Customer teams are protective of their personnel. You may be interfacing with one buyer. They aren’t an entire buying team.
The composition of customer teams is one of your client’s most closely guarded secrets, isn’t it?
No matter how much empathy you have with that one decision maker, you know there are other decision makers in the background. These are the folks who seem to materialize out of thin air once the contract is being negotiated. They put the kabosh on things and derail the sale.
Gee. If you only knew they were there in the first place, things might have gone differently.
This scenario is played out countless times during each business development and sales cycle. I’ve been there. You’ve been there.
You essentially are operating in the dark. You are relying on your one contact to act as your champion to the “other” members of the customer team.
Getting to know your customer teams is the top priority of an account entry strategy. Otherwise you will continue to be blindsided during presentations and demos when the entire customer team shows up.
You do not want your first “meeting” with the entire customer team to be when you are demo-ing or negotiating.
Here’s my advice on how to get to know your customer teams.
Conduct business intelligence research. Determine who, logically, might be a member of that customer team. Keep in mind that the team composition can, and often will, fluctuate depending on the expertise required to make that decision.
Determine the roles key to the buying decision. Utilize buyer personas to assist you in mapping out what you anticipate. Does your map make sense to you, based on what you are experiencing with the customer team?
Ask your manager and sales team members for input. Go beyond contact information in your CRM. Do your own sales team members have a “history” of dealing with this same, single customer team member? You may find out that this individual has no klout with the customer team at all; instead they are a time-waster.
Address your question to your customer contact. Armed with the insights you’ve gleaned from your research and discussions with your sales team, ask them to clarify who will be involved in this current project. You may find that they are forthcoming with at least a more few names than you know about presently.
If your customer contact continues to keep you at arm’s length, ask yourself the reasons why. Perhaps you have not created a trusted relationship with them.
Then ask your customer why. Perhaps the customer team is not as clear on their reasons for making a decision as they thought they were.
Get to know your customer teams as best you can. Use this strategy for opportunity identification or, alternatively, cleaning out your pipeline. Either way, your sales strategy becomes more efficient and less frustrating.
Babette N. Ten Haken is a management strategist and team-building leadership coach. She helps teams, startups and businesses who wrestle with unpredictable revenue streams. Her Workshops and Playbooks create more productive and profitable teams in healthier organizations. Her Playbook on leadership and business strategies, including tools, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon.com.