We all understand how important team selling is in the enterprise world. Marshaling your most important organizational assets to win enterprise deals is an absolute survival skill. And these assets are your people – your colleagues who simply must be engaged in the selling process. The “Everybody Sells” theme, when truly operationalized in large pursuits, positions you to face one of enterprise selling’s top challenges – team buying!
While we focus on the enterprise world, let’s first consider selling to small and medium-sized businesses for some context. With SMB’s, you typically have the luxury of direct contact with the actual decision-maker – the firm’s owner or president. With enterprise accounts, it’s much more complicated. You face buyer networks consisting of individuals from throughout the organization, each taking seriously their duty to add value through their functional frames of reference. Purchasing is often prominent and perhaps legal, accounting or other functions. Which departments are specifically represented is determined by the size or type of the purchase and other cultural and process issues.
So, what does truly understanding this buyer network mean to the selling team? Often, the difference between winning or losing. For it’s the selling team’s obligation to clearly know and strategize for the customized buyer network structure in place in each specific pursuit. It’s critical, then, to research and understand the hierarchy, where the real authority and veto power live and exactly how the decision will be made. Then there are the impacts of the powerful influences such as ISO 9000, Six Sigma, certifications, quotas and other key organizational drivers. Areas so fundamental to the organization’s DNA that they deserve keen attention. Here, what you don’t know can definitely hurt you. But it’s also the functional roadmap of the buyer network that merits a deep understanding of connections and also some impactful nuances. Do certain departments favor particular products or services? Or have biases against specific types of solutions? For example, would accounting, finance or legal favor compliance-oriented solutions while marketing might prefer more nimble choices? And what about the interrelationships among the functional entities? Could they affect the decision by prompting advocacy or disdain for certain products, services or vendors? How does accounting get along with marketing? What type of working relationship does purchasing have with legal? And remember the famous “People Buy from People” mantra? Each individual prospect’s perspective is affected by their personal priorities, pains and goals. These are all nuances, for sure, but nonetheless truly impactful variables – dynamics that exponentially increase complexity. And if you dismiss these areas as simply internal politics, you will do so at your own peril. For these variables must be clearly understood and accounted for in both your tactics and strategy. Unfortunately, they’re often identified in post-mortems as the reasons for losses – the actual causes of death, if you will.
It’s a challenging environment but there’s more. Staying in the “People Buy from People” theme, while we refer to the individual enterprise prospects as buyers, they are, of course, real people. And we know how understanding the behavioral profiles of real people can dictate our ability to communicate effectively with them. And how programs like DISC enable us to do that well. Consider again selling into SMB’s, where we’re challenged to understand and adapt to the likely behavioral profiles of typically only one or two people. In enterprise networks, the problem is greatly multiplied. From a DISC view, is the buying center attorney a “D” – dominant? Is the finance representative a “C” – compliant? What about the marketing manager, an “I” – influencer? Clearly the sheer number makes the analysis more complicated but just as with functions, it’s the interactions among the different behavioral profiles that’s also critical. Effectively identifying and adapting to the complex mix of styles maximizes communication clarity and helps you implement an effective action plan.
With these daunting issues in maneuvering through enterprise buyer networks, how can selling teams prevail? Of course, comprehensive preparation through market, territory and account planning is mandatory. And so is routinely following dependable Go/No-Go processes. With these fundamentals in place, though, it’s team selling itself that really accelerates your chances of success. When your selling team is operationally engaged, you earn you the right to put alignment to work. For your colleagues bring their functional perspectives to connect with their buying team counterparts. Matching technology with technology, legal with legal and finance with finance makes great sense. The matched pairs speak the same language. Ducks with ducks! And actively engaging your team selling colleagues with prospects in the pursuit is hugely beneficial in another way. Exposing your organizational depth and breadth to the account provides a vision of the substance you’ll bring after you’ve won the business, which by all rights should be a significant competitive advantage. And these functional alignments can also be complemented by behavioral profile matching, increasing the likelihood of successful touchpoints through thoughtfully planned interactions between complementary behavioral styles. Again, ducks with ducks.
Team buying involves smart business people who come prepared. While these individual prospects bring their different functional and behavioral frames of reference, they have one thing in common. They are subject matter experts in the business of the account that you’re working hard to turn into a client. Understand that and be strategic in your team selling. Put in the time and effort and you’ll earn the right to make the alignment of team buying with team selling a winning competitive advantage.