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: 



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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 is the 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 at mule soft at a time of explosive growth but just give us a quick snapshot of your experience and uh what landed you where you are today? Yeah, happy to share. So earlier part of my career I was mostly on the agency side then decided to move to the client side where you could see the results of the work that you're doing and then a joint Ebay where you were able to run campaigns that really high scale. And then of course I decided to join your soft smaller company and help build a kind of the whole demand generation team from Scratch, going through from a 65 people company to go in through the I. P. O. Getting acquired by Salesforce and then decided to get all the learnings and repurpose it somewhere else. Or I could do what I've done in the past at a faster pace and decided on irritable because really good company, really good product, everybody who has used it loves it and the product the go to market motion. It's also a product that growth and we are mixing it up with B two B sales motion as well. And it's it was a really appealing experience. And that's why I joined uh irritable about nine months ago. Yeah, So you like seeing growth, but you also like being in at the beginning when there's so much to be shaped and formed. And I love that. And I think that will really shine through in our conversation today. That's where the fun is. And uh for better for worse, you're going to have your fingerprints on the growth side of it. So that's where you are able to see the result of the work that you're putting in too much faster and uh see the growth over time. Yeah, absolutely. So over the next few minutes, what I want to do is I want to dig into your vantage point, your perspective when it comes to identifying 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 differences between 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 sell to a BtV organization compared to when you're selling to a company. That is just the decision making is much easier. It's a product that could be used only by one person. You could just sell to that one person and you know, where you'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 making whether or not you see that person as part of the conversation or not behind the scene. There is always other people who are doing the research and making the cow. For example, I remember back in the days at Mill South, uh some people were reaching out to our head of marketing, uh they wanted to sell something to him, he was basically training me on the side. What do you think about this company? Should I even spent my time with them before even getting in various. Right? So I was the one that I was doing the research early on and kind of making a point of view and then do do that selling right? But it's like when you're Doing that B- two B cells motion to a more complex environments,...

...it's like a tip of an iceberg. When a salesperson is talking to one person, you're just saying what's happening there. Whereas the reality is that there might be so many people who are going to be part of that decision making. And then there is always some people who are supportive of their product and there would be people who would not necessarily be supportive of your product. So you have to find what who those people are, how to engage different people and being everybody along. So the thinking is that rather than thinking about What kind of a 1-1 sales and marketing motion, but we want to have to go after a whole buying center and understand who the economic wire is, who's the technical evaluator is, 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 to kind of have answers for all those situations and uh, communicated everybody in the buying sensor, right? As someone who was in the sales department, but was not the decision maker. I've felt the tension here where there's a difference between what top was thinking and what the practitioners were thinking. And so I think it's so important to kind of know your audience and who you're talking to and being able to get by in right from all the voices that really do need to have a say Ultimately for the product to be a success, one person may act like actually sign off on it, right, But you need a team to buy in and adopt for true success with that in mind. Why do you think some organizations lack this, this buying center approach? Why do you think 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 always easier to build relationship with one person versus multiple people, the other part of it is also visibility, right? Even if you want to do that, you might or might not necessarily have that visibility into who else is involved into these processes and that's why I kind of building the infrastructure and technology that helps you create that insight is going to be super important and making sure that you provide that insight to the sales organization so that they know yes, you're talking to this Person, but there are the other five or six other people who are also are researching based on what we see what they're doing on the website or on the third party websites, uh based on that identify other people that you could engage in the process and get them in front of getting in front of them. So some of it is uh, lack of visibility, some of it is convenience. And if we find ways to automate that process and create that visibility for the cells, it's going to be important. The other part of it is also the systems. Right? So most of the companies for example use Salesforce as their platform, right? And for sales for us to be able to measure things that they're looking at the contact that is added to the opportunity. Right? So that's a lot of manual work for a lot of the sales people and they don't not necessarily add every single person to the opportunities. And also there might be some times that they invite somebody during the cull and then other people inviting their colleagues into the 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 them and chat with them. Right? So it becomes very important to kind of create a account mapping what is the account that you want to go after? Who are the decision makers and who are the traitors? Who are the promoters. And based on that try to create proper messages and get get in front of them with all those related content and have...

...that conversation at a more granular level with them while trying to sell to the tough level decision maker uh being the rest of the buying center along as well. So let's talk about messaging for a second when it comes to thinking about messaging for these multiple different personas. What are you strategically thinking about? And maybe just 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 for example we were trying to sell to the C. I. O. S. Right? So the message that might have resonated with C. IOS would have been that how to kind of uh have a more efficient uh business. The challenge that they had was that the request that comes to the Icty was growing dramatically. But the resources were not growing as fast. Right? So it was a matter of how to find ways to accomplish more uh faster with limited resources. Right? So that's the type of message that resonates very well with the decision maker and the C. I. O. Right? But then if you go with the same message with the developer, yes. They might care to some extent, but they care 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 the kind of the granularity that they're looking for. And then there are some cases that they're within any company. There are people who have worked with other vendors in the past and they have their own preferences and they might you might not be the preferred account. So as a result, they might have uh there might be your detractors right, identifying who those are and have the kind of the ballot cards that are available that you could use in your conversations to make sure that you use kind of those uh battle cars to either have traps in those conversations or basically, if the questions comes in, be able to answer them and show your unique value proposition. So is that just 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 and that's kind of how your team has access to it. Yeah, yeah, that's that's one way 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 we are building here at air table as well using our own product table to create a dam digital asset management that basically has, creates a kind of creative view of all the assets that we have available by persona, by type of the company, the customer stories that they could have visibility into. So by using that to build that digital assessments must imagine for the sales process on top of their table, we are now able to kind of enable the sales organization what type of communication to have each of the personas, What are the right assets to share them? At what stage? So that's that's one that you could sell for them. Hey, everybody Logan with sweet fish here. If you've been listening to the show for a while, you know, we're big proponents of putting out original organic content on linked in. But one thing that's always been a struggle for a team like ours is to easily track the reach of that linkedin content. That's why I was really excited when I heard about Shield the other day from a connection on you guessed it linked in since our team started using shield. I've loved how it's led us easily track and analyze the performance of our linkedin...

...content without having to manually log it ourselves. It automatically creates reports and generate some dashboards that are incredibly useful to see things like what contents been performing the best and what days of the week are we getting the most engagement and our average views per post. I'd highly suggest you guys check out 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 Ai and check out the 10 day free trial, you can even use our promo code B two B growth to get a 25% discount again. That's shield app dot Ai. And that promo code is B the number to be growth. All one word. All right, let's get back to the show. Let's talk about how this could impact marketing because this obviously when we talk messaging, that's cross different parts of an organization. So where do you think marketing is impacted here? How do they have a voice in some of the messaging that maybe sales ends up using? What's that that process like? Yeah. So definitely messaging. We try to build it in the marketing and there would be a lot of collaboration and work for the cells leadership to understand what's actually resonating in the market or not. But at the end of the day on the marketing side, you built that messaging and then once you build it, what is important. That's what one of the secret to success at me yourself was that we got everybody in the company regardless of the role that you were in. Okay enabled and educated on our messaging. Everybody got certified on our messages so that everybody in the company uses the same language when they're talking to either the prospects for the family and what they're doing on a day to day basis. So once you have that consistency, then you are able to kind of get the message into the market and 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. So it was a certification program. So the way we did it, we basically created the messaging framework based on that. We created the video and uh we had a few examples that were built and shared it across the organization. And then they asked everybody to review it. And then when everybody reviewed it, then uh they had exhausted take and the way the example was like I assume this is the person that you're trying to sell to just give that presentation and you have to write your own presentation using the messaging framework and then you were going through a live presentation and then they had people define, define as uh kind of uh 30 fires who were first certified as black belt after this messaging, and those guys were basically scoring and then it was going down, each manager becomes the next level of black belt and then they were certifying their team and that's how we scaled it. And everybody in the company was basically able to sing from the same sheet. That's awesome. You said exam and you made, my heart starts beating faster, but then you said black belt and then I was back in. So I love that. Okay, I love it. We have the messages for practitioners, We got those that are executives and we thought through what we want to talk to that's really going to hit home for them at some point, those things need to cross, right? At some point, we need to either have all of them in the same room. So what are some practical ways that you've facilitated that to have that messaging eventually cross and have those people talking to each other to make decisions? The challenge is that when you're trying to sell is that when you go and high levels, for example, to this talking to a C I O. They are thinking about the business impact kind of type of messages, right?...

Whereas where you're going to the practitioners and you're talking to those guys, they care about their day to day lives and how they could make stuff happen, Right? So, and those two messages do not might not necessarily kind of be the same, but so if the ceo goes to the team, so I want to do this, and then if the rest of the team does not necessarily understand the vision, they might not necessarily buying to the uh kind of the mission that the team has, right? And then it's vice versa if the kind of practitioners are brought into the product, but then the C I O, for example, has not understood how it fits into the strategy. You might not get enough budget to buy the product, Right? So it's all about Bringing the two together and be able to go up and down the elevator. How do you do that? Is basically identifying ways to connect The dots between those two. Uh for example, you could run programs, right? So you would have a session on with the decision makers, and in that event you're talking about the whole strategy and the vision of where you could go with the product and then explain how it could impact the team's, right? And then you have a separate one with the kind of the practitioners, and you basically said not only this does the jobs that to be done, and could be, take care of all the jobs that you have, but also this is how it helps you uh kind of create that vision for your overall organization on your C I. O. And then you would also run a kind of the joint program that is basically Bringing the two together and how to think about the potential workshops that uh how the product is helping the practitioners kind of create that vision for the customer, for the customers. So that's how you're able to kind of bring those two messages together, so someone's listening and they're going 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 would you tell them to to start? And let's try to kind of get a little specific here. Where would you tell them to begin? Yeah. The debates uh the answer is depends on where you are in your journey in the company and the type of business you are. Right. So if your your your product is a product that is a very kind of the top down approach, you probably want to start with kind of the uh top level messaging and then after that goes buttons up. But if it's your habit product that is very uh for example, like news of being open source or with air table being very product led growth bottoms up, kind of an approach. In those cases, you might have to start kind of uh with that because there is a lot more grants all there. But knowing that for you to be able 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're able 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 if you look at the oracle and IBM back in the days, that was a very top down approach and they're selling motion and then there were the open source came along 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 both companies are both business models are coming to a convergence to some extent people who are very top down there trying to go to Prg model and the people who have been very bottoms up there are adding the enterprise sales motion and those who are coming to get it right. So depending on where you are in 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 the other side, what do you think are some of the pitfalls maybe that you experience along the way when it comes to this approach and and and drilling down on messaging, what do you think are some things people should avoid or or maybe be aware of Yeah, One of the things that I've seen quite a bit, especially in the technology space is that we love our phrases digital transformation. So things like that. Right? So we to go high level, sometimes we go to wake. So when you land on somebody's website at that point and you have no clue what they are, you're spending 10, 15 minutes, Okay. What whats their offering? Why should I even care about talking to them? Right. So finding that balance of being high level to set up the vision and be able to create a category is one element. The other part is to stay connected to reality of what people are looking for. Right? So because on a daily basis people think about their pain points. That's what I call pain point marketing. Right? So you always think about what is people's pain point and you're trying to solve for them people for example, in the morning. So I can have difficulty getting my data from this place to that place. How could I solve that problem? But somebody doesn't say I wake up in the 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're going the route of digital transformation, but it has been used in a way that has lost some of the meaning. So it's important to kind of stay connected to what actually, depending points that people have in industry while going and building a region of where the companies could potentially go. Yeah, we need accessible messaging, right? Yeah. For sure. Any other pitfalls 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 to another and that requires a transition and it has impact on both directions. Right? So for example, you first, because you have done the business certain way when you want to start a new way, it's actually starting, seems like starting a new business from together from the beginning, Right? And it's so easy to lose sight into how long it took you to get to a place where you are with your current business and expect the same speed of delivery on the new model. Right? So that means that having the right expectations and making sure that they have the right mindset and then stick to 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 a journey that you need to go to. That's great. Well, here's my notes. Here's what I'm taking away from my conversation with Neema. I have got to be thinking more broadly than just one decision maker who might end up stroking the check. I need messaging that hits upper management and practitioners kind of creating buy in from both and then I'm intentionally going to have sort of this approach that aligns my marketing, my sales, my team leaders, providing visibility, understanding on where we're kind of at right as a team, we want to all be in on the messaging together Neema for those who would like to connect with you further where and and how can they do that? Yeah, of course I'm on linking uh probably is the best place to connect um across multiple social, but that's Lincoln is where I spend most of my time. Uh so if you just search for my name, Neema Astral Haggerty and linked in, you will be able to find me and I always love to kind of connect with people and chat. So if you want to...

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

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