Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Who Initiated This Project?

The Whetstone Group offers sales advice in their newsletter in a fun format: Problem, Diagnosis, Prescription. Today they discuss that age-old problem - finding the decision maker. This is one doctor's visit I don't mind going to!

Problem: Brian was frustrated with his inability to get to the decision-makers in the companies that he was calling on. Time and time again he seemed to be stuck with low and mid-level managers who were relentless in two areas: their quest for as much information as possible and their reluctance to give Brian access to the person who had the authority to authorize the purchase. This is a commonplace occurrence in the life of many salespeople. Brian’s frustration was mounting and his selling cycle was lengthening.

Diagnosis: Why do companies assign low-level people to deal with salespeople? There are a number of reasons, but two of the most prominent are: decision-makers sometimes feel they are too busy and need to delegate the task, and sometimes lower level people are simply on a hunt for information for a project that may not even have a purchase at the ultimate objective.

Prescription: If Brian is to avoid this problem, he must gain access to the authority behind the request. The following two-part tactic has proven successful in these types of situations. First, find out who initiated the request, and why, and then talk about the downside of a poorly informed solution provider. It might sound something like this.

Salesperson: "Can you help me understand who initiated this project and why the project is important to the company?"

Seymour: "That would be Jim, the VP of Finance. He needs it because his department wants to (mentions something about the problem)."

Salesperson: "And you’ve been charged with recommending a solution?"

Seymour: "Right."

Salesperson: "And I assume you’d like me to provide you with some options?"

Seymour: "Absolutely."

Salesperson: "Then I’m going to need your help. No offense, but typically I find that in situations like this there’s more to the situation than meets the eye. Usually the person who initiated the project has some very specific knowledge about the impact of the problem on the company, maybe other solutions that have been tried that did not work basically information that would help me tremendously in coming up with some good recommendations. Without that information, I may be missing something that is critical to recommending the right solution. Wouldn’t it make sense for us to include the person who started the project in our dialogue at the earliest opportunity so we don’t run into any problems?"

Initiating a dialogue like this may help you get to the right people, which is half the battle is getting the sale. Remember, selling successfully sometimes requires just a very slight edge. This one may come in handy.

Whetstone Group is a sales process improvement company that focuses on helping companies implement a proven sales process that will increase sales, shorten the selling cycle, increase closing rates, and improve margins. Learn more at www.whetstonegroup.com

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