1. Who’s your Buyer? – and understanding their buying process:
Publish Date: 22nd Nov’14:
Your salespeople will often tell you they sell into “the C-suite if we can, otherwise someone in the IT dept., or the relevant LOB (line of business) manager”. What they mean is they were taught in their sales training to go in from the top down – first approaching a relevant board member, then a VP, then a Head of Department and see where they can get any traction. But this will always be difficult unless any of those individuals have already been made aware of an existing pain-point from inside their organization.
So the key is to crystallize in the minds of certain employees that their particular pain-point is actively damaging their company (either through unnecessary costs incurred, operational inefficiency, lack of competitive advantage, slow time to market, etc.). Turn it from a fuzzy feeling to a metric. Once the vendor has articulated the benefits of their offering they can identify the exact role appropriate to that solution. Once that’s understood the line manager of that identified role becomes the target, for it’s in their interests too that that pain is relieved. If they have budget responsibility then the vendor has found their target. In some cases they’ll need to move one step higher to that person’s own boss.
If the solution is broader then they may need to escalate again but the most common reason for a vendor not pinpointing their target accurately, is that they’re not sure what problem their solution is actually solving. It’s bewildering how frequently that’s the case, even in large and established corporates.
It’s wise to focus on at least three individuals for most sales opportunities – think of them as the hands-on user, that person’s line manager, and the strategic or divisional director responsible for the initial two. It should be straightforward to craft differentiated messages for all three – one focusing on how much easier a task would be with your solution, one on how much more efficient that user’s time would be with your solution, and one with how greater efficiency in that role would benefit the aims of the business. Three messages that’s all. This is why salespeople complain when all they’re given is a technical data sheet as sales collateral – many of their targets wont be interested in any technical detail.
Now that you’ve identified those three key roles, and have developed appropriate messaging for each, you’re ready to work on who most influences those three roles. That differs with every type of sale but the shortcut is to try and gain a twenty-minute phone interview with each of those three people to understand what triggers their acceptance of a problem existing, what in-house remedies they’d initially seek, how they would scope the perceived problem, how they would first search for external solutions, how they would review those solutions and how they would then decide on the eventual choice.
In these conversations each person should be asked who else would likely be involved at each stage. Not individual names obviously, but what job roles would be consulted. In this way the influencer ‘ecosystem’ can be established and the decision tree mapped. With this information you would now have a significant advantage over any competitor. This process doesn’t have to be done anew for every sales opportunity, because soon a pattern of buyer behavior will emerge that you can apply to other organizations of their type and industry sector. I can guarantee that many of the insights gained will be radically new to your sales and marketing teams.
Understanding the buyer and their buying process is a critical foundation for successful selling.