Thursday, May 13, 2010

Engage early with Senior Execs, or Lose the Deal

In the article Selling Business Value to Senior Executives, Tony Hillyard proposes that the most effective way to sell to executives is to engage earlier in the sales process.

According to Mr. Hillyard, “Many salespeople wait until the organization has started to go to the market to find solutions for their problems.”, and according to our research are then less likely to win deals, and more likely to discount.

Certainly knowing that the customer has an identified need and has a solution set in mind and budget allocated, salesprofessionals can save time and effort in the sales process. However, although engaging later in the buying cycle is indeed a more efficient sales engagement technique, it is much less effective.

During the Discovery phase of the buying lifecycle, senior executives are involved in 80% of the decisions driving the diagnosis of issues to address, setting objectives and setting the overall strategy. During this phase, executives and stakeholders are seeking vendor partners who can help them diagnose and spotlight key opportunities, and build a strategic roadmap for success. Influence is highest at this early phase. “By failing to engage senior customer executives in a business based discussion early enough, salespeople get ‘locked out’ of the early, critical phases of business problem resolution when senior executives are most active”, states Mr. Hillyard.

During the Consideration phase, where solution options are explored, vendor selection criteria is established, and alternatives are explored, executive decision makers involvement drops in half.

Once a solution has been competitively selected, the Decision phase yields a reengagement of the executive to 60%, mostly for review of the selection, business case and economic approval.

Waiting until later stages of the buying lifecycle to engage, Mr. Hillyard contends that salespeople “have by then missed any opportunity to influence key executive thinking regarding potential options for the solution that could include key differentiators for their products or services. They have also lost the opportunity to establish themselves as a trusted advisor to those key executives.”

But how to make this a reality? Many salespeople are not armed today to adequately engage executives in the consultative strategy phase. That can be changed with Executive Assessment tools, providing a structured way to connect and engage with executives in this crucial early buying phase.

Executive Assessment tools enable sales people to query stakeholders on current capability, maturity and performance using a survey. With answers to the survey, the assessment tool calculates current performance, compares performance to peers, highlights opportunities and builds a roadmap. The salesperson is now armed with a consultative executive engagement proposal to discuss opportunities and strategies, and set the stage for the vendors solutions.
One example of an executive assessment is Microsoft’s infrastructure optimization program, an executive assessment methodology and toolset used by account managers and partners to assess current levels of core infrastructure and business productivity infrastructure, and provide advice on ways to drive optimal optimization – reducing costs and improving capabilities.

The program can be reviewed at http://www.microsoft.com/optimization.

The bottom line: Engaging earlier has been proven to increase win rates by 30% and reduce discounting by 20%.

The original Selling Business Value to Senior Executives article can be found at: http://businessblogs.co.nz/2010/02/22/selling-business-value-to-senior-executives/

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