I’m a sales guy at heart. I love cutting deals. I love making new relationships, defining methods to overcome challenges, and offering unique perspectives to antiquated approaches. I read the book the Challenger Sale a little over a year ago and firmly believe that not all sales people are cut from the same cloth. The same is true for customers. Not all customers treat the sales process as defining moment in a business’s future. Not all customers are created equal. Not all sales are created equal.
By doing this gig for over 10 years, you learn a lot. Mostly you learn how thick your skin is because you get rejected more than you get accepted. Another thing you learn is how different each sales situation can be, and how different clients tend to act. Over the years, I’ve realized an overlap in character. I’ve defined 3 types of buyers;
1. The “why are you different” buyer. These guys are smart. They’ve done their research up front. They have high ambitions of climbing the corporate ladder and taking on additional responsibility. They know their industry and they know a good chunk about your product. It’s said 65% of the sales process is complete before a buyer engages a sales rep. The “WRUD” buyer makes up the lion share of the 65%. With WRUD buyers, you have a small chance to win if you play by their rules. My advice is give these folks what they want and be snappy about it. Try and level the playing field if you want, but you’ll run a major risk of alienating yourself from the WRUD if you push too hard attempting to seize control of the situation. Further advice is ask the hard questions up front. Ask why they would buy from you or anybody. Chances are, the WRUD already has a predisposed champion in their mind…..and it will be apparent if the champion is you or not. Summary- ask the hard questions up front, be accommodating, and move on.
2. The second type of buyer is “my boss told me” to research vendors. BIG warning- these people cant buy from you. In fact, they’re probably not at all interested in you. They’re punching a clock and cant wait until 5 pm hits because their really not engaged in their work. Shame, but it can work in your favor. The way you work with these types depends on their personality. This type might be super easy to get along with, or they can be ruthlessly arrogant. The strategy here is to win these people over and create a champion. They may not have the audacity to lobby on your behalf as “true” champions would do, but they will share competitive details and be honest regarding the lead vendor. Advise here is to appreciate their knowledge of competitive insight. Further advice is to flank. Seek out and engage with cross-departmental players and senior team-members. The more advocates you have, the better your odds.
3. And finally, my favorite- “the strategists.” These folks are close to the top of the ladder. They have the most to gain and most to lose. They’ll talk strategy. They’ll educate you on company goals and how their department influences corporate performance. Often, they’ll have hard numbers. “Our annual revenue from email is X.” “Our annual customer churn is X.” With these people, you better step up your thought provocation. They’re looking for you to coach them on uniqueness and different ways to approach problems. Internally, they’re intrinsically mandated to change status quo. Disrupt the norm. I LOVE these types. These types allow the sales rep to be proactive vs reactive. Advice here is to know their business and have stories of how other companies leverage your product to overcome threats and support goals. The strategists are rare. I’d say I run into these guys 10% of the time and I’m normally the one initializing the transformative idea. Last bit of advice- have patience because these deals take time. They take time, but they’re very lucrative in return.
In a future post, I’ll discuss a client that consolidated 3 methods of sending email, saved a boatload of money (>40%), streamlined operations, created 2 new jobs, and recouped almost 20% of their expenditure within 3 months of purchasing. Stay tuned!