It’s important to understand what you bring to the table and the real value you provide. But none of that will help you if you’re talking to the wrong person.
As solutions become more complex and budgets become more restricted, more and more people are involved in the sales process. Decisions are rarely made unilaterally. And finding who you need to present your solution to (and how) is more important than ever.
But this goes well beyond the traditional, making sure you’re in front of the decision-maker conversation. Because the person you need to be talking to can change throughout the sales process, and sometimes it’s not the ultimate decision maker. Multi-threaded deals are becoming the norm, not the exception
Don’t make assumptions about who you need to sell to and overlook influencers who can help you along the way.
So, let’s dig in, and learn the three questions that will ensure you’re selling to the right person.
Asking the Right Questions
Knowing who you should be talking to you during the sales process start by asking yourself these three questions:
Who are the players?
Why would they buy?
Why wouldn’t they buy?
The answers may be different for each person you encounter during the sales process. And they can also change as time goes on. So, you cannot afford to make any assumptions.
Think of this like examining the pieces to a jigsaw puzzle as you’re putting it together. When you look just a little bit closer, you get a much better understanding of where each piece fits. Some pieces may be more distinct than others. But they all play a role, and there are no unimportant pieces.
So let’s look a little deeper into each question.
Who are the players?
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 everyone from the receptionist all the way up to the CEO.
Here’s the kicker, though… they all have influence, or at least you should assume that they do.
The moment you get involved with a company, whether it is a small or a large one, you are starting to develop a reputation within that company. And every person you interact with is going to have an impact on that reputation.
If you don’t believe the way you treat the receptionist is going to impact whether or not you get a meeting with the person the next level up, you are sorely mistaken.
Is the office manager the CFO’s sister-in-law?
How do you know that intern isn’t the CMO’s nephew?
The people in that office will talk about you when you’re not there, and they are there way more often than you.
Remember, there are no unimportant puzzle pieces. They all have a place and a role in the big picture.
Why would they buy?
Every person you meet is going to have a different reason to give you what you want. Your company’s overall value proposition is the same, but you’re going to need to present different variations of it to different people as you move through the process.
How do you approach each person in the process?
Have you thought about what it’s like to be in their position?
Have you thought about the individual constraints placed on each person in the chain of command?
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.
Even when you finally get to the decision-maker, consider what their true motivations are. Do they care more about implementing your solution to help their company? Or are they primarily worried about how their decision is going to look at their annual review?
There is likely a distinction between the way you see someone’s role in your sales process and the way they feel their performance is going to be judged. And that is usually their ultimate motivation.
As you increase your alignment of those two perceptions, you increase your success.
Despite everything you’ve read about the buyer’s journey, empathy is still probably the most underrated skill in sales.
Have you put yourself in your prospect’s position?
Can you imagine how they think?
Have you walked the proverbial mile in their shoes?
What would it be like to have their job?
You should have some idea of the answers to those questions before you even walk in the door. I’ll talk about sales call preparation in another article, but it’s important to do homework on a company.
What are their mission, goals, and culture all about?
The better you know these things, the more colorful a picture you’ll have of what it‘s like to work at that company. And as that picture is painted, you’ll better understand how your solution fits in and how you can refine your message from the outset.
Why wouldn’t they buy?
Of course, the other side of empathy is to consider the reasons they wouldn’t buy from you. I know this may seem hard to believe, but most companies are not particularly interested in throwing money at you, This is even if you just told them you have the greatest thing in the world for them.
Do you understand what their constraints are?
Do they have an urgent need, or are you talking to them about something new?
Do they have money to spend? (This is different from having a budget in mind, by the way).
What are their perceived risks about moving forward with you?
I know you have an idea of what success looks like, but they are thinking about what failure looks like.
Every once in a while, the reasons they won’t buy 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 can’t afford to be blindly persistent in the face of insurmountable adversity. Focus your energy on winnable situations, and sadly, you can’t win them all.
True expertise lies in knowing the difference.
Knowing it’s ok to move on also has a profound impact on how you feel about what you do. If you’re doing things right, you’re going to realize you’re not a good fit for everybody. That means you don’t have to try so hard and make someone do something they don’t want to do in order to be successful.
Keeping your integrity intact this way is better for everybody.
The most common reason you’re likely to find for why a company won’t buy is simply that most people and companies would rather do nothing at all than make any change, even if you tell them that change is going to benefit them tremendously in the long run. The status quo represents a tremendous amount of inertia.
The first commitment you’re going to need from the prospect then is a commitment to make any change at all. And in order to get that, you must have their strict attention.
Want a shortcut? I don’t offer many. You have to earn it, and 95% of salespeople miss it even though it’s right in front of their faces. Ask yourself why your best customers buy from you. 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?
If I asked 100 salespeople why their best customers buy from them, five would know because they’ve asked. Fifteen would probably guess right because they’re paying attention and are pretty intuitive. Eighty people would tell me something related to the marketing copy on their website or brochure.
It would be an assumption, it would be wrong, and they would be blown away by the real answer if they would only ask.
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.
It’s really two questions… The first goes something like:
“Ms. Customer, you’ve been doing business with us for several years now, and we really appreciate your loyalty. With all of the other choices out there, what makes you keep coming back to us?”
Ms. Customer will probably say something helpful but generic. Don’t stop there! Follow it up…
“I really appreciate that. Would you mind being a little more specific? Comments like yours help us find other customers and clients like you and really over-deliver.”
Remember, these are your best customers, the ones really willing to engage in dialogue like this. They want to help. So give them the opportunity to do so.
In most cases, you’ll find that their reasons for staying loyal to you are nothing that can be printed on a website or a brochure. But they’re ten times more meaningful to a prospect, and they’ll guide your sales process in a completely different direction.
Multi-Thread the Right Way
These three questions will guide you through the sales process to make sure you’re talking to the right person, at the right time, with the right message.
Because winning a multithreaded deal takes more than just understanding there are several decision makers. It takes identifying the right decision maker at the right time, and sometimes that means talking to someone you normally wouldn’t even consider.
For instance, your ultimate goal may be to reach the Head of Sales with your solution, but to get there, you may need to sell their receptionist on giving you their number. Or maybe, in order to convince the Head of Sales, you first need to convince their team.
If you don’t ask the right questions, you’ll be selling blindly and missing out on huge opportunities.
So, stop missing out, and start asking these three questions today.