By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company
Some people fantasize about getting into the ring with a professional boxer. Most fail to realize the “fight” would likely last about 15 seconds. The same concept applies to sellers wanting to gain access to Key Players. Executive calls scheduled for 30 minutes can end abruptly if sellers don’t relate to buyers as stated in a CustomerCentric Selling® core concept: You get delegated to people you sound like.
If a seller’s offering were CRM software, a reasonable approach would be to call on someone in finance by leading with the potential issues of missed earnings caused by over-optimistic sales forecasts. This is likely to have a better outcome than calling on other Key Players in that:
- IT may not be open to considering a new software initiative that isn’t in their plan
- A sales executive might be defensive rather than admit forecasting is an issue
- If there is no budget a CFO would likely have to approve any expenditure
- A cost vs. benefit would have to be developed and presented to someone in finance
Sellers should be prepared to have executives share business outcomes they’d like to improve through the use of their offering. Once shared, the seller can begin to diagnose the reasons goals can’t be achieved and hopefully create a high level vision so the buyer gets a conceptual idea of what capabilities are needed.
In order to do so, sellers must ask questions that executive buyers can answer. Calls on CFO’s should be different than calls on VP’s of Sales or CIO’s. Sellers should avoid asking questions that may elicit the dreaded response: “Why don’t I have you talk with (someone in IT or Sales) that would be able to address your questions.” Ideally a seller would take the person in Finance to a vision before gaining access to other committee members.
If a question may be difficult to answer, sellers can “tee them up” by offering industry facts. For example, rather than ask what % of opportunities don’t close as forecasted, a seller could preface the question with: “According to CSO Insights, about 10% of opportunities in sales forecasts close as forecasted (timing and amounts). How often do you face issues with line items in the sales forecast?”
When with senior executives, a rule of thumb to strive for is not asking questions they will struggle to answer. If sellers can get through calls successfully they should also make sure they keep senior executives apprised of calls that are made on other people that will be involved in the decision making process. Access to decision maker levels early and throughout the buying process will maximize the chance of favorable outcomes.
Buying lunch? Check out our article about the Human Element in Sales.