Role of influencers in the sales process can be categorized from people who understand the solutions and they will influence the decision maker to implement solution / product. Another influencers set would only be act upon if the top management instruct them so and there are people who focuses aspects like brand, sales person, price, legacy etc. to take a decision. The initial mapping of the sales influencers with respect your portfolio is important in any sales process.
I am trying to plot some thoughts on How to utilize the influencers in a more productive manner which can reduce the sales cycle time and results in repeat business
1. Empowering with the solution / product
As sales people we have knowledge on the industry we serve. Any product / solution has minimum 50 features, attributes and benefits to talk about. We will prioritize the critical information and will communicate same message to the influencer and the decision maker. Usually we will be able to render only the important points to the decision maker but each and every product information can be communicated to influencer without fail and the strategic importance of the each can be narrated as he will have enough time to hear this from you compared to the decision maker.
Certain features which were overlooked by the sales would strike him and he will take up those points to the decision maker during their internal decision making meeting. This will also give us an edge against the competition. In short the product / solution, its implications, case studies, awards and other relevant information should be well presented to the influencer as this will helps in positioning yourself better and influencer is loaded with information to act as a positive influencer for your package.
2. Enhancing industry knowledge
Every employee would be curious to know about the major event happening in the competition especially what his counterpart does. This is a very tricky exercise as we are not supposed to reveal about other customers of ours with the outside world. During the first meeting we shall make sure to give the important players that we work alone, but from then try not to mention any competition in the further discussion. When talking about best practices, you can mention the word ‘ industry’.
Updated industry knowledge is the biggest armor any salesperson can use during the sales pitch. Current trends, the forecasted industry shape, updates in the industry review articles are to be shared to the influencers. Hence he will consider you as a knowledge resource center, a strategic position created in his mind about the sales person which is a differentiator compared to your competitors.
Every employee would love to hear ‘good’, communicated to his manager. There are instances like defining the scope, where the inputs given by the influencer can be mentioned during the meeting. While communicating through the mail, mentioning the influencer in the right context will work and influencers should get the feeling that he gets his share of credit.
During the wrapping up of the sales process, which would be signing off presentation or an email, a brief note on the influencer’s contribution on identifying challenges and the solution needs to be stated. This will help him in his KPI’s and also an excellent tool to get into his good book.
Sales people should be essentially the agents of charity. Charity means charity of empowering the customers with the right information and insight over the solution. In our journey for meeting decision makers (DM), gatekeepers are the people who the first contacts are prior reaching DM.
Gatekeepers are mostly viewed as the problem creators in any sales process. Satisfying their egos, convincing them to connect, matching their moods and creating impressions are major issue associated with. Here are four ideas that have helped me to get through many gatekeepers to present my points to decision makers as the first step.
1. Sharing the objective
In most of the cases the sales people approach gatekeepers as a problem child. In fact convincing a gatekeeper to reach the decision maker involves a sales process. One of the strategies which worked with me is to being straight with them introducing who you are, the reason to meet up with the decision maker and briefing about the company. This will help you in positioning with the customer.
“ Its not what you say but How you say it.” An authoritative tone will mostly work with gatekeepers as the tone should reflect such that the person calling has an authority, possessing a passion on the subject and mirroring an image as if he has every right to speak to the decision maker. Elements of the tones like voice projection, pitch, definitive statement and pacing the words will play huge role in converting the gatekeeper to pass the call. Right tone will arose the interest to engage the gatekeeper and they starts listening to you thinking you as a senior person.
3. Conveying the value proposition
It is highly recommended to convey the value proposition along with the objective of the meeting. The value proposition could be the factors like cost saving, reducing the turnaround time, citing an example of how you have helped the competition to gain productivity, saving bottom line, focusing on the value added activities and so on. Many times gatekeeper connects you in this scenario as they would love to see their company thriving in the market and smiling face of their boss. Using of the right adjectives and the management jargon in the communication would support your efforts.
4. Drawing cues
Having set your tone, established your objectives, value proposition in place and the gatekeeper didn’t turn up as you expect. What is the next step?
Cues! Sales person should ensure that he is probing gatekeeper to fetch more information on the decision makers. The questioning techniques has to build in such a way that you are getting the information on the recently implemented solutions and the challenges solved, pitch using references of decision maker from other verticals whom you have already networked with, timing of the office etc.
Cues will helps you with reasons to get back to the person again. Also try making tele calls in the early part of the day or the late part of the work time as this the essential time (where the gatekeepers who would not have joined/ left by that time) to circumvent gatekeepers.
Best solution wins business. Solution comes though the thorough understanding of the needs and understanding needs should be backed by great questioning. The following tips help sales people to uncover the needs of companies before preparing the presentation.
1.) Create a mood match with the customer
Its interesting to know that the secret of success in any business deals lies in ‘You’ and not in ‘I’ or ‘My’. This makes customer feel that you are thinking about him and his issues, develops positive vibe in the conversation ultimately allow customer to open up more before the sales person. This in turn helps to establish a relationship with the customer.
2.) Where do we find the information about the customer?
The vision, mission, investor relation and press release are the not to miss pages in the website. The industry knowledge and the positioning of the company do matter. Word with the competitors decision makers (if you know any) and dealers help in understanding issues. Probing gatekeeper does add value to the final draft. It is recommended to directly call the decision maker during the appointment fixing to pull out information if required.
3.) How to frame questions?
A question has to be prepared from decision maker personal perspective and link his likes to products. Relevant questions can be framed from the goal, history and lifestyle of the customer. Questioning is the most obvious way to demonstrate our interest in their needs.
4.) Be prepared to listen
Listening is the key as the smallest detail could be the hottest button. Don’t think about your next question while your customer speaks. Size Up your listening skills by listening to the emotions in the story. Talk with the prospect.