July 17, 2009

Are You a Peer in the Boardroom, or a Vendor in the Hallway?

If a book promised to show you how to ‘become a peer in the boardroom… instead of a vendor waiting in the hallway!’ would you read it? Well, that is exactly what ‘VALUE FORWARD SELLING’, by Paul R. Di Modica does.

Because the focus of this book is ‘how to sell to management’ the first step is quite an obvious one – seek out and sell higher up the organisation.
If you don’t then you are inevitably lengthening the sales cycle, as well as limiting your success in other ways.

Selling to senior management:
Selling to senior management requires breaking free of some habits and moving out of your comfort zone, in fact it requires a new approach to sales, including a different message and even a different self concept.

At the lower levels prospects may be concerned with features and the underlying technology, but not at the top. Senior management wants more – they want Value. That means you need to stop selling products, or services and focus instead on the benefits they promise for customers. This is where the title of Di Modica's book comes into play – the salesperson’s job is to bring forward, or tangibilise the value of his, or her solutions. The challenge then is to communicate your business value up front, even before you start selling per say.
Bring Forward the Value:

How to bring forward the value? Well, the key point is that value is communicated by identifying buyer problems, or challenges, and communicating how you have helped others to address them. That is an important point about communicating your value – it is not what you say it is, but what others can attest to.

Di Modica suggests that, as salespeople, we need to see ourselves as ‘pain management specialists’. To reinforce the notion of value you have to be seen as a specialist, as opposed to a generalist - both in terms of your solution area, as well as vertical sector.

To achieve this the salesperson must become an expert in his, or industry industry and that of the customer. Read about and study it – so that you think and speak like your prospects. Then package up your knowledge – even put a phrase on it, creating a new industry concept, or term.

When you complete the above you will be more comfortable talking to senior management in prospect organisations. Importantly, they will be more comfortable talking to you. They will see you as a business peer and not a salesperson.

How to Gain Access?

How to get in the door to senior management in the first place? Well Di Modica uses the term engagement marketing, to describe a forward looking approach that surrounds cold calling with warmth creating activities such as; direct mail, executive briefings, white papers, networking, etc.

This approach recognises that sales cycles and buying cycles don’t necessarily correspond. That means that the sales organisation has to engage with the prospect even before the need is clear, or a buying process has begun. It must maintain that contact through integrated sales and marketing that touches off the prospect right throughout the sales cycle.

Consistent with bringing forward value - stop sending brochures and start sending a whitepaper, an interesting article, or book instead. Ensure that you have an interesting perspective, or proposition of real value to communicate before you pick up the telephone, or meet with a prospect.

Selling to senior management is, as Di Modica points out a premeditated contact sport. He places great emphasis on preparation for meetings, including providing the prospect with a valid reason to meet, outlining key discussion points in advance, etc. Incidentally, both of these must be tailored to each specific customer, or prospect.

Praise for this Book:

This is not a book by an academic, but that written by a salesperson – that is clear from the practical nature of the approach. It won’t tell you anything new, but it will remind you of a great deal that you may have forgotten. Some of the other things of value you will pull from the book are as follows:

Print of the web pages of your key competitors and find out how you are different.
Don’t overlook personal motivations – Psychological ROI is every bit as important as financial ROI.
Should you respond to RFPs from organisations that you have had no previous contact with?
Are your proposals more about your company that your prospect?
Just how much preparation is required for sales pitches, or presentations?
How to build credibility in tandem with handling objections?
The role of executive story telling in demonstrating credibility.

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