In current B2B sales, have you ever noticed that more people tend to be involved on the buyer’s side? There are often multiple influencers, multiple blockers, and multiple helpers. No two sales are going to be the same.
To minimise risk, the key thing your customer is looking for in a major purchase is widespread support for your solution across THEIR team.
For sellers, this means it is important to avoid the usual approach – which is to build the sale around people you’ve known the longest, or can contact most easily, or who like you the most and ignore everyone else.
If your competitor is dealing with 3 people within your target account, and you are only dealing with one, then they have the edge.
Bow Tie Selling
The traditional approach to sales is often referred to as ‘bow tie selling’. In the bow tie sale you have one account manager – the sales person – and one main contact buyer. These two people represent their organizations in the transaction.
However, this arrangement can be dangerous. What happens if the buyer leaves, and a new buyer comes in, and they’ve got a preferred supplier from a previous company? It’s precarious, and it doesn’t really build a strong relationship.
The modern sale is much better represented as a ‘diamond’, where there are lots of points of contact. There is contact between managers, between service people, between sales people, and between admin people. There’s still an account manager, who orchestrates the supplier’s side, and there’s still a main contact buyer, who orchestrates the buyer’s side. But there are many more points of contact.
The more people involved on both the supplier and customer side, the stronger the relationship becomes.
Why team buying is on the increase
Imagine you are responsible for making a significant purchase for your organisation, perhaps some new office equipment.
How would you minimise risk?
Almost certainly you would seek the advice of others in your organisation. You would effectively use team buying, and that’s what many of your customers are doing.
If the buyer is using team buying then the best response for us as sellers is to consider using ‘team selling’. This won’t apply to every sale, but it is appropriate as the sale gets larger. When you meet the customer as a team, albeit just two or three of you, and explain what each person does, your credibility goes up. Many sales meetings are now conducted virtually via Zoom/Teams which makes team selling easier and cheaper with less travel and other expenses. This is especially useful for the second or third meeting with the prospective new account.
The customer appreciates meeting more of the people involved, and also learning who exactly is going to carry out each element of servicing their account.
And there’s a big plus – the more people from the customer who are involved with the relationship, the harder it is for them to change supplier. They would need to ensure all their key people supported such a change. So do your utmost to soft wire the entire relationship.
The role of the Account Manager
All contact with a customer should be coordinated through the Account Manager, who ensures that the account objectives are clear to all concerned and acts as team leader. The overall objective is to ensure that all the supplier’s resources – sales, support marketing, research, finance, packaging and distribution – are used to identify and meet the customer’s requirements profitably for both parties.
When organising a team you shouldn’t be thinking: ‘How can I put the best team together to win the business?’ Instead, focus on: ‘Who needs to be involved so we can bring in all the expertise we’ve got to help the customer achieve their objective?’ Highlight this approach in your sales training.
Enlist the whole business in the sales effort
Everyone in the company, from product designers to factory managers to financial officers to service managers, must be involved in selling to and servicing the customer. In the best-run companies, all employees are salespeople. Engineers, designers, production managers and scientists can benefit enormously from learning selling skills.
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