I have just sat through yet another webinar during which two regrettable things occurred: I discovered that Angry Birds is, indeed, more addictive than nicotine, and I heard someone tell a bunch of sales people to “sell to the C-Suite and nowhere else. That might be sage advice if all you sell is anxiety-enhancing consulting or Donald Trump action figures, but it’s pretty stupid if your product or service is used, installed or supported by someone else.
I will grant that if you sell to very small companies the C-suite may well get involved with things like coffee and toner; however, if there are more than 30 employees and the C-suite is buying this type of thing, you should consider selling a cure for misplaced priorities
So let’s review the creatures in the purchasing forest:
C-Suite: They purchase very big things, go golfing with suppliers and let the rest of us purchase the mundane stuff.
P-Cube: These guardians of common sense and bottom lines do the bulk of the heavy lifting in large corporations. They like detail, features, specifications and certainty.
F-Word: These are your functional types. The people who actually use the stuff you sell. They may or may not go through the P-Cube to acquire their stuff. They are all about the benefits. They want to hear about how your product makes them better, faster, stronger. Or at least less fired.
G-Spot: They don’t use most of what they buy. They don’t even get a lot of credit for buying it. But they sure hear about it, when things go wrong. They want fast, accurate delivery and consistent quality.
On any given day all of these people are making one or two purchase decisions, but I’m fairly certain they are making more than a few purchase influences. Not a noun, I know, but let’s go with it.
There are plenty of ways to influence a purchase decision. You can be that mythical internal champion that sales people fantasize over; you can have a drawer full of travel mugs and golf balls that guilt you into advocating on behalf of a supplier; you can have some evil world-domination plan that involves the product. But chances are the influence is more passive than all that. Chances are it’s as casual and routine as saying “No”.
Ask any four-year-old and they’ll tell you that the absence of a No equals Maybe and Maybe equals a strong possibility of ice cream for breakfast. So it follows that a key piece of getting to Yes involves making sure there are a bunch of Maybes (or at least not any Nos) on the part of the people who are influencing the decision. That’s what is going to get your deal up the food chain much faster than cold-calling the boss. How do you get Maybe in a climate where No is the default? Content, my friends.
You need things that keep your influencers positive or at least devoutly neutral. A long list of features and technical specifications is not what you need: specifics, at this point, can tip you into the No bin faster than you can say “not backward compatible”. Just one tiny detail that seems hostile to a system, contrary to a corporate value or that uses a lot of big words can get you voted off Procurement Island like a two-faced chocolate-hoarding blonde.
What you’re needing now is the gentler world of reassurance. This is where your case studies, awards, testimonials, press releases and white papers can strut their stuff. Your influencers need to be educated and rocked gently into the belief that your product or service is a warm, safe, nice-smelling place where everyone gets a bonus and there are drinks on the Lido Deck at four o’clock.
Subtlety is what we’re after here. Remember, it’s like professional soccer – you don’t necessarily need to win; you just need to not lose.