Tag: decision

There Is No Single Decision Maker In Enterprise Sales

There Is No Single Decision Maker In Enterprise Sales

Brian G. Burns says many great things in his videos and podcasts, but this one video sums up B2B sales more than all the rest.

I coach salespeople saying that Sales is nothing but helping decision-makers (plural) make the correct decision in the timeframe that we need it done. It is an overriding theme in my book, Eliminate Your Competition.

Think about that above paragraph for a second. What are the key phrases:

  • Helping – As Zig Ziglar used to say, stop selling and start helping. Sales is about assisting (helping) a person along the path.
  • Decision-makers – there are many decisions by many different people along the way. The final decision is the decision to buy your product, but everything you do is a choice. As the excellent Rush song, Freewill, says, “If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.”
  • Make a correct decision – Ultimately, we want the “buy” decision, but long before that, we need the “meet with me” decision, the “listen to my advice” decision, the “don’t like my competitor’s pitch better” decision, and many more.
  • In our timeframe, salespeople have a fiduciary responsibility to their employers to close deals in the time frame needed by their employers. Let’s face it; we are the company’s revenue arm, and everyone’s income depends on us selling the company’s product and bringing in revenue.

There are hundreds or thousands of decisions that get made in a long sales cycle product. In some markets, it can take a year (or maybe two years) from the time the company realizes that they might need to do something to when they make a final purchase decision. In that time, dozens of people are each making many decisions along the way. Just about every decision will affect who wins the deal, or who is ahead in the competition to win the contract.

You can sell high and lose. 

You can sell wide and lose. 

You can sell to low-level people and lose. 

The critical thing in business-to-business sales is to do all of them. You still may lose, but if you cover EVERY decision-maker and understand their goals, needs, and pains, then you will be less likely to lose. Remember, they are ALL making critical decisions every day, and you need to ensure that you “win” each of those decisions.

You never completely know who that one person is that can kill a deal. Many people in an organization can say, “No,” but few are empowered to say, “Yes.” Typically, that “Yes” only comes when no one is saying, “No.”

Top leaders at your prospects do not make decisions in a vacuum. While there are cases where the executive overrode the team and made a decision that everyone hated, most of the time, the boss tries to build consensus in the group. If a highly respected person in the department doesn’t like a purchase, it is infrequent that the leader goes against that advice. If you want the top person to decide in your favor, you first need to get that highly respected person to decide in your favor.

That is why coverage is essential, and you must understand if someone is a supporter, neutral, or an enemy. In my book, Eliminate Your Competition, I teach salespeople how to create a Power Matrix to map the influencers in the sale. A Power Matrix covers the 9 (or 25) people that might have an influence over the decision.

It boils down to a couple of simple items and by creating a Power Matrix the salesperson can effectively track what is going on:

  1. Work on trying to get as many supporters as possible. If there are one or more enemies, try to move them to at least being neutral. The most potent and rewarding move is an enemy to a supporter.
  2. Make sure you have a strong supporter (a coach and a champion) that is providing you with private information, coaching you on tactics, and, most importantly, selling on your behave when you are not present.

You may purchase my book, Eliminate Your Competition, from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at such retailers as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

Check out this great video from Brian Burns that summarizes all of this. Brian has a lot more great stuff that he puts out on his YouTube channel. You need to check it out.

Header Photo by geralt (Pixabay)

Salespeople Affect The Decision-Making Process Of Their Prospects

Salespeople Affect The Decision-Making Process Of Their Prospects

I was recently interviewed by Colin Stewart of Predictable Revenue in his podcast. I have posted links to that podcast as well as the transcript.

During that interview, I made the point that sales is nothing more than affecting decisions. I contend that it is the job of a salesperson to influence the decisions of a prospect. I will take this one step farther and say that a salesperson tries to affect the prospect making a favorable decision in the desired timeframe.

Making a decision in an organization is a very complicated process. It is not like the criminal TV dramas where the wise old judge weighs the evidence and renders a sound decision. It is more like jury trials – relationships between individuals and their personalities are far more powerful than the facts. The reader is encouraged to read “12 Angry Men” or watch the movie starring Peter Fonda and George C. Scott. It is an excellent example of emotions getting in the way of making an impartial decision. It also shows that a poor salesperson (the defendant’s lawyer) can blow the sale. Peter Fonda’s character is an excellent example of a Champion who can sway the emotions of the decision-making group.

The team making a decision is not trying to select the best solution. They will settle for a product that satisfies the majority of their perceived needs. They will look at enough options to make themselves confident that they have a good market sampling.

If you have ever wondered why a company bought a competitor’s offering and not yours, perfection is not the goal in most buying decisions. In many cases, the goal is simply to make a choice that isn’t terrible. It is your job as a salesperson to put your product into those decision criteria.

Do you know how your prospect is making their decision?

This is a common question by every sales manager for all time when reviewing the deals in the pipeline. The question comes even more frequently if the individual salesperson is relatively new or tends to lose deals too often. The simple fact is that your deal is at a significant risk if you do not know the answer to this question.

Of course, if you do know the answer to that question, you may still be at risk if you do not understand that it is your job to influence that decision-making process. The first step is to understand, and the next step is influence, but you cannot affect what you do not understand.

If you want your boss to get off your back about your deals, then know the answer to that vital question AND understand how you will affect that decision. Once you have those two things under control, your manager will be much more interested in the timing of the deal and if you have the resources to execute on your plan to influence the decision.

Too Much Information Doesn’t Help Your Prospects

Too Much Information Doesn’t Help Your Prospects

The prospect’s role in the decision-making process is to collect information pertinent to their problems and find a solution to these challenges. Your stated role in this process is to provide information to the prospect that will allow them to purchase your product. Your unstated, but understood, role in this process is to affect the buyer in such a way that your competition loses the order, and you win. You are a combination of an information provider and a decision influencer.

You must give the prospect information to assist them or else they may not see value in you and may not purchase your product. You also must help them eliminate choices that do not benefit you. Therefore you must choose the information that you give them very carefully so that it not only helps them understand the benefits of you, your company and your solution but also helps them understand that your competition’s solution is not a perfect fit. It does not matter if your product is a perfect fit since it is rare for any product to be a perfect fit. You are probably familiar with the adage ‘putting a round peg into a square hole.’ Unfortunately, most prospects do not truly understand what size hole they have, or the shape. Your goal is to make them see that they have a hole that is the size and shape that perfectly accommodates your peg.

Many salespeople will assist in the decision-making process by overwhelming the prospect with too much information about their product or service in the hopes that the prospect will make the decision that they want. How many times have we shopped for hours or days for a particular product (home, stereo, TV, car, etc.) to make sure we understand the pricing schemes and the features and benefits and then end up buying from the last store that we enter? Surely it was not random fate that the first salesperson that we talked to in each case was very incompetent and could not match us up with the perfect product. Rather, what happens is we start the process by gathering information. When we understand the specifications and the issues regarding our planned purchase, we start eliminating choices, then we delve into those few remaining products that we know we like and we make a decision to purchase one. However, we rarely go back to the first person who started the education process – we buy from one of the last few. We are simply too tired to go back to the first person – we have suffered from information overload, and that first salesperson is going to lose the sale. 

You probably have purchased a house/condominium or rented an apartment. Invariably, your search began by driving around neighborhoods that you thought suited your needs. You may have evaluated your financial situation and decided on a price that you could afford. You also probably started looking at properties that might fit your needs and goals. 

In your search for a new living place, it is doubtful that you selected the first place that you visited. Instead, you began to evaluate your options and change your criteria based on the available amenities. You started to look at flooring options, wall coverings, the sizes of rooms, the arrangement of rooms and dozens or hundreds more choices. As you looked, it is likely that you modified your list of needs and goals as you became educated. Eventually, after days or weeks of looking and changing your list, you decided on a place. Most house hunters do not go back to the first few places to compare them to this new, modified list – those properties have lost the sale to you.

So, what does a Trapper salesperson do in this situation? It is almost impossible to get only educated buyers, and in fact, we probably do not want to be in that situation. If we only have completely educated customers, then they will only evaluate us against their pre-determined conclusions and ultimately make a decision on price, terms, and conditions. Instead, you need to position yourself to educate the prospect, but never fully let the prospect leave your control. This applies to all sales situations – the consumer salesperson knows the prospect is going to leave and needs to make sure that the prospect returns. The corporate salesperson knows the sales cycle is going to be long and it is impossible to be at every meeting. So he provides enough information early on to be seen as being valuable, doesn’t want to spend so much time on the company that he can’t close other business, and still wants to make the short list to be involved in the close at the end.

If we only have completely educated customers, then they will only evaluate us against their pre-determined conclusions and ultimately make a decision on price, terms, and conditions.

We know that there are going to be competitors on the deal, so we need to anticipate that they are going to give the prospect information. We need to structure our information as being incredibly valuable so that we are seen to add value to the prospect’s search but at the same time not spend all of our time educating the prospect on all of the minutiae. This is a delicate line, but experienced Trappers learn how to find this balance.

No one makes money by giving out information. So why do we do it? Why are we doing something for free? Simple – because we think we get value out of it. The goal should be to maximize the value that we receive. We do this by breaking our information into Bait. Bait needs to be benefit-based and not feature-based so that it is immediately ‘tasty’ to the prospect. The Bait is big enough to get our point across but not so big as to be confusing. Most importantly, Bait needs to lead to a Trap that makes the prospect think more highly of you, your company, and your product and allows the prospect to see your advantages over your competitors. In chapters six and seven of my book, Eliminate Your Competition, we discuss how to break up features and benefits into Bait.

You may purchase my book, Eliminate Your Competition, from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at such retailers as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

Photo by geralt (Pixabay)
Stop Selling and Start Helping

Stop Selling and Start Helping

Zig Ziglar frequently told his audiences and students to stop selling and start helping. This is great advice. This is one of the critical steps of becoming a Trapper as opposed to one of the traditional salespeople: a Farmer, a Hunter, or a Gatherer.

I spend a lot of time in my book talking about starting the sales process early in the sales cycle. You cannot just show up at the last minute, make your pitch, and then expect to win. Sure, that scenario happens but it also ends in defeat more times than not.

In my book, Eliminate Your Competition, I discuss the decision-making process. Since all buying is merely making a decision and all selling is just influencing a decision, it is critical that you understand how a typical organization makes decisions. It is even more critical that you understand how your prospect makes decisions.

You may purchase my book Eliminate Your Competition from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at such retailers as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

When you are spending time with a prospect early in their decision-making process, you aren’t asking them for an order. Your prospect is not ready to buy so asking for a rush to the decision is merely a waste of your time. If you conclude that they are not prepared and walk away until they are ready, they will learn about the capabilities of the products in your space from others and not from you.

So it is essential that you help the raw prospect learn about your product and your industry. It is much better to help the prospect through that process and be patient with the evolution of their thought processes. It would help if you created standard documents, reports, and white papers to help the buyer become more informed about your product. You want these to be readily available for the customer because you don’t want to work at the education too hard. Essentially, you need to map out the key elements that all of your customers and prospects need to know and send this information to them over time. Think of this plan as a weekly lesson on your marketplace – every week you send prospects that are interested, but not quite ready to buy, a new lesson.

You also want to teach prospects that don’t even know they are prospects yet. People that you think will eventually need your product, but today they just haven’t acknowledged that they have a problem that you can solve. To do this, you need to show up and see them on a regular basis, not to sell them but instead to offer your assistance. What can you do for them today? You also need to send them a regular newsletter on your industry that makes them more intelligent about what is going on. This newsletter isn’t to sell them, but instead, it is to help them become more intelligent. As Zig famously said, “Stop selling and start helping.”

Header Photo by madsmith33 (Pixabay)
Sales Is Helping Customers Make The Correct Decision More Quickly

Sales Is Helping Customers Make The Correct Decision More Quickly

Whenever someone buys something, he or she is making a decision. The decision is to spend money in exchange for a product. Following this same logic, it is the job of salespeople to guide and influence this decision process.

It stands to reason that if you are trying to influence someone’s decision-making process, you want to start that effort as early as possible. It is progressively harder to change the decision the later that you start. Eventually, it becomes impossible to reverse the decision.

For instance, if you try to influence the decision one year after the decision is made, you have no chance of success. Your only opportunity that far out is to convince the customer to make a new choice and effectively throw that old decision out. For argument’s sake let’s say that you have 0% of changing the decision.

As we move the timeline earlier, it is probably just as hard to influence the process one month after the decision. You may have more time to achieve this since it might be possible to “return” the purchased product, but even in that case, the original decision is tough to change. As above, let’s assume that this is a 1% chance of happening, but anything past that one month mark is effectively 0%.

Your influence of a prospect’s decision is probably the same throughout the entire month after the decision has been made. Let’s face it you are late.

On the other end of the decision process, before the customer has ever thought about purchasing a product in your space, you probably have the most significant ability to influence the decision (assuming that you have access to the decision maker). Before the decision maker has ever thought of the problem that your product solves, you have the highest ability to influence that decision to be favorable to your product. After all, at that point, your decision maker hasn’t talked to any competitors and hasn’t researched the industry on the Internet. In fact, by this definition, the customer doesn’t even know of the problem!

So in the world of sales professionals where we influence the decision (which is our job) our ability ranges from 100% to 0%, depending on the buying timeframe of our prospect. As we can easily see, as soon as the prospect starts to research the space, our influence begins to dwindle. So it just makes sense that if you want to win more orders (and eliminate your competition), then you need to talking to prospects extremely early in the decision-making process.

The drop-off from a great deal of influence to almost no influence is not a straight line. At the beginning of the process the drop off is slow and then partially through the decision-making process competitors are eliminated, and the choices start to dwindle down. Finally, at the end of the decision-making process, the decision is pretty much made, but the last few steps of the process are to get everyone on board with the decision and perhaps to negotiate the final price.

We need to communicate to prospects early in the decision cycle, but we need to do it effectively and efficiently as we will never be able to predict when the early prospect becomes serious about the benefits that our products provide.

The big challenge is that you need to communicate with your early prospects without spending an inordinate amount of time with them because most of them are not ready to buy, but they are receptive to influence. Your challenge is to communicate with them effectively. Luckily, this is a lot easier in the 21st century that it has ever been. We now have exceptional tools to convey information to prospects quickly, efficiently, and cheaply. These tools are email and social media.

I spend several pages in my book, Eliminate Your Competition, describing how a complex business organization makes a decision. The reason to understand this process is for you, the salesperson, to know where you are in the process and realize that your ability to influence the decision is waning.

You may purchase my book Eliminate Your Competition from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at such retailers as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

Header Photo by Clker-Free-Vector-Images (Pixabay)

 

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