You may think you're wining, dining, and wooing everyone there is to woo, but with as many as seven people involved in B2B buying decisions today, chances are there are other, more influential decision-makers who aren't getting a seat at your table.
That's why it’s important to identify and generate consensus among all the key players in the selling process from the get-go to ensure your message reaches the right ears. Cast a wide net, and work with teams across functions at your target's organization to anticipate issues and prevent harmless communication breakdowns from snowballing into full-on deal-breaking issues down the line.
Our Emissaries, former IT buyers from some of the world's largest organizations, tell you how to find and partner with the right decision-makers and work across teams to build the consensus you need to get the sale.
Find a champion with sway
You can’t be everywhere at once, so the first step to ensure all teams are on the same page is to recruit someone at your prospect's organization to be your champion. Besides being available to field questions from departments like IT or security, your champion knows the chain of command and where to go to resolve issues and keep momentum going to push your product further down the funnel.
Your ideal advocate will have influence over both IT and security—where a majority of procurement hiccups and compatibility issues will likely arise. So having an ally with influence in those areas can eliminate a lot of potential roadblocks that might otherwise derail your deal.
But how do you go about enlisting one?
You’re not familiar with the inner workings of your prospect’s organization—that’s why you’re looking for an advocate. But in order to find the right person to partner with, you need to have an idea of how their business operates. To get passed this barrier, turn to your network and look for contacts who’ve previously worked at your target's business. The more senior, the better, and connecting with former executives at your prospect’s organization is a great way to get the inside scoop on who to approach for a potential partnership.
Once you've identified candidates, tread lightly. With so much at stake in terms of revenue and reputation, getting an ally to stick their neck out for you requires a delicate approach. In fact, in a recent CEB survey, nearly 50 percent of all B2B buyers said they weren't willing to publicly advocate for a product despite wanting to purchase it.
Despite this initial hesitation, there's real opportunity for certain buyers—that is, if they choose to see it, and it’s your job to make sure they do. Frame your solution in a way that demonstrates value to your potential champion’s career, rather than to the business itself. This isn’t the time to be talking about tech specs or efficiency gains. Instead, think more along the lines of leadership and career advancement. Will your product create new management opportunities for them? Can it help them advance in their careers? If you can position your solution accordingly, you can benefit from an advocate's self-interest. We don't mean to sound callous, but everyone's looking out for number one, so why not take advantage of that to close the deal?
Engage IT and security straight away
Technology and security requirements are always changing, and the standards that your product needs to meet in order to gain approval from these teams can be hard to pin down. Partner early with tech teams to gain a better understanding of what they’re looking for and how your solution can meet their expectations.
“In the beginning say, ‘We would love to engage your IT and security teams now to get this ball rolling and make it easier for you, because we know that that could be difficult.’ I've always wondered why I never heard that in these pitches,” said our Emissary, a former senior director of enterprise digital at CVS.
But don't just engage early—engage often. Learn all you can about your prospect’s tech stack, infrastructure technologies, and current road map, and lean on your champion for insight into the major challenges facing the organization. Distill these findings into a clear plan that’s specifically tailored to your buyer’s needs, not only in IT, but throughout the rest of the organization as well.
“Your tool needs to become an integral part of the workflow outside of IT,” said a former director of engineering at Refinery29. “How can your solution be quickly distributed throughout the organization? How can you assist in driving organizational adoption of the tool?”
The more you can anticipate and address this from the outset, the less surprises you’ll have later when your product gets passed along to a CIO for review. With all this cross-functional prep work done in advance, your product stands a greater chance of getting the green light, as decision-makers at all levels have a clearer understanding of how your solution fits into the bigger picture of their business.
Enterprise organizations are complex, so adjust your sales strategy accordingly to encompass all areas of the business. As more and more people become involved in the decision-making process, you'll need to identify and address each gatekeeper along the way to secure the sale. That's a lot of players and teams to keep track of, so enlist the help of an internal advocate to gain insight into potential challenges and keep things moving forward. Engage IT and security departments early on to learn about their specific requirements, and use newfound insight into their current challenges to demonstrate how your product addresses them. The more you can bring decision-makers into the fold and unite them around your product's potential, the smoother—and faster—the sales cycle will be.