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The Buying Cycle – Key People

- What Should You Be Doing?

Developing & Implementing Your Sales Process & Selling Strategies

Developing & Implementing Your Sales Process & Selling Strategies

Part 5. The Buying Cycle – Key People - What Should You Be Doing?

In my last blog I identified that at stage one of the buying cycle the seller should be - Gaining access (approach), building your network, building rapport, identifying opportunities. To do this it is essential you identify, spend time with and work with Key People in the account – understanding the business and its issues, starting to set criteria and building the value of a solution. At later stages in the Buying Cycle you may be too late and at a distinct disadvantage – You may be too late to influence criteria and the competition may already have control of the process and the account.

There are four criteria for identifying Key People: their position in the company; role in the buying centre; power and influence; and sponsors and points of focus.

Identifying the position in the company should be relatively easy – you can ask for an organisational chart, or start to build one from sources of information – your contacts, internal magazines and other readily available company information.

Once you have a basic org. chart you can begin to work on the Buying Centre – how do people impact the buying decision?

In the buying centre there are a number of roles that include the decision team and those that influence the buying process and decision in different ways. There are no clear rules about the make-up of a decision team – people will take-up different roles and one person may have more than one role. Final approval of decisions on High value / impact decisions will be made by very senior people - They will be influenced by other people in the buying centre and from outside sources and will have their own prejudices and preferences – make sure you know what they are!

The Buying Centre – Roles:

  • The Gatekeeper – controls access to other people and the availability of information.
  • The User – They may have input to the buying decision and solution feature / functions and performance selection criteria.
  • The Expert / Influencer – does the technical evaluation of your solution against selection criteria and alternative solutions.
  • The Decider / Decision Maker - this could be a single person or a decision team. They will have overall responsibility and accountability and will take advice from other members of the Buying Centre before making a decision.
  • The Buyer – negotiates contract terms and conditions and price and will be interested in ROI and cost of ownership. May also fulfil other roles.
  • The Approver – A high ranking person in the company who will authorise, veto or review a recommendation, i.e. can say yes or no. A contract may involve multiple sign-offs depending upon value and strategic implications.

To establish Power & Influence you need to ask about and know who is involved in:

  • Business Goals – the business plan development, how the company produces value, the impact of the project on the business plan? Etc.
  • People – who is involved in the decision of the project? What is their role and who selected them? What experience have they of similar projects? Etc.
  • Values – What are the company’s values when dealing with customers, suppliers, staff? What is the company culture? How do values and culture impact the project? Etc.
  • Relationships – who selected the decision team and what are the inter-relationships of key players. Etc.

Points of Focus & Sponsors

There are three points of focus in an account

  • People who are receptive – identify and cultivate people who are receptive.
  • People with problems / issues / opportunities – identify and seek to understand and value.
  • People at the focus of power - meet with them. Don’t waste their time! Find out about their goals and decision criteria.

Sponsors

You must use your sponsors to help you move around the account and introduce you to key people – moving from one point of focus to another.

Finding, meeting with and building relationships with Key People are an essential part of your sales strategy. Meet with Key people to build your understanding of the business, the project and the criteria. It is something that should be constantly be re-evaluated throughout the selling process.

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