The Challenge of Selling to a Buying Center

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To effectively manage a sales cycle, the salesperson must understand and mirror the buying process. This process can be broken down into the three phases: recognition of need, evaluation of solutions, and negotiation. A well-managed sales cycle will follow these phases by uncovering customer’s needs (Probing), demonstrating superior solution (Proving), and removing barriers to getting the order (Closing).

But what does this mean to the sales person? Uncover who´s need to? Convince whom? Who actually is the customer –  the company, an individual or a group? What does this mean for the sales cycle?

Industrial buying decisions, in contrast to consumer purchases, are generally taken by several individuals, the so called buying center. The sales person is faced with two challenges: The composition of the buying center and the dynamics of the decision making process within it.

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Online Selling & Promotion – My Experience So Far

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From my October 1 article which I titled E-Selling: Rowing Upstream With One Oar:

I’m going to follow this up with some more articles describing my first-hand experiences trying to tackle this new world of e-selling on a budget that wouldn’t cover the bar tab in my previous sales experience. You could all save me the trouble by getting everyone you know to buy my book.

Well, you failed, because after clawing its way to Number 35 on Amazon’s Best Seller list in its genre, my book has slowly settled back and rests comfortably outside the top 100. Sales are steady, although steady at a pace below what I’d hoped for by this time.

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Lunch – The (Ultimate) Death of a Salesman

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Good Lunch

Theoretically, in our Western culture we eat 21 meals each week. (3 times 7 equals 21. See how easy that was?) Five of those meals occur in the middle of the typical workday. 24% of your fuel intake happens when you’re supposed to be working. The obvious solution for work day productivity – stop eating lunch.

OK, don’t. That’s bad advice even by my standards of advice. Here’s better advice – eat a good, nutritional lunch every work day. And do it away from your desk. Kimberly Elsbach, a management professor at UC-Davis who studies the psychology of the workplace, says getting away from your desk can provide a boost in creativity.

“Never taking a break from very careful thought-work actually reduces your ability to be creative,” she says. “It sort of exhausts your cognitive capacity and you’re not able to make the creative connections you can if your brain is more rested.”

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E-Selling – Rowing Upstream With One Oar

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In addition to my former career as a sales professional and my current job as Editor of The HUB, I am an author. At least I was up until September 10, when I reverted to being a sales professional once again. This time, my product is my book, my market is Amazon users, and I’m totally overwhelmed.

With this novel, my third, I decided to go the self-published route. Both of my previous novels followed the traditional agent and publisher process, with ever-increasing success in navigating that world. But the cost was huge in terms of time and effort and will. Time and effort are self-explanatory. Will, maybe not so much. To give you an instant understanding of that, I will state one absolutely accurate truth – I could wallpaper my home with submissions and rejections and not leave a single square inch uncovered.

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Where Did Sales 2.0 Go?

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Social Tools

Here are a couple of excerpts from The Sales 2.0 Gift Horse, a blog by Nigel Edelshain. He’s describing some preliminary work he was doing for a client to see how Sales 2.0 might help their business.

“After playing with the client’s accounting software for a fun few hours I managed to get a list of their top 100 accounts by revenue for the last year. Opening this list I thought I’d take a look at how their sales coverage was on account number one. What had they done to sell more to this top account?”

“One thing I found in the CRM system was the name of this account’s head of marketing.”

“So then my habits kicked in. I typed this head of marketing’s name into LinkedIn. But he was hard to find. I typed in his name and the name of this account into LinkedIn’s search function. I did not find him.”

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How Margins Go Over the Price Waterfall

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Price Waterfall

The complexity and length of sales cycles in the B2B business carry a big risk — the uncontrolled erosion of profit margins. Between the list price and the final pocket price, a large gap can develop leading to a significantly reduced margin. The problem is that the loss of margin is not only the result of the final negotiation in the closing phase, it is composed of various, often minor, concessions made over a longer period of time. This is why it is generally called the “price waterfall.” The actual price waterfall models vary with industries and reflect the different effects contributing to the loss of margin, but their principle is the same.

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The Impact of the Sales Team On Pricing

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Dollar People

Sales volume is a prerequisite for making profit, but it is not a guarantee of it. Of course there can be no profit without sales, but there can be sales without profit. Without the right price, a company may be very successful in terms of sales volume, but may actually lose money – or at least not get the money it deserves. Price has the most direct effect on profit. Every percentage point of a price change will directly end up in the bottom line. It is therefore worthwhile taking a closer look at this aspect of sales.

Pricing involves a lot more than creating price lists and defining discounting policies. Eventually pricing decisions must be implemented, and this, in most of the B2B companies, falls under the responsibility of the sales force. The sales people have an impact on the actually realized prices in several ways:

  • First of all, it is on them to discover the customer’s needs in order to be able to offer the right product or service (probe skills).
  • Secondly they have to convince the customer about the value of the offered solution (prove skills).
  • And last but not least, it depends on their closing skills to negotiate and defend the price.

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PowerPoint, Wikipedia, and a True Definition of Sales

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Powerpoint 2010

In a previous article, I referred to Michael Schrage’s comment that the 2×2 matrix rated along with PowerPoint as the two most popular business tools. I don’t rate them equal — PowerPoint does not have the same depth as the 2×2 in the power to unravel problems;it is more a set of tools to get a more effective portrayal of an idea or message. In an effort to learn more, I went over to Wikipedia to check on PowerPoint. This led to a digression that is worth writing about.

Wikipedia says that PowerPoint is a ubiquitous presentation program. I guess we all knew that, and the reason it is ubiquitous is because of Microsoft’s marketing clout. It goes on to say that PowerPoint “is among the most prevalent forms of persuasion technology.” That last term caught my interest—I’ve heard of information technology, change technology, but this is the first I’ve heard of persuasion technology.

I plowed on:

“Persuasion technology is technology that can be used for presenting or promoting a point-of-view. Any technology designed and deployed for those purposes can be considered a persuasion technology. Such aids are regularly used in sales, diplomacy, politics, religion, military training, cult recruiting and management, and may potentially be used in any area of human interaction.”

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The Business of Sales & Marketing: Ventana Research Agenda for 2013

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Tech Trend Priorities

Ed. – Mark Smith is an expert in enterprise software and business technology innovations and the CEO and Chief Research Officer of Ventana Research. Mark has worked in the software industry for 25 years, leading innovations in research and technology and has held CMO, research and product development roles at research and software companies. He was rated the 2011 Software Industry Analyst of the Year and one of the Top Ten Technology Influencers in 2012. He started Ventana Research more than a decade ago.

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The First 100 – Ed.’s Perspective

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Have you ever tried to get sales types to sit down and write something other than a proposal? You’ve heard of something being as impossible as herding cats, right? Well, that’s like herding cats by using dogs. Even if you get them there, a hell of a fight will ensue.

 And now they’re telling me we’ll be having guest contributors and more than one original article per day. Just when I was starting to get these cats herded, they’re bringing in new cats!

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