It is an axiom of sales to find the decision maker and the person who signs the checks and you will increase your probability of success.
The counterpart to that axiom is you must develop a relationship with the decision maker as well!
At a sales meeting I attended, a sales person said he ran into the new CEO of one of his accounts at a local restaurant and they had a brief conversation. Apparently the accounts CEO was looking to buy a home in the area that ironically the sales person’s CEO lived.
As the story goes, the sales person was struggling at the account with a small percentage of the total business available. He asked how he might capitalize on his chance meeting with the new CEO.
I suggested asking his CEO to call the new CEO, welcome him to the community and offer to share his experiences as a home owner in the desired area.
The two CEOs met and instantly hit it off with the focus on purchasing a home as the center piece of their discussions. Their common ground over time led to conversations about the business and as you would expect things improved relative to the sales person securing a greater percentage of the business.
The take away is that sales people need to look for opportunities to connect with customers and prospects on a human / personal level. The higher up these connections are the greater the probability of positively influencing business relationships.
The principle is sales people need to put aside their egos and use senior management whenever possible to develop relationships with their counterparts at critical customers and prospects. The strategy of having deep and wide relationships with your accounts is a fundamental of world class selling.
This principle would apply to the “What the blankety blank happened” in our lead Newsletter article. Getting senior management involved early in the sales process to develop a relationship with key decision makers, thus increasing the probability of not being torpedoed later is a very practical and function sales tactic.
In sales training sessions and consultations with sales managers and sales professionals they frequently lament the following scenario:
We have been pursuing this targeted prospect for 6 months, expended a great deal of sales and managements time addressing the prospect’s needs and our cost effective solutions.
The buyer encouraged us and things appeared to be moving along very well. The buyer indicated our solutions were very interesting and indeed seemed to address their concerns.
Meetings, lunches, samples, tours, and a proposal all ensued.
Then communications went a little, “0 dark 30”, no response to inquiries for feedback about the status of the proposal. We were left hanging, anticipating a deal, but essentially bewildered!
Then we received a brief email saying they decided to stay with their current vendor, no thanks for our ideas, time spent, much less a cogent explanation for not getting the business.
Thus we were left scratching our collective heads; what the “blankety blank” happened? The sales person was baffled, the sales manager was embarrassed, and senior management demanded to know why we didn’t get the deal?
Everybody felt we were “had” and were simply used as leverage to get the current vendor in line!
Obviously all is fair in love, war, and sales! The prospect / customer has no legal obligation to tell you anything.
What can you do?
The best course of action is to anticipate this early on in the sales process. Then discuss the required activities/ expectations necessary to acquire the business in advance before spending time, energy, and money.
In essence, getting the prospect to at least verbalize and agree in principle to awarding the business if outlined expectations: price, quality, delivery time, new product, solutions etc. are met.
This early discussion in the sales process also includes a commitment to making the final proposal to the key decision makers in person or as a minimum via video conference call.
In practical terms you are getting “mini closes” as you progress through the sales process to ensure you and the buyer are on the same page.
Prior to the formal written proposal you might pose a trial close highlighting the critical points in the yet to be finalized proposal to test the waters.
Mrs. Smith you approached us about finding a solution to your current product in terms or quality, price, and timely deliveries. You indicated your current vendor although a long term partner was not getting the job done.
We have spent two months exploring solutions and have informally presented options to you and your operations people, the feedback so far has been encouraging.
The price point you desired has been agreed to, the quality metrics and delivery sequence is in place. Before we finalize our proposal is there any other information you require?
When can we schedule the presentation of the proposal?
One last question, since everything you asked for appears to be covered, is there any reason why we couldn’t expect signing an agreement after the final proposal is presented?
If a buyer equivocates at any of the initial steps, trial closes, presentation of proposal, or ultimate commitment to change vendors, a very bright caution light should begin to flash and be immediately addressed.
Sales professionals have these conversations well before the …”What the blankety blank happened” pronouncement!
Give us a call at 480-229-7800 or email email@example.com to explore more details about handling this ever present sales problem.
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