Complex sales for enterprise customers invariably include discussions, and meetings with a number of contacts from the prospective business. A decision to purchase a complex product is rarely, if ever, made unilaterally within these businesses. Therefore, when otherwise unknown contacts “pop up” and express an interest in participating in scheduled meetings, the correct response is to reschedule the meeting pending a thorough understanding of the new contact’s role in the business and rationale for attending the meeting.
Gaining a thorough understanding of the role of a previously unknown contact may require external research along with conversations with other contacts from within the prospective business. In any event, no effort should be spared to thoroughly educate the sales team as to the background of the new participant and his/her role in the purchase decision before the sales campaign proceeds. Proceeding with a meeting or otherwise continuing to advance the sales effort before the information (to include an explanation of why the new contact has joined the discussion and his/her role in decision-making) has been compiled will certainly delay and, perhaps, completely undermine the sales effort. Therefore, it is absolutely critical that the sales team continuously monitor the campaign for reasons to retard, postpone, or otherwise slow down the process to ensure that a best effort has been made to win the business. Further, the natural sense of urgency that typically powers sales campaigns must be controlled and channeled appropriately to ensure that whatever time is required to get the facts is spent and the information is collected prior to proceeding further on the sale.
More often than not, participants who are late to join the sales review are either important decision-makers or representative of important groups that must be included in the decision if the purchase is to be made by the business. Typically these late stage participants bring a new set of criteria into the evaluation that will have to be met if the sale is to be made. If the sales team does not modify the sales plan to meet the new criteria the sale will not be made. There is nothing wrong with interviewing other contacts from the business to ask the “who” “what” “where” and “how” questions about new participants to renovate the understanding of the sales team as to the business’ purchase decision system. As well, any publicly available external information about the participant should be collected so that a familiarity can be put into place before the next meeting is held.
A CEO does well to select a Head of Sales who puts urgency in its proper place; in other words, within an unwavering commitment to winning the business, regardless of how much time it actually takes to get the job done. Complex Sales and long sales cycles are not the venue for snap decisions and reactions; rather, careful and thoroughly thought out decisions must be the norm to ensure success.
© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2011 All Rights Reserved