by Stephen Kurtz, CEO of MuscleSound
In B2B sales, figuring out who makes the final call is a critical first step in the sales process. You’ll save time and money by starting with the decision maker and adjusting your sales process accordingly.
I learned this lesson the hard way. My company sells equipment to fitness centers, and for a time, we focused on the end user — trainers, nutritionists, or fitness coaches.
These people need to understand what we offer because they’ll be interacting with our product and can advocate for us in the buying process. But they don’t write the checks. Someone in the office does that. And that someone can have different titles in different companies.
Now, before flying across the country, we always make sure we know who has the checkbook. Our goal is to get him or her and the end user in the same room at the same time to make our pitch.
You can identify the people you actually need to impress by taking these six steps:
1. Start at the top.
Although this approach takes some ingenuity, you’ll get to the decision maker much faster than if you start at the bottom. However, don’t only go to the higher-ups and push your product down to the end user — that will cause friction.
2. Don’t forget about end users.
Don’t be afraid to ask end users who makes the buying decisions in their organizations. Make sure to approach more than one person, though, as this constituency isn’t always comfortable empowering others.
For example, they might assure you they have authority to seal the deal or say they’re “involved in decision-making.” After all, who wants to appear unimportant? And sometimes it’s true. The executive may lean on the end user’s opinion of your product.
You shouldn’t ignore anyone in a prospective company — just don’t count on getting the whole story from the first person you approach. You gain experience with every organization you target, so you’ll get better at this over time.
3. Engage all levels in discussions.
To avoid sales limbo, approach all levels of the organization so everyone feels included. For example, if you’re doing a demonstration, ensure end users and financial decision makers are in the room. Everyone should understand how important your product is from a functional and financial perspective. That’s the ideal scenario.
4. Do your research.
What can you learn about your prospects from articles or LinkedIn? You can easily find the top executives of public companies. Their websites can also be revealing. What intelligence can you pick up at conferences or within your network?
5. Learn the quirks.
In our business, many sports organizations don’t act as normal businesses or conduct cost-benefit analyses. For most of our prospects, sports are more of a passion than a business proposition, so preparing a numbers-driven report isn’t always a compelling way to win them over. Make sure to account for any nuances in your industry.
6. Champion your champions.
Discover who likes your product and will promote it internally. Take good care of these relationships so these people will communicate your message up the ladder.
To put these ideas in perspective, investigate your own company. Who holds the purse strings? Who do vendors tend to approach? Seeing how it works on your turf can give you insight into your buyers.
You pour hours into researching for and preparing your sales pitch. Don’t let all that work go to waste with a pitch that falls on deaf ears. Ask the right questions, and engage executives and end users in thoughtful discussions. When they can see how valuable your product or service is, the selling will virtually take care of itself.
Stephen Kurtz currently serves as CEO of MuscleSound, a company that offers noninvasive, real-time ultrasound technology to help athletes make data-driven nutritional, performance, and injury prevention and management decisions based on their glycogen content levels.