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Death by Falling in Love

Posted by Philip Kreindler on 20 Jul 2015, 09:00:00

Death_by_falling_in_loveDeath by falling in love! It may sound more like opera than complex B2B selling but this is what I call the phenomena of a Sales Person giving all their attention to one person at the expense of the rest of the Buying Centre - often at the expense of a successful sale.

A slice of real life

You may know about gluten free products, you have probably seen them in the supermarket, often in a special aisle. They are bread and other products like pasta and cakes made without the protein gluten.

About 1% of the population suffers from Celiac Disease and cannot eat gluten. Maybe 6% of people have a lesser allergy to gluten and millions more are cutting gluten out of their diets, following celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Miley Cirus. Whatever the reasons, it is increasingly big business.

Our client has developed a new range of gluten free products and launched them into the European retail market. Of course, most supermarkets already stock some gluten free products, but in a growing market there is always room to offer greater choice to customers.

The Category Manager of a large retail chain in Austria certainly thought so and offered our client a trial in 100 stores across the country. But the trial failed. Why?

The Buying Centre

The Sales guy from our client and the supermarket Category Manager hit it off from the start. The Category Manager really saw the potential for a new player in the gluten free market and of course the Sales guy jumped at the chance of a trial as soon as it was offered. But he should have slowed down. He was not in control of the Sales Process and he overlooked the needs of the rest of the buying centre.

The trial failed because the Store Managers didn’t see the need to make space for an alternative gluten free product on the shelves and the distribution team just saw more work. If the Sales guy had taken a bit more time, involved and got buy- in from the whole Buying Centre – especially distribution and the Store Managers – the trial would probably have succeeded and there would be an ongoing contract with an important customer.

A taste of success

I was speaking to a prospect recently, the Commercial Excellence Manager for a company who manufactures ingredients for the food industry. He was very keen to implement a Sales Improvement program and asked me to come and make a presentation to his Senior Management Team.

But instead of diving straight in to a presentation I put in some work, including challenging some of his original assumptions, following up all our conversations to confirm I had understood what he wanted and working with him on some internal presentations until he agreed to arrange interviews for me with the whole Buying Centre before making my presentation. That way I could ensure it was tailored to their real needs.

By this time the Commercial Excellence Manager was functioning as a Coach. Here is an extract from the email we worked on together that ensured I got to speak to the whole Buying Centre.

“I am very conscious that up until now only Phil and I have discussed the company’s requirements and I would like to incorporate the different Business Unit expectations in the solution design. I have agreed with Phil that he can contact you individually to discuss and build on the requirements I have communicated to him. To prepare yourself for this conversation, I have attached some background information about Infoteam and the questions Phil would like to discuss.”

What was the secret ingredient?

Trust. And it’s no secret. If you build a high level of trust with your contact they will give you access directly, or through them, to the Buying Centre.

Make sure you understand the prospects business. Challenge customers when they are asking for the wrong thing. Make sure you understand all the needs before you start offering solutions. All those basic things that should be part of every Sales Process and help build trust.

But I think the real problem lies with Sales People who simply don’t see the risk of focusing on one person. The moment they see an opportunity to progress a Sale they jump at it when they should really step back, slow down and take control. It’s understandable to try and close a deal as soon as possible but these hasty decisions lead to frustration and disappointment later on.

Ask yourself

  • Have you ever jumped at an opportunity only to find it goes wrong later?

  • Are you confident that you are always in control of the process?

  • Do you sometimes spend too much energy on one person at the expensive of covering the Buying Centre?

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