Successful sales prospecting starts with understanding your unique value proposition. But no matter how great your pitch is, it will be ineffective if it doesn’t reach the person who can say yes to you. This goes well beyond the traditional “making sure you’re in front of the decision-maker” conversation. The concepts in this post will help you understand not only how to get to a decision maker, but also how to understand who the decision maker should be. Spoiler alert: it’s not always who you think it is, and they’re not always buying for the reasons you suspect.
Remember “the decision maker” is usually more than one person
In complex B2B sales (and in some cases when you are selling direct to consumer) there are more and more people involved in the sales process. When solutions become more complex and budgets become more restricted, hurdles increase. Decisions are infrequently unilateral. To address this, you need to approach each situation with a level of curiosity and pragmatism. Ask yourself, who are the players in your sales process? Who are all of the people that you are going to encounter along the way? This list of people can include the receptionist all the way up to the CEO and everyone in between.
Recognize that your reputation is impacted by every interaction
Every individual involved has influence, or at least you should assume that they do. The moment you get involved with the company, whether it is a small or a large one, you are starting to develop a reputation within the company. Every person you interact with is going to have an impact on your overall reputation. If you don’t believe that the way you treat the receptionist is going to have an impact on whether or not you get a meeting with the person the next level up, you are sorely mistaken. Remember, there are no unimportant puzzle pieces. They all need to be placed in a specific way.
Realize the way you describe your value proposition needs to evolve throughout the process
Every person you meet is going to have a different reason to give you what you want. The overall value proposition of your company is the same, but you will need to think about how to approach each person in the process. Consider what it’s like to be in their position and what constraints they may have in their position. For example, it’s not the gatekeeper’s job to get you in front of his manager, it’s actually his job not to. In that situation, you don’t need to convince him of your solution’s value to the company, you need to convince him that it’s in his best interest to get you a meeting with his boss. Each person’s motivation is ultimately the way they feel their performance/decision will be judged. Align with that motivation to be successful.
Remember your biggest enemy may be the status quo
The status quo represents a tremendous amount of momentum. Most people and companies would rather do nothing at all than impart any change, even if you tell them that the change will benefit them tremendously in the long run. The first commitment you’re going to need is the one to make a change in the first place, and in order to get that, you must have their strict attention and you must create tension.
Understand why your best customers buy from you
Here is something 95% of salespeople miss. It’s right in front of your face, and you’re likely ignoring it. Ask yourself: why do my best customers buy from me? At every level in the companies you serve, ask yourself why the individuals in each role love doing business with you. When is the last time you asked them? Think about this for a second. Your best customers are your most valuable untapped resource. Your current customers are a gold mine of information that is only available if you take the time to ask.
Do not be blindly persistent in the face of insurmountable adversity
I know this may seem hard to believe, but most companies are not particularly interested in throwing money at you, even if you just told them you have the greatest thing in the world for them. Understanding what motivates them not to buy is just as, if not more, important than understanding why your best customers buy. Ask yourself: what are their constraints? do they have an urgent need, or are you talking to them about something new? do they have money to spend? what are their perceived risks about moving forward with you? Every once in a while, the reasons they would not by are going to outweigh the reasons they would. It’s important to understand that when this is the case, you need to move on. Persistence is vital in sales, but you need to focus your energy on winnable situations. Sadly, you can’t win them all. True expertise lies in knowing the difference.