By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company
sales training, I’ve concluded B & C sellers mirror the behavior of electricity: They follow the path of least resistance. By that I mean their entry points within prospect organizations are low, but willing to talk with them. These sellers take great comfort in having pipelines with large numbers of unqualified and therefore low probability opportunities. If you add up all the opportunities in the pipeline of a C Player, it may approach the GDP of a small country, yet the seller continues to fall short of his or her quota.
Marketing organizations by default now own the top of sales funnels. Many appear to be taking a similar path to finding new opportunities. A new approach may be needed. I suggest organizations step back and consider that buying cycles start in one of two ways:
1. Reactively when prospects contact a vendor or a seller. Pre-Internet it was likely that another vendor (Column A) had gotten traction and the buyer would leverage Columns B, C, D, etc. as leverage to negotiate with their vendor of choice. It was likely the buyer contacting vendors was not a Key Player.
Today it is likely that there is no Column A as the requirements are an aggregate of what the buyer has seen by visiting several different websites.
2. Proactively when sellers (lead gen or general territory) reach out to prospects. CCS® suggests that sellers try to initiate these opportunities at or near decision maker levels by leading with business issues. It makes little sense to start lower. If prospect companies aren’t looking, there’s no budget. Sellers should try to gain access early to avoid wasting time talking with people that can’t say yes but can say no. “Bottom-up” selling is a path to long sales cycles and low win rates.
With inbound inquiries from mid to low-level prospects (including unsolicited RFP/RFI’s) we teach sellers how to gain access to Key Players by qualifying a Champion. It is important that the buyer can realistically introduce a seller to Key Players. If they can’t, we suggest treating the buyer as a Coach that can provide access to that person’s manager (sometimes it will require getting to the manager’s manager). In those calls, it’s important that the seller uncovers organizational goals, create visions and establish value so that Key Players would be interested/willing to talk with a salesperson.
I believe the major reasons that sales cycles end in “no decision” are:
- No business goals are discovered
- No vision of how offerings can be used is created
- No Champion is qualified to provide Key Player access
- No compelling value is established
- No plan defining how to evaluate offerings is created
In my previous blog post, I offered my opinions about the DIY “buying” that is ongoing. I feel the vast majority of B2B inbound interest is from non-Key Players. Vendors would be well served to view people that score high enough in website visits and activities as either potential Coaches or Champions. Given the volume of activity it’s too expensive to have sellers start several levels below where buying decisions can be made.
It seems some filtering is needed to reduce the amount of activity and help sellers focus on prospects where they can gain traction and make progress in qualifying opportunities by gaining access to higher levels.