product led growth bottoms up, kind of anapproach. In those cases, you might have to start kind of uh with thatbecause there is a lot more grants all there. But knowing that for you to beable to change the narrative, you need to go after the other audience as well.So that's how you're prioritizing and then depending on your motion, you'reable to kind of adjust so depending on where you are, but usually what happens,a lot of companies try in the back in the days, it was very top down, so ifyou look at the oracle and IBM back in the days, that was a very top downapproach and they're selling motion and then there were the open source camealong and the product that growth came up and they were very poor themselves.So the model is going to be very different but the reality is that bothcompanies are both business models are coming to a convergence to some extentpeople who are very top down there trying to go to Prg model and thepeople who have been very bottoms up there are adding the enterprise salesmotion and those who are coming to get it right. So depending on where you arein that journey, the answer might be different, but based on where you are,you want to start with the low hanging...

...fruit and then I find your way to theother side, what do you think are some of thepitfalls maybe that you experience along the way when it comes to thisapproach and and and drilling down on messaging, what do you think are somethings people should avoid or or maybe be aware of Yeah, One of the thingsthat I've seen quite a bit, especially in the technology space is that we loveour phrases digital transformation. So things like that. Right? So we to gohigh level, sometimes we go to wake. So when you land on somebody's website atthat point and you have no clue what they are, you're spending 10, 15minutes, Okay. What whats their offering? Why should I even care abouttalking to them? Right. So finding that balance of being high level to set upthe vision and be able to create a category is one element. The other partis to stay connected to reality of what people are looking for. Right? Sobecause on a daily basis people think about their pain points. That's what Icall pain point marketing. Right? So you always think about what is people'spain point and you're trying to solve for them people for example, in themorning. So I can have difficulty getting my data from this place to thatplace. How could I solve that problem? But somebody doesn't say I wake up inthe morning, say today I need to solve my digital transformation problems.Right? So that's so it's it's the same thing at the end of the day, you'regoing the route of digital transformation, but it has been used ina way that has lost some of the meaning. So it's important to kind of stayconnected to what actually, depending points that people have in industrywhile going and building a region of where the companies could potentiallygo. Yeah, we need accessible messaging, right? Yeah. For sure. Any otherpitfalls you see or anything you would add before we start to wrap it up here.Yeah. So the other thing I would say is uh, the transition is sometimes hard.So as I mentioned that all companies are moving from one business model toanother and that requires a transition and it has impact on both directions.Right? So for example, you first, because you have done the businesscertain way when you want to start a new way, it's actually starting, seemslike starting a new business from together from the beginning, Right? Andit's so easy to lose sight into how long it took you to get to a placewhere you are with your current business and expect the same speed ofdelivery on the new model. Right? So that means that having the rightexpectations and making sure that they have the right mindset and then stickto the plan. Of course, understanding yet you need to adjust along the way,but don't get cold feet if things doesn't happen overnight because it's ajourney that you need to go to. That's great. Well, here's my notes. Here'swhat I'm taking away from my conversation with Neema. I have got tobe thinking more broadly than just one decision maker who might end upstroking the check. I need messaging that hits upper management andpractitioners kind of creating buy in from both and then I'm intentionallygoing to have sort of this approach that aligns my marketing, my sales, myteam leaders, providing visibility, understanding on where we're kind of atright as a team, we want to all be in on the messaging together Neema forthose who would like to connect with you further where and and how can theydo that? Yeah, of course I'm on linking uh probably is the best place toconnect um across multiple social, but that's Lincoln is where I spend most ofmy time. Uh so if you just search for my name, Neema Astral Haggerty andlinked in, you will be able to find me and I always love to kind of connectwith people and chat. So if you want to...

...learn more chat more or share uh someof your learnings I would love to learn as well, please reach out to me, I'mhappy to connect awesome and we'll be sure to link norma's linkedin profilein our show notes so you can go over there to connect another greatconversation Here on B two B growth. We're here to help fuel your growth andhave conversations that are going to spark innovation for your company.Never miss an episode by subscribing to the show on whatever podcast serviceyou use and connect with me on linkedin as well. Just search Benji block. Ilove chatting about marketing, business and life, so we'll talk again soon andkeep doing work that matters. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Is the decision maker for your productor service of B two B marketer. Are you looking to reach those buyers throughthe medium of podcasting, considered becoming a co host of GDP Growth? Thisshow is consistently Ranked as a top one 100 podcast in the marketingcategory of apple podcasts and the show Gets more than 130,000 downloads eachmonth. We've already done the work of building the audience so you can focuson delivering incredible content to our listeners if you're interested, emailLogan at sweet Fish Media dot com.

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