In order for salespeople to help their prospect sell internally, they must understand the sales environment. Therefore, in the last two posts of this series we've covered two key components that define environment: (1) where the prospect is in the purchase cycle and (2) who is on the prospect's buying team. With a full appreciation of these, you'll be better positioned to develop the most creative and effective sales strategy.
But before jumping right into forming a sales strategy for your prospect to execute, there's a critical step that must come first: defining objectives. All sales calls or presentations begin in the mind of the salesperson with a clear one sentence statement of purpose. A sales strategy without objectives is useless, so skipping this step – a common temptation for many – is a colossal error.
Before you initiate any sales process, regardless of whether you have direct access to the buying team, ask yourself: What's my purpose? By identifying one, it forces you to think about your environment, drawing upon the knowledge outlined in the previous two posts, and what you need to do to transfer your belief in your solution throughout the rest of the target organisation.
In general, there are two types of sales calls, and a salesperson's objective will differ greatly depending on which one they're entering.
- Transactional sales calls
These are calls in which you expect a sale to take place at that time. They're going to be mostly simple sales that don't require a large investment of time or resources on the prospect's behalf.
- Developmental sales calls
These are the sales calls we engage in most of the time as a part of the overall sales process, those for which you anticipate you'll need to put in a significant amount of effort, working with many people over a long period of time. They require that you take a multipronged approach and lead, coach and counsel the prospect throughout the entire purchasing process.
When you're faced with the challenge we're addressing in this series of helping your champion sell internally, you're clearly dealing with a more complex sale that requires multiple developmental sales calls. Because of that, you should begin the process by defining not just one objective with a simple endpoint, but a cascading series of objectives, starting with a broad, overarching one and becoming more and more focused on immediate goals.
These objectives can be broken into four levels. For each, we've provided a generic example of what the actual objective might be:
- Overall objective: What's your ideal end result?
For example: Prospect organisation makes long-term commitment to your product or service.
- Intermediate objective: What will help you fulfill your overall objective?
For example: Prospect trials your product or service by investing in one part of it.
- Short-range objective: What will help you fulfill your intermediate objective?
For example: Your contact (within the prospect organisation) presents the case for trialing one part of the product or service to the buying team.
- Immediate objective: What will help you fulfill your short-range objective?
For example: Your contact arranges a meeting with the buying team.
As you consider each of these levels of objectives, it's crucial that you couch them in regards to the actions that the prospect must take. Too many salespeople concentrate on inputs, thereby framing objectives around what action they're going to do. But the purpose of a sales call isn't your activities. Instead, it's about getting the prospect to take desired actions that lead to a result.
What's your purpose? Regardless of whether you're entering a transactional or developmental sales call, you'll need to devise an effective sales strategy and tactics. And what makes for good strategy development? We will cover this next time, in our last post of this series.
Posted: 10/04/2012 3:59:09 PM
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How can salespeople help their prospect sell internally? As a salesperson, it's a question you will often face because, for whatever reason you simply cannot gain direct access to the purchasing authority: the person (or people) who have the economic power to make a purchasing decision.
In order to devise the best strategy and plan of action for your prospect/champion to sell internally, a salesperson must understand their environment. Last time we provided a basic outline of the purchase cycle. By understanding this construct, salespeople gain tremendous insights into an organisation’s current ‘state of mind’ and what kind of information it will most likely be seeking, both now and in the future.
But we don't sell companies or organisations – we sell people. So it should go without saying that the most creative of strategies and tactics are people-oriented. Therefore, it's crucial to understand the types of people that make up a buying team, in terms of the roles they play, and the forces impacting upon them. With this knowledge, you can create an effective sales strategy for your prospect that will address the different needs and motivations of the buying team members.
Regardless of however many people are on a buying team (3, 7, 12, 30…), its members can be distilled down into three, distinct categories:
The ultimate authority is almost always one person. Although it may appear as if authority is vested in a committee or a group, this is very rarely the case. Within the buying team, they're often the person with position power (but not always!), and in most cases, they hold all of the economic power. In other words, without their final approval, the team will rarely make a purchase.
These are the people who will put the product or service to work within the organisation. Unlike the authority, they can't say yes and approve a purchase, but if they believe the solution won't be effective, they can certainly express reservations and say no. They can also be highly credible champions.
These are the experts charged with the responsibility of ensuring the solution will work. As with implementers/users, they can't say yes, but if they believe the product or service won't function as required, they can say no. Note that a "technicians" expertise doesn't necessarily apply to the ‘technology’ of the product/service. For example, a technician could be a lawyer advising on how the contract is written.
Whether or not you can gain direct access to the buying team, it's critical to understand who the players are and the role each of them play. When you can gain direct access to the buying team, you can improve your chances of success by matching members from each of the three categories with members from your own selling team. For example, if you can get your engineers talking directly with their engineers, or your product specialist talking directly with the prospect's, communication can be more productive and effective.
But even in instances when you don't have direct access to the buying team, you can couple your previous knowledge of *where* the prospect is in the purchase cycle with this new knowledge of *who* your contact/champion needs to be selling to internally. This will arm you with a big-picture view of the organisation's environment and allow you to leverage as much creativity as possible as you consider your objectives, sales strategy and tactics.
Next time we'll look at defining your objectives, and after that we'll wrap it all up by discussing what to consider when forming your sales strategy.
Posted: 13/03/2012 11:48:46 PM
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"Creativity is nothing more than having the ability to understand the forces impacting upon us and then being able to utilise those forces as a means or a tool for reaching our objectives. It's the ability to understand our conditions and environment and then put them to work for us." Bear Bryant
In our last blog, we posed a dilemma often faced during the sales process: If you can't communicate directly with the purchasing authority in your target organisation, then how can salespeople help their prospect sell internally? While there isn't a straightforward solution, dealing with this issue is very achievable using the framework we’ll outline in this and the next three blogs. It will help any salesperson support their principal contact and champion.
As we outlined last time, the culmination of the process is having your contact implement the right sales strategy. But before you can have them do that, you have to develop your sales strategy – and that starts with allowing for the creativity that Bear Bryant cites in the above quote.
How can you help yourself be creative? Like Bryant says, you must understand the forces impacting upon you. In other words, what factors shape the client's conditions and environment? What are the various influences and personalities at play?
When it comes to the sales process, there are two core elements that shape the prospect's environment:
- Where is the target business in the purchasing cycle?
- What is the make-up of the buying team?
Today we’ll look at the first of these two influences on the prospect's environment: the PURCHASE cycle.
When making a major purchase, the vast majority of organisations (public, private, small and large) go through a process that is comprised of a series of sequential steps that inform their decisions. Although much of the content of the process is unique to each organisation, the structure of the process can be distilled to some universal basics that are shared amongst all. Even with a very general understanding of where the prospect's organisation is in this cycle and the forces impacting upon them, you will glean invaluable information that will support and enhance your creativity.
We've captured the essence of each step in the PURCHASE cycle below:
P roblem identification
In order for any person or entity to undergo change, they must experience a problem that causes some form of pain. In this initial period, the organisation identifies such a problem and acknowledges that they need a solution; this ‘identification’ can often be informal and unconscious.
U ncover various alternatives
The organisation considers whether anything can be done to alleviate their dissatisfaction (pain). If there are no feasible alternatives, they'll live with it. But if they identify that a potential solution maybe available, they will move to the next step.
R esource identification
The organisation considers how it can solve the problem: Can it be addressed in house or will they need to seek a solution from an external supplier?
C oncrete specifications
Almost always written, the buying team develops the criteria of what's required from a solution so that it can adequately solve their problem.
H old out the opportunity to suppliers
The organisation reaches out to various suppliers seeking information about what's available in the market.
Note: This is often where many salespeople enter the process. However, as a rule, the earlier you enter the purchasing cycle the significantly greater strength you have with the prospect.
A nalyse suppliers
The various suppliers present their proposals to the organisation. During this stage, it's not uncommon for the organisation to determine that they need to rewrite their specifications, either because they didn't capture everything well enough the first time or because they've identified new opportunities.
S elect preferred supplier
The organisation selects their preferred vendor and engages with them in a negotiation process. This is where you can expect your margin to come under the greatest pressure.
E ffect the solution
The organisation implements the purchased product or service.
As we said at the outset, even though the content of this buying process will be unique to each organisation, the PURCHASE acrostic acts as an informative pathway to guide salespeople. By determining where the organisation is in the process, how close they are to a purchase decision and what steps they still need to go through, they afford themselves an invaluable snapshot of their environment; this enhances sales creativity, and allows them to develop and manage a more effective sales strategy.
But the purchase cycle is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to understanding the prospect's environment. In order to manage it effectively, and therefore fully realise the potential of your creativity, salespeople must also determine who they're selling to, because we don't sell companies or organisations – we sell people. And we'll explore this topic in our next blog, when we look at the buying team.
Posted: 21/02/2012 5:15:06 PM
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As every effective salesperson knows, you must determine early in the sales process whether the customer or prospect you're working with has the authority to make decisions and purchase your product or service. That is, do they have economic power? If they don't, they're merely a gatekeeper (sometimes willing, sometimes reluctant) who is blocking your way to the person with the real purchasing authority.
There are no two ways about it: Without access to the purchasing authority, you face a more significant pathway to the sale. Even if your principal contact/gatekeeper wholeheartedly buys into your value proposition, it doesn't matter; until the person with economic power has the same appreciation of how your proposition will create value for them and their organisation. Until then your work is for naught.
In a perfect world, salespeople will always try to communicate directly with whoever has the purchasing authority. If your initial contact within your target business isn't the authority, you get with whoever has it. But as we know, it's not usually that simple. In fact, it's not unusual for the authority to go out of their way to shield themselves behind gatekeepers.
Whilst selling to a customer who doesn't possess purchasing authority is not ideal, it’s often the norm and there are certainly ways that you can help your prospect/contact sell internally... and thus help you make the sale.
Central to this goal is that you want to make your contact, presumably already a champion for your product or service, a de facto salesperson for you inside their own company. And you can help them become such a salesperson by guiding them through the same process that you undergo every time you work your way through a client relationship to make a sale – that is, you need to help them be able to transfer their belief in your products and services to the organisation by creating and communicating value.
If you want to effectively help your champion create value in the mind of the purchasing authority, it isn't going to happen overnight. However, when you understand it, it's actually quite a tactical process that with enough practice and application is very doable for anyone to achieve.
Through the next four blogs, we will follow up with a series that will expand on the four steps that we recommend salespeople follow to help prospects sell internally:
- Understand the purchasing cycle – Businesses of every size go through a similar process, and if you're to understand the people you're dealing with, you must understand how they purchase, what procedure they follow and where they are at anytime in that cycle.
- Understand the buying team – When you can't gain direct access to the purchasing authority, you're probably dealing with a buying team. Every one of these teams includes three types of people (or roles that they fulfill), and it's essential that you identify each member and determine what role they play.
- Define objectives – All sales calls or presentations must begin in the mind of the salesperson with a clear statement of purpose. And when it comes to more complex sales, especially when you don’t have direct access to the purchasing authority, it's essential to work with your contact to define a concrete series of objectives.
- Form a sales strategy – With your objectives defined, you will need to develop a sales strategy with your principal contact based on three factors: the size and complexity of your value proposition to the target organisation, the organisation's tolerance for change and the nature of existing relationships within the organisation.
Insights into each of these steps will be covered in our next four blogs. If you don't already subscribe to our blog, enter your email address into the field at the upper right corner of this page and you'll receive an email notification each time we post a new blog.
Posted: 31/01/2012 6:40:20 PM
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