Get Through the Right Doors
Businesses that involve face-to-face meetings with their clients need to keep in mind that they might be knocking on the wrong doors, or that they’re not the only people knocking on the right ones. Identifying and targeting the key decision makers in a prospective customer firm is essential to getting your foot in the door in dealing business to business.
Do your homework
Whatever it is that’s being sold has to meet the exact needs the firm’s decision maker has identified as right for their business. This means doing research into the customer’s industry, their position in the marketplace, and learning about their business. This knowledge provides you with a level of personal credibility with the customer and the knowledge to be able to present your product as the best solution to their needs.
Talk to the right person
Every organisation has a set of levels of authority that it may be difficult to recognise from the outside. Trying to sell a $10,000 item to somebody with a spend authority level of $500 is a waste of time. So is trying to sell stationery to the purchasing officer of machine parts. In fact, if the organisation is big enough you may find that no single person has the authority to purchase everything you’d like to sell them, and it’s even possible that the contact person you have been calling on for years has changed positions and is now the ‘wrong’ person to be pitching sales information to. Try and target the most appropriate person in the firm for what you are selling.
Cultivate the managers
Just as important as knowing who your competitors are is to know who those competitors are talking to at your customers’ offices. You might have a terrific relationship with a buyer who’s quite happy to select your products, but if your competitor knows somebody higher up in the organisation who can order your contact to change suppliers regardless of how strong your relationship is with them, then you are talking to the wrong person. Make contacts as far up the pecking order as possible, even if they aren’t the ones in the business who actually issue the purchase orders.
Suit your offering to the customer’s options
There’s increasing emphasis in most medium to large-sized organisations of the need to present a financial case to management for purchases before approval is given. This is especially true of big-ticket items when decisions about repair or replacement are being made. Your salespeople have to be prepared to sell the case for your offering which may not be the product itself. If you are aware of the customer’s alternatives to making an outright purchase, such as rebuilding older equipment or subcontracting the work outside the company, you can make an offering that covers those possibilities.
Get outside advisers onside
Third parties are frequently brought in to provide their input on a prospective purchase. The best approach to use with them, whether they are familiar with your products or not, is to treat them as the prospect – but one with different needs from the actual customer. What they really need is the information to make a decision, and if you’re able to give them enough information to justify purchasing your product (as well as for rejection of the alternatives) they will become an ally in your selling efforts.
Stay in touch while the decision is being made
Circumstances within a customer’s business can change as information about a prospective purchase is assimilated and analysed. It may be that you will be asked back to provide further details, but often you won’t be and what you’ve proposed first time around is considered to be your best and/or most complete offer. Stay within the purchasing process as closely as possible, letting everyone involved know that you’re there to help them in any way possible. This will put you in the best position to become aware of changes in the customer’s requirements while it’s still possible to do something about it.