"How does a sales person identify the influential members of the buying center?" is an important question that sales people constantly wrestle with. While "Buying Centers" have influencers, they may not be the most powerful i.e. influential and it is best to identify potential users of your product or service who will become your advocates because your offering is so appropriate. In other words, remember that those who are "influential" in organizations are so because they champion stuff that is right for the organization!
Here is how the B2B sales process tends to play out for the selling organization:
- You identify a company that could be a potential customer.
- Using a variety of techniques (Social Media, referrals, conferences and trade shows and yes cold calling) you somehow get a meeting with someone involved in the purchase of the product.
- This person could be someone in Purchasing (or Supply Department), or in the user department ( if you sell equipment you get a meeting with say the Manufacturing manager).
- You get into the meeting and you typically start your pitch after a few seconds of small talk.
BIG mistake if you think about it. Because you have not figured out (a) Is there an imminent need for your product or service ? (b) Is the buy- task a new task that is easiest for you? or is it a repeat buy which is the hardest one because of entrenched competitors or is it a modified re-buy that gives you some opportunity to frame your offering appropriately.
Once you are in a meeting instead of launching into your prepared pitch it's far more effective to try and understand where the buying organization is coming from. In the US most managers will directly tell you if you ask them when they meet you. Even in Asia despite cultural tendencies to be indirect, managers tend to be so pressured for time that they will tell you about the nature of the task and the time frame when opportunities might arise. This provided you hold your prepared pitch and take the time to understand the task the buying organization is facing.
Depending on what you gather you present your edited pitch trying to focus on what the organization might find of interest. Try to keep the pitch conversational and not in a "lecture" format so that your listener/s is able to interact. Preferably spend less time on the presentation material and more time on understanding the buying center of the buying organization.
Even if you are meeting the CEO - they would not realize that there is an informal buying center. For example, a CEO will never over ride her/his CIO’s recommendations on a software system. And the CIO might be looking at cues from some movers and shakers in the IT department who will really make things happen after the new software in place. There might be a formal committee but your task is to figure out the informal buying center.
Since B2B purchases are all supposed to help the business of the buying organization- a useful start is the user department (thus IT for software). But then if you have some financial software that finance folks will use, it is worth your time to understand what kind of input the Finance Department might have and which individuals might weigh in.
Staying in touch with all members of the buying center regularly in a good move and it's critical to present yourself personally as things reach a decision point. Contact StratoServe.