Group Dynamics & The Purchasing Committee
Your Product Champion assured you that the budget is there along with the appetite to unseat the existing software that is your primary competitor. You reviewed the ease of product implementation with the Technical Buyer. The User Buyers successfully used the trial version for three months, leading to more than $1.5 million in cost savings. You’ve previewed your licensing agreement with their legal team, agreeing to terms, usage rights, and the price. Now the last step of sale is the quarterly group meeting for the committee to present their recommendation to the Economic Buyer (and company CEO). All you need to do is wait for the call to send over the final contract.
Then the call comes.
And it’s not good news. They’ve decided to stick with the existing software platform for another year. They all agree it’s not ideal, but that’s their final decision.
What the f&^$%ck? happened?
Group Dynamics is the sociological and psychological theory that states that group behavior and decisions cannot be derived as a summary of each of the individuals comprising the group. Although you had commitment from each of the individuals, when acting in a group, their behaviors are apt to change. If the CEO pushed one or more of your buyers on their analysis of your product, it’s very possible that they quickly changed their viewpoint.
How can you diminish the effect of Group Dynamics?
The same psychologist that coined Group Dynamics, Kurt Lewin, described “channel factors” – short term forces that influence an individual’s behavior. The simple act of specifically asking each of your buyers – “Will you recommend our software to your CEO, even if she pushes back a little on price, effectiveness, or implementation costs?” – might serve as a channel factor that solidifies the buyers’ points of view and recommendations. A 1987 research paper by Anthony Greewald, et al – “Increasing voting behavior by asking people if they expect to vote” – showed exactly what the title implies.
I’ve written previously about Bounded Rationality and Decision-Making in organizations. Be direct and bold (but not obnoxious). While it is important to help your buyers articulate how your product meets their individual needs, be sure to directly ask each buyer if they will support going forward with your product in the final purchasing meeting. Don’t leave it to chance, or worse, Group Dynamics.
You’ll be glad you did.