We’re big advocates of using research, especially primary customer research, to drive marketing and sales efforts. It’s much more difficult to miss the target when the target is telling you how to hit it, how far away it is, and where your arrow is in relation to itself.
Sales benefits as much from research as Marketing does, but in different ways, and by using different pieces of data. Primarily, Sales will be ale to use data to determine who is, and how well-qualified is, the audience of one (company) in front of them. With a list of several hundred prospects in their satchel, Sales people have to determine if this company is even realistically a prospect at this time, who inside that company they should approach, who the actual decision-maker is, and how best to reach out to them to get the warmest reception.
New research has shown that trying to pinpoint a single individual decision-maker may be a futile and even damaging effort. Corporations are so integrated, so closely cooperative, in an effort to move forward more effectively, to make purchasing of goods and services more streamlined, and maximize cost-effective use of resources, that an average of 3.4 departments get “in on the purchasing decision”.
That number differs depending on the industry, with manufacturing scoring a surprising 4.6 departments needed to make a purchasing decision, and some smaller non-profits scoring a 2.1 or less. Reasons for this are less clear, but the prevailing theory is that the classic manufacturing firm has fewer distributed costs, centralized purchasing for raw materials, and the purchase affects more departments’ budgets and ability to function as a result. Fewer “silos” leads to more people involved in making decisions.
Which departments are involved makes the picture for Sales even murkier, with variables including cost of the purchase made, length of the sales process, number of touchpoints that selling company has with the target firm, and the nature or structure of the product or service being bought. Things like consulting services, legal assistance, accounting services, tend to have more folks weigh in on the decision, based on the number of departments such an engagement will touch within the company. Things like maintenance and physical plant services typically fall so squarely within Operations, with a touch on accounting and finance, that usually there is only one true decision-maker. The decision to spend the money has more involvement, but the actual vendor is pretty straightforward and stays “local” most of the time.
The bottom line is that sales people need to do a certain amount of probing and due diligence when qualifying prospects to make sure they are not only aware of all the various inputs in the buying decision, but that key stakeholder are not “left out” of the communication chain, to avoid making them feel ignored or worse, disenfranchised. That kind of innocent mistake can torpedo even the most potent sales effort, and it may be happening and you don’t even know it.
The time spent doing this type of research is almost always time well invested, if for no other reason than to allow the sales person to speak with confidence about the target company. Additionally, it avoids the type of error described above, and allows you to streamline the process and avoid real time-wasters, like selling for months to the wrong person(s).
This type of information should be prominently noted in your CRM entries as well for each prospect, not only as a reminder to you, but as a signal to others viewing the reports, who may be able to suggest a new approach, or use a contact in a department you have yet to approach. Share the wealth.
Do your homework, include and approach the “right” people, and be aware that it will likely take a unanimous decision among up to four full departments to close the sale. Knowledge is power in this instance – go forth and be powerful!