Selling Under the [Buying] Influence

There are as many models for “buyer roles” in the sales marketplace today as there are sales methodologies.  But as is often true with a tool that works (you’ll pry my Moleskine notebook from my cold, dead hands) I have my favorite model for buyer roles too – the “Buying Influences” of Robert B. Miller and  Stephen E. Heiman.

Miller-Heiman’s Strategic Selling was a ground-breaking sales methodology that like Neil Rackham’s S.P.I.N. Selling has influenced almost all thinking on the subject since it was introduced.  In the Strategic Selling methodology, a key tenant was thinking about selling through the eyes of the buyer broken down by role or “buying influence.”

The epiphany of this model included:

  1. “Selling” should really be looked at through the buyer’s eyes.  This was revolutionary and still remains a challenge in some organizations.
  2. The single-sale-to-single-buyer paradigm is no longer relevant.  Buying is done by a group, either in organized or loosely federated teams.  This is a truth to this day, arguably accelerated by the internet and social media providing the opportunity for buyers to be more educated than ever, and instilling a drive to have a voice in collaborative decision-making.
  3. These teams had various roles, and the roles could be grouped into common types with common business priorities:
    1. Economic: The one buyer with $ authority
    2. User: The person or people who will interact with the solution on a daily basis.
    3. Technical: the person or people who will need to deeply understand the solution or do the care and feeding.
    4. Coach: An active fan of your solution, who will help you sell it into their organization.
  4. The salesperson should incorporate this into the sales strategy.

If you’re still looking at selling from the inside out, and think you have one buyer per sale, it is a very valuable exercise to dust off your copy of this book (or get digital and download it to your Kindle) and do a gut check. 

You’ll be glad you took the time to sell under the influence!

Marketing, Sales, Social Media

Sales People – Play Your *Position (*It’s Changed)

Parents who have watched their children growing up playing soccer can appreciate this.  It’s the phenomenon I call “swarm-ball” where the young kids cluster around the ball, eyes fixed on it, and move as a swarm up and down the field, flitting around to the brink of exhaustion.

Years go by.  Then, something magical happens.  All the coaching sinks in and like a light-switch, the players lock into the concept of playing their position.  Suddenly all the lost energy becomes focused and efficient.  Players are making passes, assists, and goals more often with less exertion and more accuracy.

Sales people have a position to play in a selling process too – and it’s changed.  Radically.

In recent years, as the internet has exploded and buyers are more educated than ever, sales people can no longer afford to just “chase the ball.”  Buyers don’t like it.  They won’t tell you – they just won’t buy from you.

It boils down to this, you are no longer the source of information on your product or service.  Whether they have it or not, clients will come to you feeling as though they have all the knowledge about their purchase (want proof of this trend? Ask your Doctor if Web MD has caused her any frustration in this area with the medically “brilliant” patients she now must deal with).  Clients do their homework first.  We all do this when we buy. 

My respected friend, Ardath Albee (follow her on Twitter immediately if you don’t yet –!/ardath421 )  is a thought-leader in content marketing.  This is the art and science of generating interest, attention, value, and engagement (that leads to YOU and the active selling position you play).   Here is Ardath’s new concept of a sales funnel:

The bottom line is that you as a sales person no longer work the entire funnel.  You and your organization need to need to put good, valuable content out there to capture the interest, gain the attention of, communicate value to, and Engage potential buyers.  This is where your position kicks in.  At this point is where you can make a huge difference as a sales person.  You can have more qualified sales conversations, and close more sales, if you play your position

Don’t to shoe-horn your clients into being “sold” on your product.  Instead, play your position by leveraging content marketing techniques to engage clients in the front end of the funnel while you bring value to buyers in key conversations and their decisions to buy. Be the best possible player you can be from “engagement” onward in this funnel and you will score more goals!