In a perfect world sales people would always sell to the top. They would go straight to the decision maker who, of course, would say yes. And so the sale is made and everyone lives happily ever after.
Unfortunately we don't live in a perfect world, and if you think you can sell to the decision maker every time then you might be living in your own fairytale.
Look at it this way; you have made it into your prospect’s organization, but what do you do when you get there? How do you get from the entry point to the real decision maker to make the sell? To get to the decision maker you have to find the answers to the following:
- At what level are you entering the organization?
- How did the people you met at this level receive your product or service?
- What (if any) are their buying motives?
- What do you have to do at each level so you can keep moving to the next level or, even better, directly to the decision maker?
Imagine you are selling computer software to a large insurance company. Your software is going to decrease the time their salespeople will spend doing sales administration work, the work all salespeople hate to do.
Let’s have a look at the different entry levels in the business and the strategies you can successfully use to navigate you way through the organization to the person you need to speak to. As we go through each strategy think about how to relate it to your own work. Think about your products, your solutions and how you can apply these scenarios to your own sales negotiation process.
In this case, Salesman Sam is the end user of your software. If your entry point is at this level, you can gain insight as to how your prospect is likely to view your software and, possibly, other products. They can also give you other useful information like who is who in the company. This is where you can gain useful information to leverage the sale. If we continue with our example, you are entering the insurance company at the sales level, where the end users for the software work. Here you can gather information that will tell you what percentage of time your software would save the salespeople if the organisation was to implement it. Remember that the potential user, Salesman Sam, will only be interested in helping you if he understands that your solution will benefit him.
If you can convince him that the software is easy to use, that it will save him time and that he is going to make more sales, then he is going to support you and may be able to direct you straight to the decision maker.
Unfortunately your strategy doesn’t work and you are directed to Data Dan. Data Dan is the head of the insurance company’s technical department, which would be responsible for implementing your software system if you manage to make the sale., He and the rest of his team are perceived as problem and solution people and they do not like to take a lot of risk. They want information on top of information, on top of information . . .. They are very technical thinkers who have plenty of influence in the organization based on their ability to implement this kind of solution, but they lack the decision making power. Be warned, this is where most salespeople get stuck in the sales process. Data Dan is great at stalling.
Here are some strategies to remember when dealing with Data Dan. Don't ask him what the next steps are; tell him what should happen next - in a friendly way of course. Don't ask if the company is happy with what they have as the answer is always going to be yes because he and his team probably recommended the original solution to begin with.
You can win him over by involving him in the creation of a customized implementation, which is going to make their job easier. What you don't want to do is insult him or make him think you know better than him. Remember there is a high probability that he was involved in a previous decision, so if you criticize that decision or that process, or product then you are indirectly criticizing him. That is not going to help your negotiation process. Work with him instead of against him. He may have a secret desire for acceptance and approval from others, so utilize this to your advantage. If you can make him feel like a hero then you will both have a win, and he will be praising you and your solution while ushering you up to the next level.
Mary Manager is the next level. Mary Manager is a manager, director or planner who co-ordinates(?) others to achieve the objectives set by the decision maker, the Big Cheese. Mary Manager has an extraordinary amount at influence in the insurance company. When building a relationship with Mary Manager you need to establish what she believes the organization’s current needs are. Ask questions like:
- How does the current software serve their needs?
- What are two things you wish it would do better?
You'll get down into the buying mode, which is where you need to be. When you get to the manager level you can begin to discuss what you found when talking to Salesman Sam. If you can use that information to demonstrate that your software will save 30 percent of the time that they were spending on administration work, Mary Manager will see that as an opportunity to leverage that 30 percent to increasing production and achieving objectives.
The Decision Maker
So we are finally with the Big Cheese. The great decision maker, he or she is the person who has the ability to say yes, and to sign the sales agreement. So when you are talking to the Big Cheese you must ask very specific questions and be very specific about the goals and desired result. He or she does not want to hear about the features of your product. They just want to know how it adds profit to the bottom line, the ROI and where your product opens up potential opportunities for the company and its shareholders. The Big cheese is concerned about the end results and the value you have to offer. How will your solution increase sales and reduce risk? How is it going to help their sales people to be more productive? Can you help their company gain greater market share or increase customer loyalty and, if so, how?
If you cannot demonstrate how you are going to offer value by the time you get to the Big Cheese then you are pretty much sunk. If you can get a list of testimonials on your way through the sales process in the company then your value would be assured, as long as they are from people who actually have influence with the Big Cheese.
It is imperative you understand that although we have talked about moving through the organization linearly, it does not always work that way. Sometimes you may enter at the manager level but have to then go back down to Data Dan or even all the way back to Salesman Sam, but that is okay as you have to get the information that is going to allow you to leverage the solution when presenting to the Big Cheese.
How you present you solution to the decision maker will make or break the sale, no matter how you have presented your solution to Data Dan or Mary Manager. Before you go into the meeting with the decision maker, make a list of the potential value, the services, the products, the solutions that you plan on delivering to the organization.
For each product or solution write down the positive impact each one is going to have on what you believe the decision maker’s objectives are and also as an example of past successes in term of the top and bottom-lines – expenses, market share, sales force productivity, quality of their product or services, employee effectiveness and efficiency, customer loyalty, employee moral.
Here’s the clue, the decision maker is always looking for tangible, quantifiable results that are sustainable, consistent and ongoing. If you can prove how your solution does one or more of these and you can demonstrate how your solution creates the desired result, then and only then will the decision maker be engaged. At this point you can bring in the claims that support your information that you got from Salesman Sam, Data Dan and Mary Manager. If you have won them over, the chances are they probably reached the decision maker before you and possibly have already given positive feedback about your solution.
When you are selling to the top, remember that if you have a strong brand and you have made connections then you might be able to sell to the decision maker first. Selling to the top shortens your selling cycle, but the only way you can be successful is if you go straight to the top and you know their buying motives. You have to know what the buying motive of the decision maker is. If you know what is important to them and you know how to explain your solution and it helps them reach one or more of their objectives then you are going to have a pretty strong chance of winning the sale. But it is only going to work if you have done the work ahead of time.
And of course, the decision maker likely knows other decision makers. This is good news and gives you an opportunity to get some good referrals. Get one decision maker to tell others. , When that happens, you knew you have added incredible value to that decision maker’s organisation.
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