Friday, November 10, 2006

The Secret to Corporate Selling

It's always difficult to sell anything to a corporation for various reasons. First, it's hard to find the right person to talk to. Then it's hard to get them to listen to your story. Most of the time the people you are talking to don't really care if your product saves the company money because they themselves don't personally benefit from that. They will continue to make the exact same salary whether or not the company buys your product, spends the money, saves the money, wastes the money, or whatever. So they don't care. The fact that it might make or save a great deal of money is only a line item in an internal proposal document that helps outline the cost justification for the item.

But on the other hand, to change suppliers from the current supplier over to your company usually requires all kinds of work and trouble. They have to build a business case to make the change. They have to sell the idea personally to management and to all the stakeholders within the organization that might be affected by the change. They have to negotiate terms - or convince the procurement department to spend the time and effort negotiating terms, - and they have to sell them on the benefit of spending even THAT time and effort and money to do that. Then, once they recognize the need, and the business advantage of buying whatever it is you're selling, then they have to push it to legal, and then the lawyers have their work to do to again negotiate, but this time it's contract negotiations with your lawyers. This can last from weeks to years. It usually take several weeks to several months just for this phase alone. Then, if your deal survives THAT punishment, then they have to push you through the purchasing/procurement departments to be registered as a valid vendor to the organization. THEN, finally, you have the mechanism in place to allow normal business dealings and goods, services, and money to flow.

So, with all this work to do and trouble to go through, and yet no personal gain for the company employee you are trying to sell to, you can see why they might not be interested in taking your call. If they must, they will, but they will avoid it if at all possible. But most people are motivated by their personal interests and agendas rather than their corporation's best interests, and this is nothing but headaches for them, and with no real upside.

It IS difficult. And it's unavoidable. The system is there to protect the company from all kinds of abuse and misuse, fraud, and potential litigation, by putting all the management, legal, and procedural checks and balances in place. To you, the salesman trying to penetrate that wall of obstacles, it seems daunting or even impossible most of the time.

The key to selling into a corporate environment is to find a champion for your solution inside the company, and then just support him as he fights the politics and waves of resistance internally.

To get him to do this, you either have to find someone who already drank the Kool-Aid, and has the religion, and you are just the supplier to his dream and vision, OR, you must spend some time crafting that dream and vision for him.

Sell him on how it makes him the hero. Make him the agent for change in a company that needs a new miracle. Point out that when the company is looking to layoff the staff, they will leave alone the movers and shakers that are trying to further the cause of the company's well-being and are trying to push the envelope to greater profits, better competitiveness, better products, better ROI, etc.

You need someone with a strong ego that you can pander to and build up - because that ego is the necessary driving force that will motivate him to fight the fight and evangelize the change that is needed to get you in there.

One thing that often works with someone like that is to hint that you might want to get him set up to speak at some national or global conference as an expert and a visionary in the field. This puts stars in his eyes and makes him see himself as bigger than his company. Now he is suddenly an industry expert. Talk about him starting an industry advice column based on his observations and experiences - make
him a star.

That's how I used to do it at the software company I used to work at, and it worked great. I would get them a speaking role at the next relevant conference that we put on several times per year.

Then you tie it all together for him. HE is the guy whose vision it is to go in this direction. So HE will lead the company to a greater future. HE will get the greater profits. HE has the vision. HE sees ever so clearly. HE leads not only the company but the whole industry.

YOU are just the supplier that helps him put HIS plan into effect. (even though it's actually your plan) You do this by working out the vision for him ahead of time, then in your discussions, lead him 95% of the way there and then let the momentum of the thought process take him the extra 5% on his own. Make it all but obvious what he needs to do. Let him think HE thought of it.

Let him come to the epiphany on his own. Don't "sell" him anything, ever. Just shine the light into the darkness and onto the things you want him to see, then supply his needs. When he sees the treasure chest - you be the guy standing there selling him the tools to open it, and the rope to bring it out of the cave and back to the ship....

Key phrases:
"If only there were some way to..."
"Can you think of a way to fix that?"
"I wish the industry already had a company that could..."
"I see so many companies suffering from.... I wish there was someone who
could help them..."
"What the world needs now is..."
"I wonder how this business will work 10 years from now. And I wonder
who the companies will be that will get us there...."
"Company A is planning to get into .... Unless someone else gets in
there first."
"I wonder who in your company will come up with an idea first to do
"If you were guy that does that, I know of some people who would want to
hear you talk about your experiences and would want to hear your advice
on this."
"There is probably a book in that for you if you are the guy who does
"What the industry needs now is a leader. A leader with a vision."

...and so on.

This is what really works in the corporate sales world.


Post a Comment

<< Home