Sales Professional as Symphony Conductor
When planning your strategy for closing the complex sale, one of the first questions you need to ask is, “How many stakeholders will be involved in the buying process – either as an initiator, a gatekeeper, an influencer, a decision-maker, a procurement specialist, or an end user?” (Those six classifications are the subject of an insightful 2006 Harvard Business Review article called, “Major Sales: Who Really Does the Buying?”)
The next question you need to answer is, “What does each of these stakeholders value?”
The third question to ponder carefully is, “How can I reframe my proposal so that it resonates with those values?”
Pursuing these three steps in this order will equip you with the insights you need to soft-circle approval of all players before you seek to close the sale.
By the way, imagine what would happen if you didn’t take the time to understand what each of these people thought about energy efficiency. What if you did what most salespeople do and tried to sell a single stakeholder on the energy efficiency improvement? Ask yourself a simple question: Do you really want the success of your sales process to hinge on that one person’s ability to translate and communicate your value proposition to everybody else around that table? Realize that your internal champion cannot approve, fund and implement the project alone, so if you sidestep your responsibility to do all of the selling, your outcome will be entirely dependent on the uncertain ability of someone else to sell your project for you. Are you willing to take that risk?
Let’s assume you’re trying to sell an energy upgrade to a multi-tenant commercial building and your initial point of contact is the property manager. Few property managers can unilaterally decide to move forward with an energy project. The manager has to convince the budgeting folks to authorize the capital. He/she has to convince the engineering staff that the project will not have any deleterious impacts on the building’s mechanicals. The manager also needs to convince the tenants that any temporary inconvenience caused by the installation is worth enduring. If capital cost recovery language will be used to recoup the landlord’s investment in the upgrade by clawing back some or all of the utility savings, the tenants also need to be briefed on how that process will work. And they need to be assured that doing the project makes sense even though they may not see any real savings for several years while the resulting utility bill reductions are being diverted to amortize the first cost (plus interest in some cases).
Sales professionals are like symphony conductors. The quality of the music they produce is a direct consequence of the collaboration between their players. And the more they understand who those players are, what each values, and what each is capable of contributing, the sweeter their music (i.e., their revenues) will be.
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