Several people have told me how valuable the section in my book – Three Games of Selling – is about identifying who is ready to buy and who is not ready to buy. Then, they ask me – How can I find the right buyer for my sales process? or Is there a method to use to find the best or right buyer for my b2b sales process?
At first these caught me off guard, since I had not actually verified a sales process for finding the right buyer for b2b sales. So, I began to map out the process and came to a nine step process. When you look at these nine steps, please feel free to shorten or lengthen it based upon what you are selling in the b2b marketplace.
So here is my nine step process for finding the right buyer…
- Do your homework or research first
This is always a first step of the professional b2b sales person. Gather as much Customer information as possible using the internet, business journals, trade journals, trade association information and Google. Set up a Google Alert for this potential customer and track information on the internet. The more you know about the customer and their industry, the better prepared you will be when you get to the steps of customer interviews.
- Network with External Sources
Particularly if you are new to your company, talk to other sales people – including the inside sales people – and the sales manager about any information they might have. Next, speak to other sales people who deal with this customer that are not competitors, yet, know the customer well. NOTE: Having a network of non-competition sales people to share information about customers becomes a very valuable research for you. B2b sales tips can come from multiple sources so always pay attention to sign-in sheets, delivery vans and trucks, as well as websites of suppliers who list this prospect as a customer.
- Interview Multiple Customer Contacts
A mistake often made by b2b sales people is going to the key decision maker too early in the sales process. This means before you have spoken to others in the company to gain insight into possible issues or other sources they currently use (other sources means you fill in the blank from your competitor intelligence work with other prospects and customers. Learn their strengths and weaknesses and use that information.). This enables you to use a different technique when you get to the key decision maker – confirmation of issues or details – showing your expertise and giving you more credibility.
- Create an Account Penetration Plan
After gathering information and intell from your interviews and research, it is now time to write out an Account Plan. What problems or issues are you going to focus your solutions or offer giving you the best opportunity to win the business must be completely thought out and written down. Professionals do not “wing-it,” they work their plan. Your advantage comes from knowing exactly what you want to offer each prospect and being able to work your plan at each opportunity.
- Create an Internal Network
Another area b2b sales people miss when moving too fast to gain a sale – thus causing a lost of the account. Always remember, no matter how seasoned and experienced you are, you are an outsider in the eyes of the prospect or customer. You will need people on the inside to feed you information about the status of their business, upcoming events (budget cuts, reorganizations, competitor presentations, etc.) not to mention all the internal processes, politics and power plays. You need inside people to give you an accurate update or to tell you how things are done inside their company. Never underestimate the power of an internal network.
- Become a Trusted Adviser to Key Decision Maker
This one important if you want to have customer loyalty. When key decision makers within a customer see you as a trusted adviser, you will always get the first shot at any new or ongoing opportunities. This means when you deal with a key decision maker you are sharing additional information with them to help them in their position – not just making a sale. In fact, sometimes you have to say – we don’t do that, however, here is who I recommend to do this for you. Showing the key decision maker you are looking out for their interest increases their interest in you.
- Find a Dominant Coach or Mentor
Again, the inside knows more about things inside a customer or prospect company than you do. Plus, having a dominate influencer as your coach increases your probability of success since they also influence others within the account to listen to your solution or offering. Think of this person as your internal mentor. The one who knows all the issues, power channels and timing for major projects and can thus give you the inside track for future business opportunities.
- Get introduced to Highest Level
Unless your decision maker is the CEO or President, it is always an excellent idea to get introduced to the top level of people within an organization. Several reasons for this. One, it allows the top people to know you are major player with their company (also important if one of the “big dogs” goes to another company – they could automatically bring you with them to the new company.). Two, it gives you a chance to learn more about the customer’s organization and future. Three, you can be seen as more of a partner rather than a vendor. This is very important if you want to change a major process function at some future date.
- Expand Your Relationship
Get introduced into other divisions, subsidiaries, or business units through your present contacts. Also, have the top level people refer you to their key customer (if appropriate), trade organizations, or customer groups, thus expanding your presence in the marketplace. Always remember when a top officer refers you into another opportunity, your current trust level transfer to the other person, thus accelerating your sales process due to the trust transfer. It is still your responsibility to execute and earn your ongoing credibility. Hint: A satisfied customer is your best referral source.
There you have a process for finding the right buyer in your b2b sales process. It appears I got a little long winded while writing this, however, it is very important to your overall b2b sales success to always find the right decision maker. Remember, if you are spending time selling to the wrong person – you are wasting both your time and the other person’s time. But most importantly, you will probably not get the sale or the account when talking to the wrong people.
Focus time in the first three steps to ensure you select the right person or group for your sales objective and you will become a sales superstar.