By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®
Changes in buying behavior have made a salesperson’s job much more difficult. Pre-Internet, it was common for mid-level managers to work with a seller from a vendor to get far enough into the sales cycle to generate a bid or proposal. The seller had the ability to influence (wire) the capabilities so that they had a very good chance of winning the business. Competitors were invited to bid very late in the process, primarily to provide pricing leverage in negotiating with their vendor of choice, Column A.
Fast forward to today’s market and for inbound inquiries, it is far more complicated. Mid-level staff now evaluates vendors in a given space in parallel rather than in series. By that I mean they use search engines to find all the vendors in a given space and wind up visiting multiple websites so that their aggregate requirements span features/capabilities of several different vendors. This likely means there is no “Column A” but rather Vendors 1, 2, 3, etc. It has become far more difficult for sellers to earn “Column A” status. Also, if value and payback have not been established, the possibility of “no decision” outcomes looms. Effectively, these inbound inquiries amount to bottom-up selling efforts as higher levels must be accessed.
While not an easy task, sellers and vendors do have opportunities to start as Column A, but the challenge is that there must be proactive contacts with levels that are high enough to fund unbudgeted initiatives. The benefits of starting at Key Player levels are significant:
- Sellers have the ability to target companies that fit desirable profiles.
- Larger opportunities are likely because budget can be found.
- Sales cycles will likely be shorter when starting at high levels.
- If value isn’t established, early Key Players will withdraw (bad news early is good news).
- Rather than wait for inbound leads, sellers can control the quality of their pipelines.
The most significant advantage of proactively taking Key Players from latent to active needs is that sellers can enjoy the benefits of starting buying cycles as Column A.