It’s no secret that sales is a people-oriented position. To complete a sales cycle, salespersons have to consistently interface, often multiple times with multiple people, and remain cognizant of the preferences, pain points, and pursuits of their core prospects. This requires communication skills, sure, but it also requires a careful, strategic approach to dialogue—of knowing what to say, when to say it, and—perhaps most importantly—who to say it to.
Thus, “know your customer” has never been a more important initiative. Yet, cutting through the chatter and truly finding those persons designated with decision-making rights can be a challenge. A recent study by member-based advisory company CEB included four surveys of more than 5,000 stakeholders involved in B2B purchases. The study found that on average, it takes 5.4 people to sign off on every purchase. If two is company and three’s a crowd, almost six can be overwhelming at best. Finding consensus and agreement in such a group can prove challenging, and can make the salespersons job that much more difficult. As a result, a recent industry study found that almost 60 percent of sales cycles result in no decision being made.
To this end, Salesforce offers the following tips to help sales teams establish a sense of unity and mutuality among groups they’re trying to reach:
Learn Their Interests
You can’t bring people together if you don’t know them in the first place. Take the time to have the important conversations that help you understand your customers’ concerns, objectives, current circumstances, and future goals.
This process can and should be a group effort—if multiple people are involved in the decision-making process, take the time to talk to them, if you can. Such persons are often critical to final acceptance, and their opinion and influence should not be underrated. In fact, Salesforce notes that sales teams often refer internally to such executives with code names such as Promoter, Champion, or Supporter, noting their important role in the overall process.
Time Manage Effectively
Keeping in mind that each potential sale is different, it’s important to engage in customer conversations strategically—while their value is often immeasurable, it can be easy to spend too much time or money initiating such meetings, especially when fielding options from executives only too eager to discuss their issues and what they think your proposal should include to help fix them. Often in the end, though multiple teams may have a say in the overall decision, only one or two people are truly authorized to make a budget-impacting decision, and carefully steering conversations in that direction is the best way to spend your resources.
No matter how superior a product or service offering may be, it rarely sells itself. One-on-one interaction and engagement between sales teams and prospects has always been, and will continue to be, a critical step in the sales process. As agents learn to navigate through the pool of executives and personnel attached to a potential sale, how well they communicate and listen often plays a major role in how well their message is received—and how profitable their pitch turns out to be.
Edinger, Scott, “It’s Not Really a Consensus Sale (So Don’t Treat it Like One),” Salesforce Blog, January 5, 2016, https://www.salesforce.com/blog/2016/01/consensus-sale.html?d=70130000000tP4G.
Qvidian, “Sales Execution Trends 2014,” December 2013, p. 3, http://www.qvidian.com/sites/default/files/resource/Sales-Execution-Trends-2014.pdf.
Schmidt, Karl, Brent Adamson, and Anna Bird, “Making the Consensus Sale,” Harvard Business Review, March 2015, https://hbr.org/2015/03/making-the-consensus-sale.