Sales process: Selling to large organizations in complex sales cycles | Part 1

What do Thor the superhero and successful selling have in common?
In a successful sales process, three types of currency are in play:

  1. Price
  2. Credibility
  3. Political

While all three types matter, the most critical currency is “political.” And taking your prospective buyer from fearful to hero is the key to sales success.

Price as currency in the sales process

In the sales process, certainly your price needs to align with the value you provide. If it does not, your sales team will struggle. Remember, unless your product is highly commoditized, the price in and of itself means little until it is aligned against the value you deliver.

Credibility as currency in the sales process

Credibility is also key. Today’s buyers have vast information available at their fingertips and expect sales teams to be experts in their fields. Therefore, sales teams must do their homework to establish their credibility.

Political currency in the sales process

Yet the most important currency in the sales process is political. When selling or marketing to a prospective buyer, we tend to assume they will use logic to robustly and quantitatively compare the features and benefits of each product choice—and then unemotionally choose what is best for their firm.
However, often this is not the case.
To create the best kind of political currency, you have to take the prospective buyer through an emotional journey from fearful to hero.

Creating political currency

Moving the buyer through the sales process away from fear…

Many buyers evaluate a potential product or service based on how it may negatively impact their career/promotion/bonus if something goes wrong.
How do you help buyers overcome this fear?

  1. Hone your messaging: While highlighting product benefits, ensure your messaging uses language and an approach that instills confidence and helps mitigate buyer risk. (E.g., include statistics about the average tenure of current customers to show that you have proven yourself to be a safe choice for others.)
  2. Discuss a post-sale program: Some prospective buyers fear that once they sign the contract the salesperson will disappear and they’ll be on their own if something goes wrong. One way to combat this is to introduce a program where you discuss a post-sales partnership approach to achieving success.

…to being a hero

Now we come to Thor. Why Thor? Once past fear, you need to show how purchasing your product will make your buyer look like a hero in the organization and benefit their career. As the Harvard Business Review put it:

“Ultimately, the decision to publicly advocate for change is driven much more by the personal value provided to the mobilizer (prospective buyer) than by the business value provided to that individual’s organization. In studying what inspires mobilizers, we found that factors such as whether a solution could advance a person’s career or help him be seen as a better leader were five times as potent as the offering’s “business value”—things like superior product features, likely impact on business outcomes, or return on investment.”

Making the Consensus Sale, Harvard Business Review, 2015.

How do you persuade your prospective buyer they’ll look like a hero?

  1. Outline past successes: Discuss how the positive impact of your product was not only felt in a previous buyer’s department, but in related departments as well.
  2. Create a mutual success dependency: Create an emotional connection where you are both invested in looking like a hero. For example, discuss how part of your bonus is tied to the Net Promotor Score (NPS) from the prospective client in order to convey how your success is tied to their success.

Keep your sales team aligned around this process

To keep your sales team focused on this process, ask them regularly:

  1. What’s the best technique you used this week to eliminate the fear?
  2. How many heroes did we make this week?

See also:

by Jeff Bilyea