How many times have you heard that achieving success isn’t about what you know but who you know? Think how much easier it is to penetrate a company when you can simply drop a name.
But too many salespeople overlook the value of influencers after they’ve made the initial contact and begun pursuing an account, says author and consultant Steven Heiman. One such influencer is what he calls a “Coach,” someone within the organization you’ve identified and cultivated who can be your primary source of information and guidance as you navigate the prospects’s business.
For example, this kind of “coach” can help you:
- Find the real key players who’ll enable you to achieve your sales objective.
- Verify the accuracy of information you gather.
- Help you tie information together and make connections your rivals can’t make, and
- Understand how each decision maker perceives your areas of strength and weakness.
The 3 key coaching criteria
An effective Coach can be found anywhere – in your organization, in the buying organization, or somewhere outside both (e.g., a consultant). A good Coach meets three key criteria:
Criterion #1: Does the Coach believe in you? The Coach must trust your professionalism and selling capacity. Generally, when you have credibility with a Coach, it’s because this person has “won” with you professionally in the past. So the first thing to ask when you’re considering “Coach” candidates is, “Do I have a track record of performance with this person?”
Criterion #2: Is the Coach credible? A good Coach has credibility with decision makers at the buying company. They must trust the Coach enough to share inside information with him or her. This trust can’t be based on imagined prestige (e.g., so-and-so is a “high-level” executive who “no doubt” commands respect). It has to be someone with whom decision makers have won in the past. So Question #2 is, “Do the decision makers for my sales objective trust this person?”
Criterion #3: Does the Coach want you to succeed? For whatever reason, this person must believe that when your proposal is adopted he or she will benefit. So the third question is, “Does this individual see a personal win in my making this sale?”
Why you need all three
Experience has shown that your Coach must fulfill all three of these criteria. Suppose your were considering Toni’s suitability as a Coach in the following situations:
Situation 1: Everybody at Manetti trusts Toni, and she could benefit from your doing a deal with them, but she doesn’t know you from a hole in the wall. That would fit Criteria 2 and 3, but not 1.
Situation 2. Toni’s worked with you well in the past, she loves your proposal, but nobody at Manetti knows her from a hole in the wall. Okay on 1 and 3, but zero on 2.
Situation 3: Toni trusts you and they trust her, but she’s so preoccupied with operations glitches in another department that she sees talking to you as a giant distraction. Okay for Criteria 1 and 2, but nothing on 3.
In each of these cases it would be reckless to go along with the expression, “Two out of three ain’t bad.” Two out of three here could be terrible. In Situation 1, Toni can’t advocate persuasively for you. In Situation 2, her support could be a negative. In Situation 3, you may waste your time cultivating someone too busy to give you useful information.
Avoiding false coaches
Some people look like Coaches but aren’t. Watch out for these two types:
1. The “Friend.” The biggest mistake salespeople make is targeting a Coach who likes them but who is indifferent to their sales objective. “He likes me” is not the same as “He likes the product or service I’m attempting to sell.” Know the difference.
2. The “Random Information Giver.” You need information that’s “unique” (that you can’t get elsewhere) and “useful” (that will help improve your position with decision makers). Watch out for people who fancy themselves as “helpers” and are eager to talk, but deliver little of value.
Adapted from Heiman’s book “The New Conceptual Selling.” To learn more visit www.millerheiman.com
Subscribe to the Sales Blog
Get the latest research on workplace learning with weekly posts delivered to your inbox