Too often, a masterful storytelling sales person will wow his or her audience on a call, only to find out that their efforts were wasted on people who lack the ability to take the discussion to any material place.
It was Mike Tyson who put it most eloquently when he stated “Everyone has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth”.
What I am hoping to address in this section is how we can avoid this situation and navigate more freely through an institution, making sure to avoid the “punches” along the way and close the deal.
The first step – sales development
The first step in the process actually starts upstream with Sales Development.
It is the job of a Sales Development Rep (SDR) to ensure that the appropriate people are invited to the call, so that the conversation will be beneficial to all parties.
In preparing to approach each personality, I think it is worth us outlining some of the likely players that will be involved in the buying process:
- Responsible for the day to day implementation of the project/solution
- Has the most to benefit/lose on a daily basis from your service/product
- Likely to respond very well to your demonstration of how you can add value to their company
- Will rally support internally behind your service/product
- Oftentimes, they are middle/lower management and do not have control of the purchasing decision, but can make enough noise as to attract their Supervisor/Director etc to the next demonstration
The Champion is your ally in this process and needs to be treated as such. Build a relationship with this person, reinforce the benefits of your product/service to their company and themselves and be praiseworthy of their support at all times.
Technology Buyer (if you deal with technology sales)
- Responsible for vetting the technology purchases of the company
- Likely to be held responsible for anything that goes wrong in purchasing a product or service and is therefore likely to be very risk averse
- Will have a list of questions, which often don’t always relate to the product/service you are selling, but it is important that you hear them out and address them
Often, this person will respond negatively to attempts to build an interpersonal relationship, but if you can satisfy their questions, take them seriously and if possible, go beyond their requirements, they will be a staunch supporter and ally, and with the Champion, will likely make a convincing argument to the Economic Buyer.
- The person holding the purse strings (in a smaller company)
- Or responsible for making purchasing decisions on any large purchases over the threshold limit of the buying department in a larger company or institution
- At times the Economic Buyer may also be the Decision Maker.
In larger companies, governments and even universities, the Economic Buyer is kept separate from the decision making group, oftentimes for two main reasons:
Firstly, in the case of Governments and Universities, they are there to ensure that there is no bias in choice of vendor.
Secondly, their job is sometimes to renegotiate the rates and terms in the contract. As such, it is important to factor this in to your pricing when quoting larger institutions.
In many cases, the Economic Buyer is directly linked to the legal department and together, they form the Purchasing Department.
When dealing with this group or personality, it is important that you follow a clearly outlined closing plan (which I will cover in my next article) to ensure that you can bring the decision to a head as quickly and as pain free as possible.
This includes planning your question and answer process, as well as navigating the legal battleground. This specific relationship has the highest risk of going sour, given the heightened tension in the process as either party makes a final attempt to assert its will.
As such, keeping a cool head, directing the process and being responsive and professional will help you win their approval.
- Often the person charged with making a final determination
- Usually has no specific interest in the product or service you are selling and is simply there to rubber stamp the contract, trusting on the opinions of the Champion, Technological Buyer & Economic Buyer
In some instances however, the Decision Maker is also the Champion. For obvious reasons, having the Decision Maker and the Champion as one personality is a massive benefit, but it does come with its challenges.
Oftentimes, the Decision Maker’s enthusiasm for a product or service may raise the eyebrows of their colleagues/employees in the lower departments and actually work against the salesperson, so it is important to manage that relationship and not take for granted the opinions of those “lower level” employees.
In order to avoid any unforeseen pitfalls, be sure to prove the value to parties on all levels, even if you have the “thumbs up” from the Decision Maker.
Navigating the purchasing process is a skill that comes with time. It is important to constantly make sure that each party is being addressed and that you are being directed to the appropriate parties.
If you need, create a map for yourself and the buyer or a checklist, to ensure that once each step is completed, you have a clear direction of where to move in the sales process.
Part 2 of a 2 part guide. See part 1 here.
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