In my last post, I discussed that one of the main differentiators between a complex sale and other sales is the fact that in the complex sale you must deal with different buyers, with different issues – all at the same time.
I also introduced you to the most common ‘buyer’ – the key executive. In this post, I introduce you to the other four buyers involved in a complex sale:
2. The Financial Buyer is the person(s) who must pay for the offering – it comes out of their budget. Too often, sales people think the financial buyer only resides in the finance or procurement departments. This is true only when the budget being affected is lies within one of those departments.
The financial buyer is concerned about paying for the offering. They want to know how long it’s going to take before the investment is returned. They agree with Will Rogers that the “return of my money is more important than the return on my money.” The financial buyer is interested in how your offering will save them money, increase productivity, and pay itself back. Where the key executive is interested in these issues from a strategic, often conceptual framework, the financial buyer wants hard data. “You’ll recover your investment in 30 to 38 months” is music to the financial buyer’s ears. Be specific and enable the financial buyer to understand how your offering provides a quicker or bigger payback than other alternatives – even when the alternatives may be less expensive.
3. The Technical Buyer is responsible for making sure that everything is effectively integrated in the company. They’re worried about how everything fits. The finance or procurement department are often technical buyer’s confused as financial buyers.
When talking with the technical buyer(s), you need to address how your offering is going to fit within their existing systems and/or methods of operation. Technology companies often screw up when talking with technical buyers. They spend all of their time talking about how ‘cutting edge’ their ‘solutions’ are; or how ‘fast’ they are. All the while, the technical buyer is thinking things like, “yeah right, I’ve heard that before,” and “the last time we implemented a new idea, I had to work 80 hour weeks for three months.” By the way, this is often true for non-technology offerings as well.
The technical buyer is worried about messes. When working with them, focus on understanding their systems and the challenges they face. The technical buyer is often more concerned about making the safest choice than the best choice.
4. The User Buyer is the buyer responsible for implementing and/or actually using their offering. This buyer is concerned about ease of use and divergency. When they hear ‘new’, they think ‘difficult.’ The user buyer is concerned about making their life better. Be careful when dealing with the potential user(s) of your service. They may appear to have no decision making authority, yet they can often kill any deal. All they have to say to one of the other buyers is something like, “I don’t think that new offering you are talking about will work here” and you could be dead.
5. The Coach is the person that has a vested interest in your success. The Coach can have a formal role in the decision process, an informal role, or no role whatsoever — they may not even be in the organization. Additionally, the Coach is not necessarily high up in any organization.
Here is what a good coach can do for you – they can give you the lay of the land. They can tell you how you are doing, what the conversation on the other end is all about, who you should talk to and how to break a log jam. I advise every salesperson involved in a complex sale that one of their first missions is to find a coach.
There you have it. Five buyers. Five different interests. Five different languages. Five different sales process – all being orchestrated as one – isn’t the complex sale fun. There are three keys to remember when you are involved in a complex sale:
- What role is the person I am talking to filling?
- What are they concerned about?
- Has everyone participated in the conversation?
Constantly ask yourself these three questions and you’ll find bigger sales coming faster. If I can help, please let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Business to business (B2B) sales can be very complicated. There are lots of issues that impact a successful sale, lots of competitive pressure (you are competing with anyone offering a solution to any problem within a company, not just your solution), and, often, lots of people involved in making a decision.
It’s the “lots of people” issue that really makes B2B selling complex. You are not only dealing with many personalities, who each have their own personalities, foibles and desires – you are dealing with different roles within the same organization.
The Five Buyer Roles
1. The Key Executive is the person salespeople typically think of as the ‘decision maker.’ The key executive is person who has the final say. In most complex sales situations there are many buyers who have the authority to say no, and only one who has the ability and authority to say yes. That person is the key executive. Often the key executive has a ‘C’ in their title.
Key executives are concerned about strategic issues. They talk about enterprise initiatives, enterprise value, ROI. To get their attention you must speak of the strategic advantages your offering provides. Talking about tactics, or focusing too much on ‘cost savings’ will commoditize you and will get you delegated down to a level where making a sale is harder and takes much longer.
View my next post to learn about the other four, equally important, buyers and how to talk with them.
I was talking with one of my clients today. She runs a small business that is poised to grow. In an effort to pursue that growth, she has recently brought on some important people to help deliver the experience that, up to now, she has delivered primarily by herself. Needless to say she is nervous.
You must understand my client is excellent at what she does – one of the best, in my opinion. A large part of her hiring model is to bring on people who have limited experience and to teach them her process. Her offering, like many others, is highly commoditized even though it is highly personal.
As we were discussing the challenges of bringing her people up to speed, she asked: “How do I get them to perform where I need them to?”
”By letting them make mistakes,” I replied.
Needless to say, this was not the answer she wanted. It was, however, the right answer to give. I warn entrepreneurs not to hire salespeople if they are unwilling to let salespeople blow opportunities. I realize it sounds absurd. The entire reason we hire people is to get a job done. As entrepreneurs, we’ve refined our ability to provide services to an extraordinarily high level. The very idea of bringing somebody in who can screw it up is scary. Despite the fear, it is often necessary.
Kids learn how to walk by falling down. Picking up new skills, habits and approaches is difficult. Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM, is famous for saying – “If you want to double your success rate, double your failure (mistake) rate.” People often refer to this quote when talking about how a business approaches a market. It is equally important when applied to individuals within an organization.
For fast-growth businesses, it is a simple question: Do you want a business to grow that is dependent on a few key people or do you want a business to grow through the combined activities of many? With the former, growth has an end point, with the latter, it does not.
If you don’t want to limit your growth, you must embrace mistakes – even when mistakes can cost you business. You see, sometimes it just takes time to be excellent. People learn by making mistakes. When people are allowed to make mistakes, they play more, and as they play, they begin to master more things – and mastering leads to genius. That’s right, mistakes are a necessary precursor to genius.
When someone feels (and ‘feel’ is the key word) that they are not allowed to make a mistake, their learning capabilities are diminished significantly. While you may not have to deal with as many ‘mistakes’, your chances for creating a high performance organization are greatly diminished.
I just attended a mid-size trade show. My first thought when I saw all the booths, sales materials and giveaways was, “Isn’t it amazing just how much money companies spend on all this stuff?”
Here are some of the things I noticed:
· A company providing a ‘virtual reality ride’ simulating a roller coaster and submarine.
· A booth where you could get a back massage.
· Lots and lots of trinkets and trash.
I saw several companies competing to get noticed. It made me realize that a trade show is really just a microcosm of the larger market — Lots and lots of noise (and believe me, the exhibition hall was noisy) and not much value.
Trade shows are another marketing vehicle that has been impacted severely by the Internet. Originally, trade shows were the easiest, and often most effective, way to introduce a group of people to new offerings and demonstrate how those offerings worked. Sellers were able to leverage the investment they made in attending a show because they’d expose their new stuff to a lot of potential buyers. Buyers were able to leverage their time investment because they could research a number of offerings at one time. Considering that’s exactly what the Internet allows us to do, it’s easy to assume that the trade show should be yet another victim of the information age if something didn’t change.
With the original purpose of the trade show dead, has the new value proposition changed into simply getting noticed, or, at least avoiding not being noticed? This got me thinking: Is being noticed enough these days? Is it worth being noticed if you don’t have anything valuable for people to notice? What about the flip side — Maybe ‘being noticed’ isn’t enough. Maybe the risk of your competitors being noticed without you around is what really matters. Maybe there is so much noise at a trade show that no one actually gets noticed at all.
I think these are questions we all need to be asking ourselves because they apply to more than just a trade show – they apply to our most fundamental marketing strategies (after all, these are the questions that drive companies to advertise during the Super Bowl).
My philosophy is that being noticed isn’t as important to me as who notices. I’d rather have 30 of the right people notice me in a meaningful way then 1,000 people being exposed to me. What do you think?
I was watching the premier episode of Studio 60,, a television show that takes place in the backstage scenes of a fictional late-night Saturday Night Live type show.
The character played by Matthew Perry was talking to the star actress just before she was going on. She asks Perry’s character why, during the dress rehearsal, she gave a line that didn’t get a laugh, while during the read-through, it did. The line was “Can you please pass the butter?”
“What am I doing wrong?” she asked.
Perry responded with a line any businessperson should keep at the front of their mind: “You asked for the laugh.” “And?” asked the actress. Perry replied “In the read-through, you asked for the butter.”
Whether you are a salesperson, a brand manager or the CEO, it is easy to forget that focusing on the result instead of focusing on the execution leads, more often than not, to a failure to get the result.
So, stop focusing on “record-breaking profits” and start focusing on “record-breaking value creation” for your customer and clients. Stop focusing on “making a sale” and start focusing on “understanding your client better than they understand themselves.” That kind of execution leads to a truly remarkable client experience and more growth.
You see, when you focus on the right things, the results just happen. You’ll get the laugh – and the profit.
What is the best way to find out what a potential customer thinks? Why not ask them? It seems obvious, doesn’t it? But, for some reason, salespeople have a difficult time with this concept. Despite all of the books written about it and all of the money invested in training salespeople how to ask good questions, average salespeople always seem to fall into guessing and telling.
I understand the motivation. In the heat of the moment, on a sales call, it may seem much more effective (and certainly easier) to just tell the prospect what you do. Oftentimes, the salesperson knows what is needed anyway – and the prospect is ‘asking’ for the salesperson’s expertise. On the surface, telling seems to make sense.
Don’t fall for it. Remember – you are always one question away from what is really going on in the prospect’s mind. I’ve witnessed many sales calls. Very rarely does a salesperson make the mistake of asking too many questions. However, I’ve regularly seen sellers make the mistake of assuming too much and, at the same time, telling too much.
I’ve debriefed many buyers following a sales call and I’ve never had a buyer complain that the only problem they had with the seller was that the seller just worked too hard to understand what the buyer really wanted.
Next time you think you know what the buyer is thinking – ask – you may be surprised of what you find out.
I’d like to help. If you would like an idea for a good question to get a conversation started, e-mail me the situation you are dealing with and I will respond with what I think may work. E-mail your sales situation to ‘email@example.com’ and put ‘Sales Question’ in the subject line. (BTW, apologies for not putting a link here – unfortunately, I’ve been overwhelmed by spam when I gave a link before).