It’s easy to see the sales process as linear and horizontal. It is a set of activities where A precedes B, and B precedes C. We lay the process out horizontally on paper to demonstrate how our best practices lead from target to close.
But there are points in the sales process where there the sales process needs to be illustrated as being both horizontal and vertical. This is especially true during the discovery phase of the sales process, when we need to collect both relationships and information.
Going Vertical: North
If salespeople are guilty of following a linear path, it is in part the fault of their sales processes, especially when they recommend the salesperson obtain a single contact as their champion. When the effort to understand begins and ends with that single relationship, too much is missed to either sell effectively enough to win or to deliver well later.
You correct this by going vertical.
The discovery process requires that you move north of the line to make the calls on the additional decision-makers, those with major influence on whether or not you and your solution is chosen. You need to understand their needs, their preferences, and how what you are proposing impacts them. You need their buy-in and their support (and, should you win, you will really need it).
It also means going even further north to the buying committee members, collecting an understanding of their needs and motivations—and also collecting their votes—you don’t want your first meeting with a buying committee member to be in their boardroom. The end of the sales cycle is too late.
Going Vertical: South
It’s just as important to go south as it is to go north.
The stakeholders who have no real authority have more influence than most salespeople suspect. Many of them have spent years working for their company, and they have developed stronger relationships within their company than most of us will ever be fortunate enough to possess.
The stakeholders who will get no real vote do have a major influence on those who do vote. Meeting with them provides you with the ability to understand the ground truth, develop a real understanding of what needs to be done to make an improvement, influence those north of the line and, ultimately, to help you manage the change initiative that is your solution—should you win.
This is also true of the end users, the people who will come in contact with your solution at the lowest level of your dream client’s organization.
You may not often think about it often, but those above the line will notice how you treat the people below the line. How deeply you care about the people you will ultimately serve matters. How deeply you care to understand will also be noticed.
Make a list of the relationships you need that are above the horizontal line.
How do you incorporate collecting those relationships and their needs into your sometimes too linear sales process?
Make a list of the relationships you need below the line.
How do you incorporate collecting those relationships and their needs into your sometimes too linear, and sometimes too elitist sales process?