Circle of influence, sales


More contacts build stronger relationships
Ever have the gut feeling that you’ve made a sale, but then, somewhat unexpectedly, someone else in the company changed his mind and left you out in the cold?
When salespersons limit their customer contact to just one person, they have a one-dimensional connection. Influencers have a big say in many company’s buying decisions, and smart sales people are getting to know them.
A rep for a computer networking firm told me he had 33 people to sell as one customer. One was purchasing, three were management, and 29 were end users who had reservations about the new system.
If the 29 users weren’t sold on him and the system, the sale might well be lost to a competitor. After an extensive series of fact-finding meetings and demonstrations, the sale was made. All 29 endorsed his system to their supervisor and management.
While most sales won’t have that many buyers, it’s a sure bet that more than one person will have influence.
Some companies insist you communicate with one person only. So be it. Just make sure you’re not putting his success – and your future sales growth – in jeopardy by working with limited information. And, don’t rely too heavily on that customer for continued sales growth.
In order to have a true partnering relationship, you have to become more involved.
The best place to start is at the top. When calling a prospective customer, ask for the president before asking for purchasing. [You’ll probably get an extremely helpful executive secretary who can give you other names.]
Contact, and stay in touch with, each of them by phone or mail. They should know your name – and you should know theirs.
With current customers, find out who approves your type of expenditures, who will be the end users, who manages the end users and who are the buying assistants. There may be others, too, but as a start, get connected to those people who influence the purchase of your product or service. Their input to you is vital.
Other ways to make multiple connections include asking to sit in on a portion of a group meeting or attending open house events.
Nobody has to tell you that businesses are putting more demands on their people to be productive and cost-effective. They, in turn, place more demands on their vendors. You can stand out from the competition by building deeper, partnering relationships. To them, you become more than just a vendor, you become an indispensable resource.
10 tips
For Building Contacts
1 Always start at the top
Keep in touch with everyone you talk to.
2 Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes
Think in their terms.
3 Learn their buying process
Who reviews or approves proposed purchases?
4 Ask to meet with end users
Their input is vital, and they’ll appreciate being asked.
5 Suggest doing a group Q&A meeting
Brown-bag vendor lunches are a great way to meet influencers.
6 Be pro-active in contacting management
But don’t leave the buyer believing you’re going over their head for the sale.
7 Follow up with everyone
Send “thank yous” to all contacts, and stay in touch with them.
8 Attend open house events
Be visible, and get to know their staff.
9 Make the corporate office contact
Get to know influencers at the main or regional offices.
10 Create a two-way dialog
Get to know influencers, and let them get to know you.
Joe Guertin is president of Joseph Guertin & Associates, an Oak Creek-based speaking, training and coaching firm. Your comments are invited at 414-762-2450, or
April 1998 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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