Selling and buying have increasingly become team efforts. The more expensive and complex the product, the more people need to be involved on both sides of a sale. This role is all about creating connections between and within the selling and buying organizations to expedite a sale, encourage the exchange of information, and make it easy for the customer to deal with the selling organization.
The star performers of this role enjoy the following benefits that help them improve their overall sales performance:
A network of key players in their accounts
The ability to expedite all aspects of the selling process
A personal infrastructure already in place within their own organizations to help them take on complex and highly profitable accounts
The observable indicators that salespeople are performing this role include the following.
The effective sales professional knows how to orchestrate key players in an account and in the selling organization. In some cases, these may be the technical support people. “I let their techs talk to our techs, and it keeps them happy,” claims one salesperson.
In another example, a financial services salesperson worked with his initial contact to identify the decision makers in his company. “He was very grateful,” said the salesperson, “because he realized he was not able to make decisions and could only take the meeting so far. By having the right people there, we were able to go quickly from an introductory meeting to making the sale.”
Said one salesperson about a colleague, “This rep had a burning desire to complete a particular deal to everyone’s satisfaction. On its face it seemed impossible to coordinate because of dealing with so many different people she would never see—all by fax and phone, and many with limited command of the English language. But she pulled it off.”
Successful salespeople don’t waste time trying to fight the customer’s buying process. Instead, they look for ways to synchronize it with their own selling process. They start by doing their homework, as in this example, “I identified all the players in the client’s buying process and made sure everyone in my company knew all the issues and concerns.”
The most effective salespeople know how to use teamwork to succeed in today’s complex buying and selling processes. One small company that sells packaging materials was able to land a large regional packaging house by involving several of its own people in the sale. “We used our president, who was instrumental in building personal rapport,” said the account executive, “and a customer service person who worked exclusively with their branch operations. I took the lead in writing and giving the presentation.”
A Japanese computer company that handles several hardware and software brands meets customer needs not only through its sales process, but also by involving areas of the organization, such as design, delivery, and support. “We are therefore able to provide products and services that don’t compete on price. Our added value is based on ease of use and quick service, not price.”
Small wonder that many salespeople report the need for project management skills. “I performed a project manager role,” said one salesperson. “I set up the meetings and then provided follow-up to ensure that everything was moving smoothly. I also was the one who put the plan together in the first place, based on what I had learned in conversations with the customer.”
There were several examples that illustrated process failure:
“We are a weather-driven business and have a small window of sales opportunity. The business manager did not plan ahead to have adequate staff when the season hit. We had lots of product to deliver, but could not deliver it fast enough.” (Salesperson, retail manufacturer)
A food processor, disappointed with his distributor, asked a competing firm for a proposal. “They put one junior salesperson on it,” the respondent said, “and it took her three weeks to come up with a proposal. It was good, but too late. Our existing distributor had all that time to show us that they could fix things. If the other distributor had put together a team and come up with a proposal over the weekend, they would have gotten the job.” (Distribution manager, food processing company)
A software saleswoman needed to show how her product met the needs of the heads of product development, marketing, and new business acquisition. Instead of trying to create a single purpose among all three decision makers, she pitted the needs of one person against the other— and created so much animosity that she killed the sale.