In the “old days”, what I mean is in a pre-internet/social media/mobile world, sales was “easy” you pretty much only sold to one person. Often it was IT that made the decision. They, after all, had to implement the system you were selling and they would have a “strategy.” It had to run on a certain database or a certain piece of hardware.
The contracts I sold 25 years ago were all signed by IT. Life seemed to be much easier.
With the movement to Cloud and SaaS (Software as a Service) the end user departments made the decision, often with IT. This was once called “maverick buying” then it became the norm. This often pulled architecture from IT into the decision – so there were then two or three people involved in a deal.
(I’ve seen many a salesperson become unstuck because they had lined up IT and the end user department but had not aligned architecture. Where, we thought a deal was being signed next month, it was pushed out 3 months as architecture needed to make sure the solution met all their requirements.)
When we got hit by various downturns in the economy, after 9/11 and after Lehman’s went down, for example, this required people to not just buy software because it was a good idea, but clients wanted to see a clear ROI (return on investment). A business case of why they need to make the purchase was required. While this process was often masked from the supplier, it happened. This pulled Finance into the decision making process. Te buyer might also pull a company like KPMG, Gartner, Accenture, Deloitte etc into the decision making process. This meant that there were third party people you needed to influence. I was involved in deals in the .com bust (which was only at the turn of the century) that required a full business case.
It was LinkedIn and Gartner only a few years ago that said there were about 4.8 people involved in a B2B decision. Not surprising really, that decisions in B2B companies needed more stakeholders in the decision making process and the stakeholders wanted to have more people to shoulder the burden of the decision. If a project goes wrong and it was your decision, that was a problem. If a project goes wrong and it was ten people who made the decision, that is ten times less of a problem. Probably one of the ten had left the business and you blamed it on them anyway!
The other impact (and problem) that Gartner found was that the more people who became involved, the less likely a decision.
In 2017, Gartner said that if one person was involved in the sale then you had a 81% chance of the deal being done. It was also in that Gartner (CEB as was) report that stated that the average number of people involved in a sales had gone up from 4.8 to 6.8. With 6.8 people involved in a buying decision the likelihood of that decision being made had dropped to 31%. That means your biggest competition is “do nothing.” It also places a number of sales leaders’ forecasts at risk. Which for a sales leader is a scary place to be.
Gartner (CEB) announced some research in February 2019 where the number of people needed to make a decision had increased to 9 or even 10.
As sales people this decision making inflation is hard to keep up with and places a number of strains the sales process. Where once, we contacted one person and built a relationship with one person, now there are ten people we have to build a relationship with.
That’s ten people we have to contact. Ten people we have to travel to and meet. That’s ten people we need to convince that our solution is the best. All of these people have different wants and needs and different personal wins. End user, Finance, IT, architecture, outside third parties, you name it, they all think differently and you as a sales person have to reach out and work with them. This is pretty time consuming with legacy sales methods.
I’ve always imagined that a “decision” would be taken, with various people sitting around a table. There would be a recommendation, with usually two or maybe three suppliers, and then a vote. The supplier with the most votes wins.
As a salesperson, to get the business, not only do you need to make sure that you win and get the most people to vote for you. But working backwards, you need to make sure that you are the recommendation. There is nothing new in this, but, what’s new is the fact you now have to get the scale within the account across ten people. You might not even know who those ten people are, which means you need to cover your bases. You therefore need to be covering maybe twenty people, maybe it’s fifty. It all depends on the account, the vertical and what you sell.
If you don’t cover your bases you’re unlikely to won the deal.
I should point out that as part of our Social Selling program we teach people, how to build relationships at scale. We don’t spam them, we don’t annoy them by cold calling them and leaving voice mails that they don’t return. You and your sales team will be able to take your list of target accounts and get wide…and deep.
We cannot guarantee you will win the business, but all of our clients shorten their sales cycle and increase their win rate with social selling. It might not work for you, we can only teach your there techniques, it’s down to you to execute. But in my view, and yes I’m biased, in today’s market, it’s worth a try.
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