I recently met with a client who was having difficulty answering basic questions about a customer he had been covering for years. I wanted to understand the key priorities over the next 12-18 months, of a particular line of business he was selling to, and what strategies/initiatives they were putting in place to achieve them. I wanted to know how this line of business was aligning to his customer’s overall corporate goals.
My client insisted that he understood the initiatives; however, as I dug a little deeper, I realized he only knew the initiatives for which their solution could provide value.
What was missing was clarity on how the initiatives that he was currently working on tied to the line of business or the overall corporate strategy. Or, even why he should care.
We discussed the benefits of good old fashioned value linking and how the process of understanding what the client is trying to achieve can help you better position your solution and pricing — and become more of a trusted partner.
Getting this type of information even in a small organization can be challenging; in a large global organization, it can be especially daunting. I told him to start with the annual report and find out what he could, confirm it and dig a bit deeper to find out how his key stakeholders’ goals aligned with the overall corporate goals. We also discussed that for every goal, there most likely were multiple strategies and these strategies could have multiple initiatives, so I asked him to keep digging for information.
After a few meetings, he came back and said that this was one of the best exercises he had gone through in quite a while, and that the stakeholders he’d worked with for years were glad that he was asking questions about what they cared about day in and day out.
Here are three easy ways to begin connecting the dots:
1) Gather as much information as possible before setting up a meeting with key stakeholders at your account. Check annual reports, 10Ks, LinkedIn profiles, websites and other peer industry insights. Work with your executive management to get as high into the organizational hierarchy as you can and have them ask about the client’s goals. Executives tend to share information with each other, are more forthcoming than they are with sales people, and will be comfortable delving into the intricacies of their business.
2) Another method is to work from the bottom up. It might take longer, but it will allow you to have different types of conversations. As I stated in a previous blog, “Insight Selling: Just a New Name?”
, use the various roles within your own organization to talk to functionally similar individuals, and gather the data from these areas of your client’s organization.
3) Make sure you ask about all of their goals, strategies and initiatives – even those outside of what your solution solves. Show them that you care more about their priorities than your own, which most likely will be a broader set of initiatives.
So take the time to connect the dots, use it as a way to gain credibility, reduce the sales cycle time, and hopefully, drive more revenue now that you understand the overall value to the key stakeholders.