One of the things I see frequently with sellers is a hesitation to go straight to the top, whether it’s in prospecting, requirements-gathering or closing. Perhaps it stems from intimidation, but many salespeople seem content to deal with midlevel staff. In some phases of the sales process you may get by, but when it comes to presenting a proposal, you have to go to where the money is controlled if you want a higher probability of closing the sale.
It can be way more comfortable to talk to an IT manager, office manager or business manager than the person who actually runs the business, but you’re only hurting yourself by doing so. Staff members have very little—if anything—to do with the actual decision-making process. At best they are recommenders or influencers. At worst, they are simply messengers, suggesting that your proposal is “something we might want to consider sometime this year.” IT managers, office managers and other staff are unlikely to be able to present your proposal to the business owner with as much justification and conviction as you could if given the chance. In essence, your proposals are bound to get lost in translation.
Going Straight to the Source
In a tight economy, as well as in privately held organizations and small and midsize companies, control of the money will always shift upward in an organization. The only way to effectively sell your proposal is to talk to the person in charge, and that's almost never going to be the IT manager or office manager. You can talk to people in these roles to help you gather requirements, but you should never rely on them to deliver your proposal.
The conversation you'll have with a business owner or executive when presenting your proposal vs. that with an office manager or other staff person will be dramatically different from one another. Someone who is in charge of running a company will always take a macro approach to decision-making, determining what the solutions you're recommending will mean strategically and financially to their business. (Remember the Value Curve?) An IT manager, on the other hand, will typically view things from a micro perspective, focusing on how your recommended solution will improve the day-to-day operation.
Positioning your proposal in an effective manner is critical to closing the sale. When you're presenting to a business owner or executive, stress how it will positively affect their business' strategic direction and operations, as well its overall infrastructure. A business owner doesn’t want to hear as much about how your solution will affect the company’s day-to-day routine, but instead what improving the day-to-day routine will do for the business as a whole, and mostly from a financial, business case perspective. Understanding how to sell your proposal from the owner/executive point of view is an essential part of closing a sale, especially when the money is closely held, high within the organization.
You might find yourself tempted to work with the more comfortable staff level, but the fact is, you'll only be lessening your chances of closing the sale. If you want to increase your closing ratio, you have to start going straight to where the money is—the top.
Kendra Lee is a top IT Seller, Prospect Attraction Expert, author of the newly released book, “The Sales Magnet,” and the award winning book, “Selling Against the Goal,” and president of KLA Group. Specializing in the IT industry, KLA Group works with companies to break in and exceed revenue objectives in the Small and Midmarket Business (SMB) segment.