Don’t sell to who can’t buy
A golden rule and common wisdom says:
“do not sell to someone that cannot buy”.
As one of our highly appreciated colleagues at IBM used to put it,
– There are a few people in the buying process that you need to say “yes”, everyone else involved can only say “no”, so go sell to the former, but make sure the latter likes you”
In complex B2B sales situations, when:
- you are selling at premium price,
- implementation of your product implies major change or a transformation
- implementation involves many users and stakeholders
.. in the customer, then it is adamant that the perceived benefits must outweigh the pain, i.e. the cost of the implementation.
Regardless of your price the real perceived cost to say “yes” is high, much higher than your price. Therefore we need to spend tour time talking to the people who can appreciate the Business Benefits. Those who can say “yes”
The real cost of saying “yes”
When we are selling Value, we solve Business Critical problems for the customer, and the customer appreciates the value off this. Often the solution is a combination of a product or technical solution, and a transformation project. This implies a change process that is far more costly than any product we could ever sell. This is why:
Even if we gave the whole solution away for free, in Value Based situations, the customer may still refuse or stall the decision.
When we approach the purchase signature, concerns about the whole project rises. This is absolutely normal. Price is almost irrelevant at this point. Doubt and the perceived risk weigh over on the “Reasons Not to Buy” side of the balance together with the internal cost of the change project, making your price a minor issue in comparison.
Never try to compensate risk and transformation concerns by lowering your price!
In the Article about why Pipeline deals slip and are delayed, we discuss what to do about this, but for the moment we just need to understand who the key Influencers and Decision makers are, and that they ar crucial to us to approvce the project.
Otherwise, they can stop, scrap or stall our deal at any time between now, and the order. We have to make sure they don’t.
A major business decision is very rarely taken by one single person. If we want the Customer (the Company) to go ahead with the deal, we need to acknowledge this fact and make sure we know who is who in the company, and work to secure the deal in multiple fronts.
Decision makers and Influencers
Who should we look for?
Most companies withing the same industry have similar internal structures (titles tend to vary much more between industries). This makes it a good idea to map out the typical decision chain and decision making structures for the industry you are about to campaign or approach. Describe the decision-making personas for the industry vertical, write them down, and then go search for them. This is helpful later when you create account plans for specific companies and put real names to the personas.
The Influence Circles
Some personas we often encounter and that you may want to start off with:
Decision maker – power sponsor
- Has the ultimate YES/NO decision to make
- Often merely a formal approval
- Can go against recommendations of team!
- Well protected and sometimes almost invisible
Things to consider
- Qualify that the person is the true decision maker
- If you can’t get direct access, what other players have the ear of this guy?
Influencer – expert
- Sees things from a functional point of view
- A filter in the process
- Can say NO, but not really the YES we need
Things to consider
- Engage Influencer early in the process
- Is the offer presented in a way that Influencer understands and backs?
- Do we know what his/her attitude towards us is?
- In general very many of them in the company, professional roles.
- The propel who will use our solution, and the support agreements that came with it.
- Influence decision making if asked, not always considered though.
- Reach out to at least a limited set of users and consult them.
- Ask yourself what users will likely say about us if they are asked
- Consider the effort and return of engaging with them
- A sponsor wants us to succeed as this makes hium/her look good within the organisation, or get the task done better
- Not necessarily in the leadership teams, can be outside the traditional contact surfaces, but should be influential enough
- A Sponsor will support us informally with information, advice etc.
- Do you have a sponsor for the opportunity at hand?
- Is th sponsor powerful enough internally to drive the business forward
- Do we understand the sponsors pains and the benefit from our solution?
Beware: Just as you can find sponsors who backs you, there can also be sponsors for our competitor with the same powers as the Sponsor, but who will work against us – we call them Anti-Sponsors!
The Stakeholder map
Pains flow throughout the organisation
For both decision makers and important influencers, you need to understand the professional and/or personal motivators so that you can build an individual Value Based argumentation for them. What keeps the these people awake at night? What would he/she be really enthusiastic about?
It is a good idea to think a little extra and try to map out the “who is who” in the company. To get you started, here are some examples – typical professional motivators associated with different roles.
- A CFO will have financial and cash flow considerations, he will listen to arguments focused on productivity gains, lower costs, less stocks, less CAPEX, payment terms and subscription models.
- The Operations director will look at productivity, less risk for downtime, efficiency, less personnel rotation, job satisfaction, delivery precision, quality
- A project manager will be interested in holding the deadlines, meeting requirements and strict budget control
- Asking the right things to the right people is always important, and to do so we must understand them, who they are and what they do and think. It is as easy as that.
If this is a big contract, spending time to anchoring the decision with as many as we can from these people is absolutely key.
If the deal is smaller, perhaps we have to rely on our sponsors to do the internal selling. We have to use our common sense to judge the reasonable effort.