Business-to-business selling is getting tougher because customer organizations are becoming more dysfunctional. The over supply of information and the rise of consensus based decision-making means that the biggest competitor in most sales opportunities is ‘do nothing’ / apathy or the status quo.
In a CSO Insights report published in 2012, 80% of qualified opportunities in CRM system are lost. Yet surprisingly, one-third of those lost deals do not go to a competitor; the potential customer instead fails to buy anything at all.
The most important book of 2015 was The Challenger Customer because it provides genuine insights into customer chaos and provides a framework for finding the change agent (or ‘Mobilizer’ as coined in The Challenger Sale book back in 2012) to work with to sell and implement solutions.
Traditional wisdom has been for sales people to hunt down the influencers, recommenders and decision makers to tailor their value pitch based on role and agenda. But increasingly this just does not work because of organizational politics, competing agendas and misaligned priorities. The illustration below is from the The Challenger Customer book and highlights the problem of decision commitment (to buy anything at all) as you add more and more people to the evaluation, selection and procurement process.
But the problem is even worse than it look because instead of dealing with more that 5 people with the power to say yes or no we are increasingly dealing with 5groups of people! These groups include evaluation committees, project boards, steering committees, and not to mention the standard buyer personas of economic, user, technical, financial and line of business leaders.
The cost of sale in targeting enterprise and government is going up at the same time that savvy buyers are commoditizing the seller’s offering to drive prices and margins down. Qualifying an opportunity properly has never been more important and it is a giant mistake to pursue business you cannot win. Here is my framework for winning large complex opportunities and you can run this process on the back of a napkin in a coffee shop or on a white board in a meeting room. It’s an efficient and effective framework for strategy and execution as you simply keep asking questions in the four RSVP areas to relentlessly focus on what’s important.
R)elationships: Do we have the right relationships? Followed by: Are we selling at the right level? Do they have genuine political and economic power? Do our relationships provide differentiating intelligence, insight and genuine influence?
S)trategy: Do we have an effective strategy for managing relationships and competitive threats? Followed by: Do we understand the power-base and have we identified the competition (external and internal including the risk of them doing nothing)? What’s our strategy for winning while engineering a positive bias in the customer’s requirements toward us?
V)alue: Are we leading with insight and uniquely creating compelling business value in the eyes of the customer? Followed by: Why will they buy anything at all and is there a risk of the status quo prevailing? How are we differentiating and evidencing our credentials as lowest risk and best value?
P)rocess: Are we aligned and do we truly understand the customer’s process for evaluation, selection, approval and procurement? Followed by: Do we understand how they define and assess risk with suppliers and solutions? Do we have a close plan validated by the customer?
Excellence in execution underpins the four RSVP elements with pragmatic tools for qualifying, closing and understanding the players in the buyer organization. RSVPselling™ also incorporates concepts such as the Value Quadrant for Professional Sales Agents© and The New ROI©
But before asking these RSVP questions, ask:
“Why will they buy anything at all?” and “Why will they buy from us?”
An important element in all of this is to find the puppet-master, the orchestrator of change, the pinnacle of the power base. We must have a strong personal relationship with the person who can successfully drive change within the customer organization. Doing this is the foundation of strategic selling. Be very wary of investing in a long sales cycle if you are denied access to power.
How do you find this person, or group of people? You need research and be a master of search using LinkedIn combined with old school detective skills.
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