I was just at a customer’s office conducting Digital Sales Leadership training, and I heard yet another war story about job changes gone wrong. The only difference was that this deal accounted for 1.5% of total annual revenue—or one sales professional’s entire FY quota. POOF, GONE, overnight.
At this customer’s size, try explaining to the CFO how millions of dollars of expected profits will not be had this year! In our meeting, the sales director said it was a simple and classic mistake. He said, “The sales professional had developed a very tight bond with the customer over the years but neglected to build a relationship with anyone else. He repeatedly said in our one-on-one meetings that we couldn’t go around the champion or we’d jeopardize the account.” I’ll bet you’ve heard that story a thousand times before, and it sounds extra believable every time.
You know what the SVP Sales said (and I believe him)? He said, “For all frontline sales managers, this should be the ultimate red flag if you hear this again. As a global leader and buyer, I know that if I claim to be the only point of contact/buyer on a deal, then I’m NOT ACTUALLY the only buyer. There is NEVER, EVER, EVER one buyer anymore.”
I thought about this more, and I reflected on my own internal partnership dynamics. Heck, in my own shareholders’ agreement, we have a clause that states that no one partner can make a unanimous purchase over $5,000, so a single buyer on anything meaningful can’t happen!
How do you, as a frontline sales manager, combat this phenomenon where sales professionals sing you a song about “don’t disrupt our buyer, they made it extra clear to deal only with them”?
Empirically Show the Buying Committee Map of Your Top 10 Clients Using W.I.L.L.
One way I’ve seen great sales leaders combat this is with evidence. Chad Nuss gave me excellent advice and shared with me an internal project they did, which we renamed “W.I.L.L. (What’s Ideal Look Like).” Instead of giving anecdotal opinions on perhaps working around a key stakeholder, the W.I.L.L. plots all your last and/or key customer transactions on multiple dimensions:
- Customer demographics
- Buyer personas involved in buying
- Velocity of the buying process
- Key questions, objections, and requirements in the buying process
There are endless data points you can add (we had 25), but you then graph the results. Based on all your past successes, you then show the sales professional(s) exactly how many and which buyer personas are virtually required to pull deals through. Now, you can let the seller know that statistics and probability dictate there are rarely “special circumstances.” The seller can actually use this information to now coach the buyer on HOW to buy (best practices).
Socially Surround 5-7 Key Stakeholders Just in Case (One-to-One CRM-to-Social Mapping)
“Socially surrounding” accounts is like purchasing fire insurance. You hope your actions are in vain, but you’ll curse yourself if you don’t have it when the account is on fire. You’re the leader, so coach the seller to connect (not just save the contacts/leads in a folder like in LinkedIn Navigator). Socially surrounding means that each seller will map their CRM contacts-to-social relationships in a one-to-one ratio as fire insurance. Assuming that each contact connects back, the seller will keep awareness in motion by sharing daily insights and best practices. Then, if the account goes sideways, the seller can leverage these other first-degree connections faster to salvage the account.
Map the “Sphere of Influence” Relationships Your Company Has That Could Share Insights to the OTHER Key Stakeholders
To really protect your accounts, you have to ensure that your message is landing in the buying committee’s hands. If the seller is afraid to disrupt the apple cart, perhaps your advocates/customers/industry experts, etc.—your sphere of influence—can do the socially surrounding for you.
Map each buying committee (decision-maker, champion, influencer) against your existing customers/advocates. Now, you as a leader (and your fellow leaders) can start adding super value by reaching out to customers/advocates and politely asking if they can endorse your business with those buying committee members. Arm your advocates with a quick message and/or insight they can share with the buying committee you’re trying to engage. Your best advocates will do this for you for free!
I know this works—I’m writing this on route to Munich, Germany, specifically because two of our EMEA customers did this very same sales play for us to solidify a new customer.