Who Are Your Best Friends?
It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic: By going over, around, or through a middle manager or two, maybe alienating them in the process, a salesperson gets in to see the ultimate decision-maker. The UDM listens to the pitch, shows the salesperson out, and never returns another phone call. But the salesperson congratulates himself anyway for his clever strategy. “At least I bypassed those losers and got through to the top dog,” he says.
Who is the loser again? Leapfrogging influencers to get to the ultimate buyer is not a strategy. It’s a recipe for failure.
Users, middle managers, department heads, or vice presidents might not have the power to make your deal, but you can bet that some of them have the power to kill it. And they very well might, if you haven’t sold them. The UDM, after all, has more faith in their judgment than in your sales pitch. That’s why they’re called influencers.
In an ideal world, lower-level buyers would be your champions. They would want you to meet with the UDM. They would insist on it. They would coach you not only on how to make the meeting happen but on how to make it succeed. They would help you understand the company’s needs, and the UDM’s viewpoint, and how to speak the UDM’s language. They would guide you step by step through a sales strategy that would win you their company’s business.
Why would they do all that in the real world, not just an ideal one? Because they’d be convinced that if you win, they win. Why would they believe that? Because instead of brushing them off in your haste to get to the UDM, you engaged them in the Action Selling system. You asked great questions. You sold yourself, sold your company, and sold your product.
Our sales book “Sales Strategy From the Inside Out,” shows how a sales process works when lower-level buyers are won over as coaches and champions. It isn’t really magic. But it sure feels that way.
See how to take the complexity out of tricky sales situations.
Action Selling In Action
Jeff Katz is a major-account representative for waste-management firm Veolia Environment Services. Three years ago he pitched a large apartment complex on Veolia’s service, but lost the business to a competitor. Recently, with the contract set to expire, Katz tried again. But this time, Veolia had trained him in Action Selling.
Instead of going straight to the ultimate decision maker (UDM), Katz started with the maintenance manager for the apartment complex. He asked great questions that identified needs—and the emotions surrounding those needs. The maintenance manager “kept getting angrier and angrier” as he discussed problems with his current vendor, Katz says.
The maintenance manager armed Katz with key information and arranged a meeting with the UDM. When Katz asked for the business, he says, the UDM called in the maintenance manager, “and the three of us worked together like teammates trying to solve a problem. It was entirely different from a seller calling on a buyer.”
Naturally, Veolia won the contract.