Change the Way You Work with Stakeholders
When a sales opportunity doesn’t close at the end of a sales process, it’s often because one or more stakeholders weren’t identified, or stakeholders didn’t come to a positive consensus. Stakeholder management is very important, especially for purchases that include:
- Complex solutions and/or services to existing or new customers – A purchase that is shared among multiple stakeholders grows in complexity, which increases the time it takes to successfully close the sale.
- Purchases to replace existing products and/or solutions that are discretionary, at best – If there isn’t a compelling reason to replace an existing solution, customers tend to keep what they already own and know.
In another blog entitled “Why Sales Reps Need More Training and a Team,” we pointed out that customers are teaming up to make purchases with other stakeholders. Large purchases are never made by a single person. Not anymore.
Buyers team up with company stakeholders who have a say in what gets purchased. Sales reps now have to present and gain consensus for a group of people in order to close the sale. So, what is the best way to gain consensus when stakeholders have different needs and requirements?
Before answering this question, let’s acknowledge that salespeople are unique, no two alike. But they do share common traits or a primary mode of interacting with customers, as CEB Research has determined. Salespeople fall into one of these categories:
- Relationship Builder — These sales reps focus on building professional relationships. They strive to provide excellent services and try to reduce or eliminate tension when it occurs.
- Hard Worker — As the category suggests, these sales reps work long hours. They make more phone calls, visit more clients and strive to achieve more than anyone else.
- Lone Wolves — This type of sales rep has no problem breaking rules. They don’t participate in team building unless it provides an advantage for them. They tend to close large sales but lack consistency.
- Reactive Problem Solvers — Customers find these sales reps as reliable and detail oriented. They approach sales systematically and are predictable.
- Challenger — These sales reps know their customer’s business and take control of the sales process. They tailor their sales message for each customer, re-enforce benefits, and pushes them to move forward in the sales process.
What’s important to point out is “Challengers” outperforms all other groups when it comes to complex sales, as shown below.
Challengers close more complex sales because they control the process. How do they do it?
- They create and maintain tension to constructively move the stakeholders through each stage.
- They offer insight and a fresh perspective, beyond features and benefits, that compel the buyer group to think differently about their business.
- They tailor their message so it resonates with those target customers.
- They are assertive without dominating the customer and challenges them when it’s appropriate.
- They don’t allow the customer to remain static in the sales process.
The good news, no matter what category a sales rep favors, they can be taught to become Challengers. And why not? Challengers are 4-5 times more likely to close complex sales than any other category, according to CEB Research, which makes them top performers.
Become a Challenger
MaxIT has made it their mission to provide tools and products for companies to develop top performers. So, when asked, “What is the best way to gain consensus when stakeholders have different needs and requirements?”, the answer is obvious. Become a Challenger in your sales process.
We’ll help you get there. Where do you begin? Include these three actions in all your sales activities:
Start by identifying the stakeholders early in the buying process. What happens too often when an initial meeting occurs, whether in person or on a conference call, attendees introduce themselves. Group Buyers and sales reps tend to make this a perfunctory process.
However, top sales performers take advantage of this moment for they know these are the stakeholders. Don’t allow anyone to gloss over the moment. Slow the process down by asking everyone a question, as they introduce themselves. Ask each person, “What problem is keeping you up at night and what do you hope our product and/or services can do for you?”
Make sure to ask if there are additional stakeholders not attending or actively involved in the decision process. For example, while a CFO may not care about the products and/or services, they do care about budgets and costs.
Writing down a name is NOT identifying a stakeholder properly. You must understand who they are, what problem is driving them to be part of the group, and what they anticipate your products and/or services can do for them. Not only is this unexpected by the buyers, but it also demonstrates in the first few minutes of the meeting that the sales rep is interested in each stakeholder.
Be proactive. Armed with a list of stakeholder names, problems, and desires, reach out to appropriate people in the company. Have them explain or demonstrate how your company solves those problems. Does it save them money? Will it make them more productive? Investing your time in this stage will be rewarded.
When ready, insert the problems and solutions in the presentation. Tip: Make sure you allow enough time to make your presentation. Complexity requires time to sort through the nuances, as well as allow participants to ask questions. Be sure to set time expectations long before the meeting occurs.
Call out the stakeholder and confirm that you have stated their problem correctly. Then explore the solution from their perspective. Allow them to comment, ask more questions. Get consensus as a group that the proposed solution meets the expectation of that specific stakeholder.
This process may take some time, especially if there are more than 6 people in the buyer group. But each stakeholder gets to hear about benefits and insights that appeal to them. In some cases, different stakeholders share common issues or concerns, so combine them in the presentation to reduce the length of the meeting.
There is a reality sales reps and customer must face. Products and/or services will never address every problem. However, most stakeholders support a purchase if it makes the company more productive and efficient.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen automatically. That is why it’s important to get consensus during the Engage step. Focus on customer value and how your products and/or solutions meets the goals stated at the start of the process.
Call to Action – Sales Manager, Help Your Team!
Sales reps won’t progress into Challengers without assistance from the Sales Manager. You need to become a coach. Sales training without reinforcement from the manager is forgotten. CEB Research found that without effective coaching, 87% of skills and knowledge taught is lost after 30 days.
What can a Sales Manager do? Acquire training for your sales staff and yourself. MaxIT offers a library of 2500+ lessons that provide your salespeople with skills they need to become challengers, and managers to lead them.
Begin right now and register for a Free 7-Day Trial. Then enroll in any of the 100 learning paths, such as Selling Skills with 43 video lessons or Managerial Courage with 14.
Because these video lessons average 7-8 minutes in length, training can be consumed quickly. And it fits into any busy person’s schedule. Don’t rely upon what you have done in the past when it comes to complex sales.
Start feeding your sales reps and enable them to become top performers. Learn how to motivate and keep them on track. Master the necessary skills to
Buyer groups are already active. To do nothing is to lose ground. Take advantage of our 7- day free trial to explore, no strings, no credit cards, no fuss. Producing top performers doesn’t happen by chance. It begins with a decision.
What will you do?