There is no such thing as a decision maker, and any sales strategy built on reaching or closing that mystical figure is doomed to fail. That might seem a little strong coming out of the gate but stick with me on this.
If you’re going to build a sales and/or marketing strategy you need to know your audience. Understanding that you’ll need to build consensus with either a great digital experience or good ol’ fashion sales is key. Once you understand the current procurement landscape and what it takes to build momentum towards a sale; then you can operate from a position of strength and confidence when building a strategy.
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Let’s look at the 6 poisons that killed the decision maker;
- After 2008 the corporate purse strings tightened substantially, have never relaxed, and probably never will again.
- The individual willingness to take risk in an organization is beaten down by corporate culture.
- The individual ability to take risk in an organization is beaten down by corporate culture.
- Financial decisions are now made by committee or - even worse - consensus.
- Advanced CRM, accounting, and other systems give projects and purchases exposure to the entire group or organization.
- The advent of SaaS itself is a source of this.
Stick with me here for a second. Think about it, never before have operating groups, teams, functions, etc have so much choice of which technologies will help them accomplish their goals. When you combine cloud computing, SaaS, and our strong startup culture companies are left with hundreds if not thousands of choices. When you’re facing this volume of options you need to change the way you source, assess and purchase products, you need people to bring forward the best ideas and technologies and that takes manpower.
So do I have a better idea? Yes, I do, Thanks for asking!
I don’t believe that consolidating purchasing authority will ever happen again. People certainly enjoy the security of shared blame for any blowup that might happen as the result of introducing a new technology or process. But there are several things that a business or organization can do streamline assessment and purchasing. I’ve seen many companies do this well so long as the process is rigidly followed. In the SaaS world, I’ve seen this specific process result in a decision in almost all cases:
- Assign research to 1 person: this person will look at product/service providers, find their competitors, download white papers, and present a range of solutions internally to a stakeholder team that usually involves the users, IT and procurement. Complete the necessary steps to get budget approval.
- Send an RFI: these are different for each industry but ask basic questions to fill the gaps in your knowledge. Make sure you ask for pricing here.
- Get demos or have initial meetings: this is the step where you can whittle down your requirements and get to know the companies and people you’ll prospectively be working with. By this point, your committee/team should have a good idea of the solutions in the marketplace and be comfortable assessing the potential products or solutions.
- Send an RFP to 3 vendors: It might sound hard. It might even sound a little crazy. But don’t kill your team or burn bridges by inviting 10 teams to submit RFPs. This will also cause scope creep as the purchasing team attaches to various features, integrations and capabilities that inevitably have no overlap from one vendor to the next.
- Invite 2 vendors back to final presentations/discussions: Again, more forced choice.
- Pricing negotiation: No need for a lengthy explanation here.
- Purchase: Bingo!
You can clearly see there are no innovative new platforms nor assessment processes in this list. But, there is power in just having a list at all. That’s because successful assessing and purchasing are as much about following a process as it is about having a good one. It’s not easy of course, with budgets, egos, needs, challenges, etc all at play simultaneously. But with a good leader driving the process the consensus can be built and maintained to take action if things do not drag on for an extended period. Even on the buy side, time kills all deals.
When marketing and sales teams that are beholden to this process, look at your own internal approach to navigating this, you should guide your prospects through this very comfortable process. It’s good for you and easy enough for them. I acknowledge that changing client processes is somewhere between challenging and even sometimes impossible. But if implementing this approach get’s you even a 5% lift in sales isn’t that worth doing it right?