The following is an interview on how to go about engaging a new revenue opportunity.
Andrew: Today we will discuss how to engage in a new revenue opportunity with Bob Howard. Bob Howard is the CEO and founder of our firm, Sales OverDrive. Bob’s a good friend and we’ve done quite a bit of work over the years so I hope the interview with Bob today will be exciting and give you the opportunity to learn a few things.
Andrew: So the topic we’ll discuss today is how to engage your target market and specifically the potential buyers in your dream prospect list. Over the years I’ve learned in speaking with hundreds of companies and working with their people, very few of them has a good plan or even a clear idea as to how to develop such a relationship. So today Bob will share some practical concepts and ideas on how to do that. I specifically I asked him to speak about how to map out the inner circle of the key relationships in that “Dream” Account you would like to have. So right now let’s go ahead and welcome Bob Howard to the show.
Andrew: So let’s just jump into it. So Bob, I know you’ve worked with hundreds of companies over the years, helping them grow top line revenue. I’m sure you’ve seen of that a major pinch points is around targeting and working with ideal prospects and developing valuable relationships with them which requires mapping out the “Inner Circle” as we say. Can you share with our guests today some insights and common challenges you’ve seen in this area?
Bob: Certainly. Well, these days everybody wants to have more fruitful conversations with prospects. But so often what we find is that the sales professionals are not well prepared as to have these conversations. So, I have to say that even before we begin to map out the inner circles in these companies, it’s important to have a plan for the call. i.e., who are we calling? What will be talking about? What is likely to be the listener’s attitude given their position in their company? And what issues are they likely dealing with? And what concerns they might have related to the offering you will be positioning in on the call, to name a few.
So that means you need to know something about the company of course. Surprisingly, on so many of the calls that I listen to the sales people make seem to have no plan. So any number of opportunities to understand the prospect and develop meaningful relationships are missed altogether.
Andrew: Yeah… Got it! So you think the majority of the companies that you’ve worked with or the sales people that you’ve dealt with really don’t have much of a plan?
Bob: Yes, Andrew. It’s surprisingly easy to fall back in to that comfort zone or having what I call a “Howdy Meeting”. But if one has just few notes written down and the defined plan for each call, whether by phone or face to face. That plan should be focused and built around specific outcomes for the conversation. And I have to say as you begin to map the inner circle it’s important to find out basically who’s who in the political landscape, who are the influencers, whose decision is it to make, and how to move the sales forward.
Secondly, understanding and validating whether the prospect has goals and objectives that actually will align well with your offering whether a product or service; whether they have the resources to implement your service or acquire your product.
And thirdly, whether they have the motivation to do something and move your sales initiative forward right now. So many times I see sales folks pursuing conversations with the wrong person or group of people. While it’s normally necessary to have a number of conversations with various people in the prospect organization before the power influence grid and inner circle decision making process is understood, those conversations will need to be crafted with that person and his or her role, objectives and motivations in mind.
Andrew: So the idea is that you’re going to plan the conversations as a best practice before you actually start making those calls or trying to build relationships. Can you give me an idea what that looks like?
Bob: Yes, Andrew. In part, this lets you test to see if you’re messaging is on point and the value premise or what you trying to offer really makes sense to that person and their role in the organization.
So here’s what that looks like. I think that if you divide the conversation in 3 categories we can very quickly determine if we have a prospect that will really move forward. First, let’s make sure, or validate, that the prospect company has business goals that align with the product or service you’re offering. Secondly, do they have the internal resources, processes and enough motivating pain for them to implement or buy your product of service and, finally, is the person(s) that you’re speaking with have the motivation to explore purchasing from you.
So there are 3 key question groups that you can wrap the conversation around. The first is validation that the company may have an interest in doing something that pertains to your product or offering, i.e., there may be good alignment of this type of application or product you offer and perhaps an agenda to study it. The first question might go something like this: Jan, you know we’ve noticed that your company has been looking at XYZ offerings that improve profitability as have some of our clients/customers. The productivity increases have proven to be quite great. Are you seeing this in the market as well and do you have any agendas that are focused on looking at this?
Andrew: So validating is the first step on how you do the testing as to whether the prospect is ready, right?
Bob: Yes. The second category has to do with pain and I think this is often missed. Here you’re really trying to understand whether there is a possible pain point or pinch point – something that is hindering them from meeting their objectives – some reason as to why somebody may be need your product and services.
Andrew: Can you talk at little bit more about that step around testing the internal pain points?
Bob: I’d be happy to. I think one of the things that a lot of people are discovering is that a pain or need is almost always related to some business process in an organization. You can almost always tie the pain it back to one or more the business processes. And if your product or solution impacts that business process or processes (it could be several that are creating that pain), then you have a great chance being able to scorecard out the difference that your product and services can make on prospective basis.
So explore the pain and what processes it relates to with a set of questions around whether they have the paid that springs from the process that you product or service can improve. You can say something like this: Jan, are you experiencing difficulty in getting data that is really predictive of the revenue your team is likely to produce this quarter? You might even ask if they currently have a way to track data and to know where your various opportunities are in the pipe line. So that would be a couple of exploratory questions on that particular topic. Then you can transition back to the customer and give back to them by letting the talk about their pain and the issues they face. This builds relational currency which you want, especially in a complex or difficult sales scenario.
Andrew: Got it! Got it! So validate one, two identify some pain areas and then you want to talk a little bit maybe about the third step that you mention about testing?
Bob: Yes, that’s really has to do with their motivation to proceed with finding a product or service that solves the process issues(s) and therefore their perceived pain. In any organization there are people that you would tag as decision makers, those who are the influencers and those I would call the facilitators – those who are not buyers and really don’t have the ability to influence. But they are willing to facilitate the conversation along the decision making path inside their organization because they want gain currency and some influence within the organization – especially if they are aggressive folks that are trying to make their way in an organization.
So when you explore it’s not only 1) to determine whether they will or will not have the motivation to move forward to do something about that pain they share with us, but also 2) to find out if they’re one of the right people with whom to converse. So you can ask a question like the following: “Given that you have this issue, would you be interested in exploring… or What if you could accomplish X by Y date, or What if we can improve your productivity by 30% year?” The answer to questions like these will tell you whether you have one of the right people.
If they say no, not interested, that’s usually not the right person. If they say yes you can continue the dialogue as follows: “What are the obstacles and impediments along the path to improving your business now… and “what concerns do you have about adding (our solution/product) in this area?”
Andrew: Great! Bob that’s some good stuff. So let’s do this, let’s talk about what’s beyond planning and testing and how you engage in mapping out this inner circle and developing those dream relationships.
Andrew: One of the folks in our chat line asks a question… So, practically how do you begin doing that once you got the plan and place and done a little testing? How does the rubber meet the road? Can you talk a little bit about that?
Bob: Sure. In as far as crafting the questions, we have a nice template that’s posted on the web. Or you can send in an inquiry and ask for it and I or one of us will send it to you and walk you through it with how to use it in greater detail. Simply click on the following link https://www.salesoverdrive.com/contact/
I think everyone knows that especially in larger organizations and more complex pursuits, you’ll have to speak with a larger audience than just one person. So identifying their role in the organization as well as their role in the decision making processes (often different) is pretty important.
So let me talk about the inner circle and the power influence. Obviously to maximize velocity in any sales pursuit, we really need to know who the people are in the organization are who can make the decision and those who are influencers, as well as those that can help us move the conversation along – the facilitators I mentioned. So let’s envision the power influence grid with four quadrants. The upper two quadrants contain those people that have positional authority, CEO, CFO, Chief Operating Officer, or other C-level or division-level chief, the ultimate decision maker, or that group of people that you know or are ordinarily the right people.
In the lower quadrant are those people that do not have decision authority but they could influence the decision. This could be the executive assistant, a bright engineer or anyone that has influence over the decision making process. These people are sometimes pretty hard to identify. For example, there are two technical people on our team that don’t show up anywhere in the org chart but without whom we won’t make a decision when it comes to technology.
So let’s say your particular application would be used by people who don’t have influence. Let’s say a company is hiring a senior sales executive for a hundred million dollar enterprise. You might think that just from the organizational chart, the VP of HR would have a lot of influence in the decision but often that’s not the case. So sometimes you’ll have people that look like they have the right title to be decision makers but they actually don’t even have influence. These are in the PN category – Positional authority but no influence.
Then, there are those who don’t have positional authority or influence – those in the NN category. Let’s say you’re selling a piece of fabrication equipment that to go into manufacturing, electronics manufacturing operations. Those might be engineering or production staff that will be looking at or using the equipment. So there will be some with no positional authority or influence.
See you’ll want to populate the power influence grid as you develop relationships in the target organization. You’ll find that most of the people you speak with will not have influence and those you might least expect, will have significance.
Andrew: Got it. So it’s really important to when are mapping the inner circle to look at the people and their roles in an organization. And by engaging and hopefully asking good questions you can determine whether they have as you describe that positional authority or that influence on the decision making process or they don’t have either of those. So if somebody wants to give a little bit more information about his mapping this inner circle, can they go to sales overdrive, find this tool?
Bob: Yes, this tool is available on request as well as the other tool I mentioned.