Relationships

Sales is a people business, people sell to people, not to machines. It’s critical for all engagements to fully understand the landscape of relationships at all angles.  Every angle has to be validated, researched, leveraged, mitigated, etc. towards a common deal- or win-strategy. Goal is to ensure a clear relationship framework and selling strategy, E.g. who is talking to whom regarding what, delivering what message with what underlying strategy (planting a seed).

Relationships can be broken down into 4 segments:

  1. Customer,
  2. Intern,
  3. Partners,
  4. Tools

Customer

Let’s start to look into the customers organization. You have to research and find out who is involved in the deal. Find out there names, roles and research everything you can gather from your contacts, social networks or basically the entire internet. The 2 important questions you have to answer:

(1) ‘what drives them’; what are their personal interests (work- and private) and what drives them on a daily basis (targets, making a carrier, etc.)  and

(2) ‘what is their specific problem’; and this could be cost reduction, better quality, flexibility, end user satisfaction, etc.

Once you know those 2 key questions, you can build a strategy how you help each individual in the decision making process (making it easy for them to buy from you) and get their interest for your solution.

Intern

Find out within your organization what experts and expertise you have available for your deal. Recent won deal-teams, specialists in a specific area, market analytics, basically everything what is available that can help you. Also, take into considering LOST bids and understand WHY you lost a specific deal (price? Relationship? Solution?) and ensure you cover those aspects in your deal.

Next to this point it’s crucial to lobby upfront with your key stakeholders (CFO, COO, CEO, etc.) to get their buy-in for this deal asap. As a Sales person, you have to sell not only to your client, but also to your board of approvals this deal is worth pursuing! Getting them involved early as possible helps to drive your deal through different phases and – in normal cases – those individual have allot of experience as they see allot of deals moving over their desks.

Partners

Find out of your prospect (or customer) has a privilege to work with a specific solution partner, and if so, find out who to talk to. Winning a deal with a partner who is already established at the prospect will help you to gain crucial information in the buying process, decision tree and what drives them to launch this RfP. For example: if the entire IT backbone is based upon Microsoft, it could either be a change (to disrupt) to position Linux, but the odds a low this will succeed. I’m not saying this could be a bad thing, but looking at experience, if a specific solution partner is established, leverage it instead of working against it.

Tools

The World Wide Web, or internet, is available for everyone and should be used to-do all kind of research. Who are the main contacts at the customer, and to whom are they connected (LinkedIn). What does the competition offer in this specific area (their homepage). Recent wins/losses from the competition. What is the customers upcoming key projects (company profile or financial results). Etc.

Leverage the information available and determine how you can shape your deal with competitive advantage over your competition.

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