Let’s face it – before you can land and expand, you’ve got to understand. This means doing the upfront research about the account you’re selling to and the contacts you’re speaking with before you go about aggressive outreach.
And even with a sea of databases, outside research and analyst reports available, it is difficult to discern exactly what’s most important.
Too often sellers charge head-first into a high-stakes sales effort without having insights into what the actual buyers within that organization want or need.
We’ve pulled together first-hand tips from former senior IT buyers in our Emissary network from companies like CVS, Kellogg’s, Johnson & Johnson and Refinery29 to tell us what sales teams should understand about a company and the market they serve before going into the sale, and how they can best get their buyers’ attention.
Turns out, understanding the buyer goes beyond the type of info you can dig up in a database. Here are some of their suggestions:
1. Have a true understanding of your account’s current challenges, as well as their values and culture.
According to our Emissaries, the days of product-pushing are long gone. To resonate with IT buyers, they need to see that you understand not only the challenges they face as an organization, but how their culture and values fit into your company’s values.
Too often sellers go into meeting with the same (or less) intelligence as their competitors, pulled from the same commodified public research databases and analyst reports.
Our Emissaries say that it pays to go the extra mile in your research — that means asking more questions upfront than your competitors, and coming into your meetings armed with better insights.
“It’s really, really important to show up with knowledge of the main issues we’re facing and the values we have as a corporation. That would increase the likelihood of moving on to the next round.”
– Former VP of IT, Kellogg’s
Demonstrating an understanding of an organization’s challenges and strategic initiatives is critical, but being able to demonstrate through actions that you jive with their values and play well within their culture can be equally important.
“I was once in a vendor presentation where there was a woman who was speaking in a very articulate way about the talent and the human resources strategy they had. However, one of her male colleagues didn’t think the same, and then he just pushed her behind him and took over the conversation,” says the Kellogg’s Emissary.
“For companies like Kellogg’s, it’s a huge deal that men and women are treated in the same way, and that they have the same opportunities,” he says.
Understanding, respecting and reflecting the positive aspects of their organizational culture is a great way to build a better, longer-lasting relationship with your buyer.
2. Never underestimate the power of thinking global.
While not every sale will be global, when you are selling into an international opportunity, how you handle the nuanced discussion is critical.
Underestimate the importance of global complexity at your peril. Corporations with organizations that span varied countries and regions have complex internal processes and relationships that can be difficult for even tenured employees to wrap their heads around.
“When it comes to IT sales, a vital question that needs to be addressed is: do you, as a vendor organization, have global reach and capacity? Even when purchasing something as simple as software for my company’s offices in different countries, I have to look at implementation questions like, where should the tenancy be? What’s more advantageous from a regulatory perspective? What will be most cost effective?” says the former Global VP of IT at Johnson & Johnson.
While global sales efforts are more complex and difficult to deliver, they can be a great way to drive big ticket expansions across multiple business units and locations.
“If you can walk in and offer a truly global deal — rather than go after dozens of individual deals — you will be providing tremendous value to an organization.”
– Former Global VP of IT, Johnson & Johnson
3. Illustrate your expertise with concrete, useful industry insights.
According to LinkedIn, B2B buyers are 5x more likely to engage with a sales professional who provides new insights about their business or industry.
Buyers can’t be experts in every field — your solution might appeal to them, but to be a true partner, they will look to you to be that industry expert to help them optimize your solution.
Demonstrate your knowledge through non-promotional webinars, white-papers, ebooks and events as a way to establish trust.
“They need to have a really good understanding of the market, of the market needs, and the value that their products bring,” says the former Senior Director, Enterprise Digital at CVS.
Develop authentic relationships with IT buyers by keeping them up to date on what’s going on in the market, beyond your own marketing content and company-sponsored events.
“We leverage vendors as a way to also understand trends in the industry. To get someone’s attention, invite them to a conference or webinar where they will get value.”
– Former VP of IT, Kellogg’s
4. Find ways outside of cold calling and emailing to get their attention.
Emails and calls can help build awareness, but rarely will that be the sole reason someone agrees to take a meeting.
Nurturing your prospects from the awareness stage to buying intent takes real work. Here are some of the basic steps our Emissaries recommend:
Get connected to local CTO/CIO social groups.
“I belong to a few social CTO groups, where we sometimes select vendors that we allow to join us during events. Those things do exist. Find those things,” says the former Director of Engineering at Refinery29.
Get mentioned in research papers and publications. Make sure and share those outside acknowledgements with prospects and buyers.
This one seems intuitive, but our Emissaries roundly agreed on the importance of having your company acknowledged by outside experts.
“It’s risky to go with the ‘shiny’ vendor that could not be in the marketplace two years from now. That’s where looking at long-term trends from market research publications and consultancies becomes a very useful resource for decision makers,” says the former VP of IT at Kellogg’s.
Buyers will go to research papers like Gartner and IDC to get an idea of innovative organizations that are already solving and optimizing long-term trends that IT executives need to be on top of.
Make sure the buyer is aware of any positive analyst coverage from the beginning to increase credibility.
When it comes to enterprise IT sales, the road to building a healthy long-term relationship with prospects and buyers can be very long. Former senior IT buyers from Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg’s, and Refinery29 share ways to building a a foundation for success:
- Do your homework before reaching out
- Pay attention to the organization’s culture and global complexities
- Share valuable, non-promotional content to establish expertise and trust
- Connect with them through non-traditional venues that they already gravitate towards