Coaching Customer Advocates to Help You Close More Deals

You just had the perfect sales meeting. The prospect agreed that your solution is perfect, the company has the budget, the need and their goal to implement said solution is immediate. Virtual high-five, right?

And then, wait for it… no, seriously, wait for it… A month passes and no signature, two months pass and no signature. Five months pass and… What the h-e-double-hockey-sticks happened to the need, the urgency and the desire to implement?

5.4 decision makers are what happened. Research from the CEB shows that the average sale involves 5.4 decision makers, and the more people you involve, well, the less likely they are to make a decision. The CEB along with Motista went on to demonstrate that with 5.4 decision makers, your likelihood of closing said perfect deal is just north of thirty percent.

Where traditionally you may have sold your solution to the CIO or Director of IT (and yes our friend in finance), now you may be interacting with the heads of sales, marketing and service. As you sell more cloud services, as your services have more potential to make a material impact on revenues and employee productivity – those same decision makers are initiating purchases, too. And as IT shifts to the IT as a Service model they are supporting these other buyers in their purchase journeys ensuring that the front and back office work in unison and are participating fully in projects that drive revenue.

The reality of today’s environment is that you must involve a growing number of customer stakeholders in each sale.

Now, let’s imagine that you are the perfect salesperson, and you asked and prodded, begged and pleaded to know who else would be involved in the decision making process. Your stakeholder even shared a name or two… You asked to bring together all of the stakeholders in one room…

Dash of reality time… how often does your decision maker divulge the number of people involved until the moment you ask for a signature? And how often are you actually able to get all of said decision makers in one room? Yep, I feel your pain.

So what do you have to do to increase your chances of winning that deal? Well, you shouldn’t just sit back and cross your fingers, that’s for sure. In fact, the more time that passes between proposal and signature the more likely that your deal will die a slow and painful death.

It’s our fault – by the way – that this happens. Let’s not forget that you are not unique. Our solutions look a lot like our competitors solutions. You’re one of three in the deal and while you might have the perfect solution to meet the customer’s needs, so does the competition. So what do you do? You pit feature against feature. In the meantime, the customer can’t distinguish your solution from the competition and inaction seems less risky than making a bad decision.

It’s not that the deal went to the competition. The opportunity didn’t move at all. The company decided to do nothing. All urgency lost, the business and its multiple decision makers decided that the pain of same was much less than the pain of change, because in fact as we fight with our competition, we forgot to highlight the stakeholder’s pain, the business’ pain – the emotional elements that propel the deal forward.

That said how can you create preference for yourself and your solutions in this environment? How can you sway the 4.4 other decision makers in your favor?

You do so by coaching customer advocates to drive consensus through the agreement building process.

At a high level, determine who the players – common stakeholders – are for your solution. Players may include IT, finance, sales, marketing, service, legal, procurement, human resources, operations and more. If you don’t know who the common stakeholders are conduct interviews with your customers or send out surveys.

Build profiles for each player. What is the function responsible for? How are they measured? What does success and failure look like? What are their challenges? What motivates them to change – the financial, strategic and personal motivations – that can drive a sense of urgency? What are the de-motivators for change? Again conduct informational interviews or surveys. Perhaps you have a good sense of your buyers today and can build a profile without input. Go for it; but validate your assumptions – they can be wrong.

Consensus Building Process:Sales Consensus Building Process

With the consensus building process above, align the stakeholders – the players – to the stages and determine how you will make the case for change and anticipate and manage objections for the functional bias of each role. Then based on the solution determine the business imperatives for moving forward with the solution at the highest level while preparing your advocate to answer to the potential deployment hurdles.

Simultaneously determine the type of proof points you may need by functional area to build consensus. From insights to case studies, demos to ROI calculators and referrals, these are the tools you need by stage to help your advocate sell on your behalf.

With this map in hand, you can coach your advocate to sell for you. Through effective coaching, you will convert more opportunities into business, create preference for you and your solutions and gain a customer advocate along the way who will be sure to refer you into other business.

Through her consultancy, Sales Enabled, Rebecca Rosen helps technology companies improve sales channel performance. Her expertise lies in social selling, sales messaging and onboarding programs. Previously Rebecca oversaw marketing communications and sales training for TelePacific, where she was part of the leadership team that drove the Company’s growth from $20 million to over $550 million. She is an active member of Women in the Channel and the Channel Partners Advisory Board. Rebecca is also a member of the CompTIA faculty.

Posted in Sales Development, Sales Enablement, Sales Messaging, Sales Process

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