By Bob Apollo
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Most high-value complex sales require that we engage with multiple stakeholders at different levels in the customer. If we start at with a contact at the operational level, even if we successfully sell them on the need for action and the advantages of our solution, they will often have to persuade others – usually a combination of their peers and their superiors – before a buying decision can be finalised.
And if we start by successfully engaging a contact at the strategic level that we persuade to buy-in to our vision, it’s pretty much inevitable that in this age of collaborative, consensus-driven decision-making that they will at some point pass us down to people at the operational level so that they can conduct a more detailed evaluation on their behalf.
Wherever we start our conversation, it is always wise to remember some classic advice: “we end up talking to the person we sound like”…
For many top sales performers, this is instinctively obvious – but I’ve observed far too many sales conversations that go rapidly off-piste because the prospect sees the conversation as being irrelevant to them.
It’s probably worth highlighting a few of the distinctive differences between strategic and operational contacts:
AVOIDING MISALIGNED COMMUNICATIONS
It’s hardly any wonder, is it, that there is so much scope – particularly amongst relatively inexperienced sales people – for having the wrong level of communication with the wrong people?
Of course the problem is compounded (as a number of studies have pointed out) by the fact that the typical sales person is far more confident talking about their products than their customer’s business environment, whilst the typical business buyer regards relevant business expertise as far more important than product knowledge.
There’s got to be a way around this, and of course there is: it’s a matter of establishing separate talk tracks for strategic and operational conversations, and coaching sales people in how to handle both levels of conversation.
This is not about coming up with rigid scripts – any customer worth their salt will be able to see through them in an instant. It’s about coming up with a series of connected talking points and insights that are connected with the issues that are most likely to be relevant to the role and level of the audience.
But as I suggested in my introduction, there are times when we might want to deliberately switch the level of conversation up or down in order to progress an opportunity. Here are a couple of examples:
MOVING DOWN WITH A MANDATE
After successfully engaging at the C-Level, we are told that they now want to bring their subject matter experts in to evaluate our solution at a detailed level. There’s a real risk that the project could disappear into a Black Hole at this point. The operational people on whose desks this task lands will often have other views and priorities.
They might well report back to our C-Level sponsor that the problem is already being addressed, or that Go to the full article.
Source:: Business 2 Community