Teaching Our Customers To Sell


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I recently wrote about Teaching Our Customers To Buy.  In the article I mentioned the importance of customers selling within their own organizations.  To many, that’s an unnatural, detestable act.  After all, if they wanted to sell, they’d be sales people, wouldn’t they?

“Selling,” internally, is critical to people getting things done and moving their initiatives, strategies, programs forward.  Within organizations, there’s always selling going between people and groups, but people don’t tend to think of it that way.

Too often, also, people are relatively naïve about how to get what they want within their organizations.  They think, “I put together a good argument…..  I put together a good business case……   My boss is my buddy, she and I have a great relationship, she’ll approve…..  They have to do this, I really need it….”  (Starting to sound a lot like what goes through the minds of sales people.)

But internally, there is always competition.  Other points of view, other approaches to solving the same thing.  The inevitable political jockeying.  Other ideas or projects that are addressing completely different issues—They want a new cafeteria and I’m trying to get funding for a new marketing automation system.

In every organization, there are always competing ideas for resources, funds, and management/executive attention.  Management  can’t and won’t do everything.  Part of the job of management is to drive the projects, programs and initiatives that have the most impact on the execution of the organization’s strategies and priorities.

And then there is always the alternative of doing nothing.

Getting things done within organizations requires strong sales skills–but most people don’t think of it that way.  Consequently, people don’t use many of the tools, strategies, processes that come natural to high performing sales people.  As a result, they struggle in moving things forward and getting approval.

It’s not limited to lower or mid level people, I recently met an executive running a multi-billion part of a larger corporation.  He was trying to drive some very big changes, but struggling to get alignment and support with his own management team (selling downward).  Additionally, he wasn’t getting the approvals/investment from the CEO and Board.  Too often, execs in non sales roles (even some in sales roles) don’t think of “selling” as a method of getting things done.

We can help our customers move their buying initiatives forward, for our mutual success, buy helping them both recognize they have to sell internally, and to help give them the skills to “sell.”

Some of the simplest things we do every day in selling are the things our customers need to do to buy and to sell internally:

Qualifying:  We look at, “is the customer committed to do something.”  Internally, customers need to do the same thing.  “Is our management committed to this change?  Are they prepared to invest the time and resources necessary to support the change?  Do they have a high sense of urgency for this initiative, or are there higher priorities?”  Our customers need to qualify both their management and organizations before they even start an initiative.

Often, and approach to getting senior management and the organization qualified is through providing Insight.  They need to bring new ideas to their management and organizations, “There are opportunities we are missing, we can improve the way we do things, we can better serve our customers, we can outperform our competition…..”  Our ability to engage customers in Insight based conversations helps them sell internally.

Discovery:  This is the most important part of selling–it’s also the most important part of buying.  We work with customers to understand their needs, requirements, priorities.  We want to understand who’s involved in the decision, alternatives they may be considering.  Our customers go through similar things in their buying process.  They have to align their buying team around solving a particular problem.  There may be other groups (competitors) looking at different solutions, or other groups (competitors) who will be competing for the same funding in entirely different areas.  They need to understand what they need to do to get approval–who are the decision makers, what are their hot buttons,,,,,

Proposing:  They need to create a plan and a proposal.  It has to address the issues executive management cares about, it has to provide a business justification and value proposition that is meaningful and relevant to executive management.  They have to be prepared to handle objections, disagreement, concerns.

Closing:  Both of us have to get the order.  Lots of times it’s a lot of detailed stuff–getting scheduled to present and get approvals/signatures from management, the review with the CAPEX committee, and so forth.

Call Planning:  Just as we plan our meetings/calls to be purposeful and accomplish our goals, our customers need to plan their meetings with the team, execs, and others in the organization.  They have to set agendas, objectives, understand/anticipate potential objections, challenges.  Make sure the right people are attending, close on next steps and actions.

I’ll stop here, the point is that a lot of the things that come naturally to us as sales people are not natural ways for our customers to think.  They aren’t things they do to get what they want, to get approval to go forward, to have the ability to spend money and invest resources.

If our customers want to get what they want, they have to sell internally.  We can create huge value in helping them recognize the need to sell and how they might be most effective in selling.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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