In sales, the first hurdle with a potential customer is getting your foot in the door. After that step, however, there are many other challenges that can compromise the deal. Sales reps often do not have sufficient information about who the actual decision makers are in an organization, making it difficult to know who to target. Also, some contacts can be notoriously difficult to reach. Even once you’ve found a receptive audience, they may lack the authority to make a deal.
In these situations, salespeople need to seek out others in their target company who aren’t directly involved in the buying process. They’re known as “sales mobilizers,” and by engaging them effectively you can create advocates within the organization who will put you on the inside track to success.
Who knows more about your prospect’s schedule, contacts, preferences, and habits than their executive assistant? It seems like an obvious idea, but many salespeople still don’t view executive assistants as a potential resource—and asset—in the sales process. They may not be as high on the organizational chart, but they carry a significant amount of power and responsibility when it comes to who can gain access to their boss. And savvy sales reps understand that assistants may be the most important and underappreciated mobilizers in the business.
Many sales professionals have discovered that they can secure a meeting with even the most inaccessible prospects if they are able to gain the trust and attention of the executive assistant. More often than not, assistants will be willing to work with you, and possibly advocate for you, as long as you follow some important best practices when interacting with them.
Most executive assistants can probably fill a memoir with tales of their interactions with people, and many of the stories would be astonishing. Unfortunately, many people view executive assistants as an obstacle to be cleared and forget to exercise true courtesy and respect.
Endear yourself to an executive assistant. Beyond the basics of respect in professional interactions, it’s important to remember that their time is just as valuable as yours. Also, avoid taking advantage of their generosity.
Gatekeepers such as executive assistants are important players in the sales process, but it’s crucial to remember that they aren’t decision makers. They are probably going to view your sales pitch as a waste of their time because your product or service likely doesn’t speak to their specific needs. When you’re talking to a gatekeeper, always keep the conversation relevant to their skills and abilities within the organization. Save the sales details for the personnel who have the ability to make purchasing decisions.
Handwritten thank you notes seem to be an increasingly forgotten method of demonstrating appreciation. As a generation of professionals raised almost exclusively on digital communication moves into the workforce, it’s doubtless that this trend will continue. What this means for salespeople is that when you do take the time to send a handwritten note to an executive assistant who went out of their way for you, it will stand out even more.
You can also choose to include a very small gift, but make sure to keep it modest to avoid comparisons to a bribe. Something like a free cup of coffee is nice; an expensive bottle of wine may be excessive.
To make an impression throughout the organization, sales reps can also connect with CFOs and controllers, who are also important sales mobilizers. However, their situation differs from that of the average B2B buyer in several important ways, and salespeople must intuitively understand how to communicate value to a financial leader in the absence of other traditional sales drivers.
It’s notable that, despite the fact that many B2B buyers are being tasked with a significant responsibility in purchasing a new product, they may also be excited about the process. After all, they have a problem they are trying to solve, and they are going to be interviewing companies who have devised ways to make their lives easier. They are generally open to new ideas and possibilities, and effective salespeople understand how to connect with them by listening to their processes and pain points.
On the other end of the spectrum, CFOs are mostly focused on controlling spending and evaluating financial decisions for potential risks. They are naturally going to be skeptical of a sales professional whose job is to generate revenue for their company. So, CFOs will be thinking about all the other ways that money could be spent within the organization.
To combat this issue, sales professionals who engage CFOs need to have an extensive plan for these conversations. They need to demonstrate their dedication to providing unique value from the CFO’s perspective. This strategy needs to be based on actual data, detailed cost projections, honesty, and transparency. Be sure to come prepared with relevant case studies and data analysis to support the claims you make. Offer a concise and realistic prediction of the cost savings they can expect by partnering with your company, too.
Enlisting CFOs as sales mobilizers is a different approach for most sales reps, but the good news is that if you are successful you’ll have a powerful ally. Once others in the organization see that the CFO believes the benefits of your solution outweigh the costs, they’ll be far more receptive to your pitch.
Research conducted by LinkedIn indicates that 32 per cent of respondents believed that the IT department had the most influence over B2B buying decisions, more even than the finance team. Taking this into account, it’s clear that IT leaders can function as crucial mobilizers for B2B sales professionals that traffic in software solutions. In these situations, IT managers come equipped with a healthy balance of expertise and skepticism. Also, their knowledge of the other software and hardware systems already in use at the company carries important compatibility-related implications.
Most IT leaders want to establish that your organization will be prepared for implementation when the time comes. They will want to ensure the efficacy of their current systems when employing a new tool, and they will want to understand your onboarding program to determine whether or not their users will be able to transition effectively into the new solution.
It’s often too easy to focus attention on key decision makers and neglect to consider the people who will actually use your product. End users can be important advocates if you take the time to demonstrate exactly how your solution will help them.
If possible, try to arrange for groups of end-users to have hands-on time with your product during the sales process. This decision will greatly impact the reality of their day-to-day job functions, and if they see, firsthand, the opportunities your product or service present, they will confidently go to bat for you in front of their colleagues.
Sales professionals know all too well that many middle managers get in the habit of rejecting sales pitches without giving them a second thought. It’s not necessarily borne out of apathy, but typically they are busy enough with managing their own team and reporting to their bosses. They often don’t want to run the risk of getting deeply involved in the sales process, only to have their purchase request rejected by other decision makers in the company.
But what if there were someone else at the organization who could persuade the middle manager that your pitch is worthwhile? If their superior on the next level up is interested in learning more about your company, they may direct that manager to give you a meeting. It may be a roundabout way of getting to the ultimate decision maker in the process, but reaching higher on the organizational chart can be a solid strategy for generating interest that trickles down.
These five individuals can be allies to a salesperson. While there are certainly more important players in every sale, it’s necessary to treat everyone as a potential influencer and recognize the power of the underappreciated mobilizers.
For more tips on creating a smoother sales process, click the link below to download our e-book, “7 Tips for Accelerating Sales Performance.”