Guest post by Ian Dainty
Selling in the B2B market is a very sophisticated process. You need to understand that there are a number of people, or possibly groups, that influence the B2B sale.
Today I want to step you through the most important influencer. Subsequent articles will talk about the other three influencers and how you can get to know and influence them.
There are four groups of people you have to pay attention to in any B2B sales situation. Each of these groups – it may be only one person in any of the groups, depending on the organization – has an influence on whether you will close the sale or not.
To disregard any one of these influencers will probably mean you will not make the sale. This is the real difference between consumer sales and B2B sales. An enterprise sale becomes more complex, because each of these influencing authorities has two agendas they need fulfilled.
Each of these people, or groups, is influenced by how your product or service will affect them personally in their job. They are also looking at how your product or service affects their company. They need to know they are making the right decision for themselves and their company.
They do not obviously want to hurt their career, and if you can help them advance their career, then you will be miles ahead of any competition. You have to convince so many people in a B2B sale, which is the reason the selling cycle takes so long.
These four influencers are.
1. The Financial Influencer(s)
2. The User Influencers
3. The Gatekeeper(s)
4. The Champion or Sponsor
Each of them is important, and each of them plays a very important role in whether their company will buy from you. Let’s first take a look at the Financial Influencer, and how this person or group will influence the buying decision.
The Financial Influencer
The financial influencer’s role is to give the final approval to buy. This is the Decision Maker; or as I like to call this person, The Cheque Signer. This role may consist of more than one person, such as an executive committee, and could even be the Board of Directors. It usually is more than one person in tough economic times. So, be very aware of that in a tough economy.
There are a number of reasons why this influencer may be a committee. The most important factor in the buying process is what impact your product has on the organization. Does your product affect a whole department? Does this department have to change the way they currently operate? If so, then it will probably affect more than one department.
The financial influencer is focusing on the bottom line and what influence your product does have on the organization. This influencer has the following characteristics.
• Has direct access to the dollars needed
• Can release the funds
• Has some discretionary use of funds
• Has a veto power
This influencer asks; “What kind of return will the company get on this investment?”
So, be aware of this when you are selling. This influencer has the most persuasion power of any of the other influencers. However, it is imperative to incorporate the other influencers into the process too. In fact, very few, if any, corporate decisions are made today, without the approval of all of the buying influencers.
The User Influencer
As you can readily surmise, this influencer is the person or group that will directly use your product or service. The role of this influencer is to make judgments on the impact your product and service will have on their job performance. It will either affect his/her job directly, and at least the people that work for him/her.
The role this person or group plays in the evaluation process is;
• This is the group using or supervising the use of your product or service.
• You product or service will be personal to them, because this group has to live day-in and day-out with your product or service, both during implementation and after it has been implemented.
• There is a direct link between the user influencers’ success, and the success of your product or service.
This person or group focuses on the job to be done.
They ask – “How will this affect me and my job and my department?”
This is the group that will have the most important impact in the executives’ eyes, as this group will be the most affected by the buying decision.
Get as close to this group as you can. Get to know the senior executive that runs this group. He or she will have a huge weighting on whether you make the sale or not. Make the head of this group one of your main contacts for the decision. You also, of course, need to be as close to the financial influencer as you can.
This group is extremely important in your marketing and selling process to your prospect and client base. You will more than likely interface with this person, and his team, more than any other person or group, in your selling cycle.
You will also be very close to this whole group in the implementation phase of your product and/or service. Most sales and marketing people spend their whole time working with and interfacing with this person and his group. This is particularly true in a technical environment, such as an engineering or software sale.
You should also line up people in your organization, with like-minded skills, to interface with the members of this group, as they speak the same language.
As an example, if you sell software, then you want to align your best technology people with the client’s best technology people. That way, when there are questions that need answering, and you know there will be questions, the right people will be answering them in your company, to the right people in your client’s company.
Just as you must work with the four different influencers in your prospect’s company, you need to also align the people in your company, with the right people in your prospect’s company, in order to move the sale along.
Selling in a B2B environment is a complex and sophisticated process. But once you understand the process, and the different influencers, it becomes much easier, and a lot more fun.
The gatekeeper can also be referred to as the technical buying influence. The role of the gatekeeper is to screen out or block your proposal. There are many groups who may be gatekeepers. They include the following.
• The finance department
• The legal group – may be inside and outside the company
• Human resources
• The IT department
In today’s connected world, where the buyer has most of the power, another gatekeeper has sprung up. In today’s B2B business environment, the gatekeeper is often a researcher.
More often, these days, companies use a research team to vet possible solutions to their problems. Keep in mind that most B2B companies are about 50% of the way through the buying process, before you even know they are looking.
There could be anywhere from one to many researchers on a team. They usually consist of people from different departments that will be affected by the possible solution. (See above groups)
When they search for a solution, they will visit most or all of the online platforms your company has. These platforms will include your website, and social media sites that your company and executives belong to.
As you can see, depending on the technical aspects of your product and service, there are many groups that can be involved. Also, the impact your proposal has on the organization will determine how many of the above groups will get involved.
These people generally will only be involved for a short time, and then not be involved at all after your proposal has been accepted. The keys for these groups are the following.
• They judge the measurable and quantifiable aspects of your proposal.
• They are mostly box tickers. They have certain specifications that have been set up beforehand, and they tick off whether you meet those specs or not.
• They can and will make recommendations
• They cannot say yes, but they can say no, and their vote carries quite a bit of weight.
It is often the users that develop many of the specifications for a proposal. This group acts as the gatekeepers to ensure you have met those specifications.
You will generally run across gatekeepers in RFP situations.
You need to understand who these groups are. It is often difficult to get to know them personally, because they are usually only involved for a short time during the proposal phase.
However, you need to be aware of their influence, and if possible make every effort to meet and understand how they operate during the decision cycle.
Your champion may also be called your sponsor or coach. It is someone who preferably is inside your prospect’s organization. But, it may be someone inside your organization or someone who is outside of both companies.
Your champion is someone who will help sponsor your proposal to the buying company. The person must therefore have influence within the buying company. Preferably, it is an executive within the buying organization.
Of course the best champion is the financial influencer. The second best champion is the user influencer executive.
However, you will have a much easier time overcoming all objections if the champion or sponsor is the financial influencer. The champion’s role is to interpret information about;
• The situation and why the company is looking to buy
• To give you access to all of the buying influencers
• Understand and lead you as to how each of the buyer influencers win and what benefits each of them is looking for.
Your champion will focus on how you can be successful with this proposal, or how can we pull this off. Look for a champion or sponsor, and your job will become much, much easier by having one.
Keep in mind though, that his or her reputation is at stake. So, you better implement well, and look after this client for a long time to come. You be rewarded far beyond your expectations if you do this.
By Ian Dainty