Team selling. The collaborative strategy of multiple team members from a selling organization pulling the oars in the same direction to win deals. In the enterprise world, it’s well known and widely implemented. But what about the other side of major account deals? What about the other collaborative strategy? That’s right – team buying.
And I reference major accounts because that’s where complexity lives and thrives. For some context, consider selling to small and medium-sized businesses, where you typically have the luxury of direct contact with the actual decision-maker, often the owner or president of the firm. That interaction, while challenging in its own right, has a limited scope. Not so with enterprise accounts, where you face buyer networks consisting of individuals from throughout the organizations, each bringing their different perspectives to the buying processes. Purchasing, accounting, legal and others are represented. And while the importance of understanding these buyers is widely accepted, the focus is typically on the functional, not the personal. But there’s much more than simply understanding functions that impacts effective communications with these key players – these key people.
For example, the buyer network’s finance manager represents a department with a charter familiar to everyone. So, it’s logical to make assumptions about the finance department’s functional frame of reference. We know finance, don’t we? But what about the finance manager as a person? What about his or her behavioral styles, traits and tendencies? Are we to assume that all finance managers are the same? Remembering that “people buy from people”, how can you increase the likelihood of successful communication with buyers as the real people they are?
First, by identifying their behavioral profiles to build your understanding to tailor your communication. In Sandler Enterprise Selling, we work with DISC, the popular behavior assessment process, to make it happen. Consider the pertinent questions regarding the many personalities in major account buyer networks. From a DISC view, is the attorney a “D” – dominant? Is the finance manager a “C” – compliant? What about the marketing manager, an “I” – influencer and the project manager, an “S” – supportive? To complicate things further, how do the buyers’ styles map to the variety of personalities on your selling team? Without a framework to help, you’re flying blind. But with a practical guide for identifying and adapting to the maze of styles, you have a path forward and the basis for an effective action plan.
And in major account deals, the stakes are raised significantly. With our sales bias, we typically think about the costs of enterprise pursuits in terms of the investments made by selling organizations in efforts to win coveted deals. The money, people, time, energy and more. But what about the spends of the buying organizations? The same types are costs are involved, but there’s a multiplying difference. Why? Because the buying organizations are already in pain – pain that’s causing the need for the major purchase. Something needs to be fixed or improved. And if a bad decision is made, the organizational pain will increase. Often, heads will roll. Lots of pressure, lots of stress, lots of risk. And the drama on both sides ratchets up the emotions. Emotions – the mortal enemy of communication. It’s critical, then, for selling teams to come prepared. Prepared with a behavioral strategy.
How to prevail? Comprehensive preparation is a survival skill. As is following a proven Go/No-Go process to maximize the likelihood that the deals pursued are the right deals. There’s nothing worse than winning a bad deal. But with these fundamentals set, the behavioral framework is a key competitive advantage.
In Sandler Enterprise Selling, we utilize the Team Buying Tool, which provides a practical, four-step guide to navigate behavioral buyer networks. First, the key buying team members are identified not only by title but by their impact on the specific deal – High, Medium or Low. A buyer’s impact on a specific decision, of course, is very different than their title and authority. Their DISC styles are then determined through communication among the selling team members, collaborating on their variety of experiences with the individual buyers. That’s team selling. Then, the customized motivators and demotivators for each buyer are identified, rounding out the profiles.
Next, the selling team member’s profiles are highlighted – each teammate’s DISC style and traits. Of course, with your own team members, this information should be extremely accurate. With the behavioral work done to this point regarding both teams, you’re ready to build the selling strategies for effectively communicating with the individual buyers – what to do and perhaps even more importantly, what not to do.
The final step involves the crafting of the concrete action items to move the process forward successfully, including due dates and the selling team members responsible. Thoughtfully planning these touchpoints by aligning complementary behavioral styles sets the stage for productive interactions – ducks with ducks!
The behavioral complexities of enterprise buying networks create significant challenges for selling teams – challenges, though, that can be overcome. By understanding and appreciating the different styles of both the buying and selling team members, you can make conscious and informed decisions about adapting your behaviors to increase the likelihood of successful communication. Put in the time and effort and you’ll earn the right to make the behavioral alignment of team buying with team selling a true competitive advantage. And you’ll win business as a result.