A friend of ours in advertising sales, a man we’ll call Gary, had to make this difficult choice last year. He was the account director for a client that brought in £ 2,000,000 a year, a firm that accounted for about half of Gary’s own income. For a holiday season promotion, Gary suggested an advertising package that one of the firm’s middle managers found offensive. Gary had excellent relations with that manager’s superior, and the manager’s approval wasn’t essential to closing of the deal. But Gary knew that if he went around the blocker to his boss, the economic buying influence, the end game would jeopardize future sales.
So he withdrew the proposal. It cost him £3,000 in commission but, as he told us some months, later he never regretted the decision, I had learned in your programmes he explained never to leave a buyer feeling beaten. I just couldn’t afford to gamble half my income on that campaign. And you know something? That guy really appreciated my respecting his feelings. He’s become my best ally in that account. I’m doing a promotion for them this year that will let me double the £3,000 that I lost.
The lesson is, if you already have a good relationship with the buying organization and if your current sales objective doesn’t warrant alienating one of your buying influences, you may want to let the immediate order go in favour of protecting the business that you already have – and of keeping open the possibility of larger future sales. Behind such a decision would be a basic goal of Strategic Selling: ensuring not just immediate but long term success.
Of course this is still at best only a temporary solution – like waiting at a roadblock until the road ahead is fixed. You can’t manage an account over time by going along with resistant buyers’ blocks. Therefore, your first plan should always be to show all your buying influences how they can win.
An eager but green sales representative decided to make a cold call – without even the courtesy of a prior phone call – on a director in an account she had recently acquired. She hadn’t sold anything to the account yet, but she’d heard that the director’s approval was essential to virtually all sales. So, to save time she went straight to the top, determined to feel out of the terrain. She was extremely nervous about meeting the high level executive but she decided to adopt a positive mental attitude and just do her best in the lion’s den.
The director, who was part of a company that valued ready access to its executives, was at his desk when the young woman arrived.
Hello she said. I’m Georgina Grant. From the Webster Group. I happened to be in the neighbourhood and thought I’d see how things were going. As long as I’m here, I’d be happy to take any orders you might have.
The director looked up from his papers, gave Georgina a quick, astonished once over and replied dryly, Good, I have two orders for you. Get out and stay out.
You’ll recognize this as almost a textbook case of amateur selling. Not only did Georgina not have an appointment, she didn’t even call before dropping in. And, when she did drop in, she had no particular reason to be there: no sales proposal to follow up, no referral, and no questions that needed answering. No wonder she was nervous. She had good reason to be, and the director’s orders were just what she deserved.
There were two related reasons that Georgina felt uncomfortable about meeting the director. They are the same reasons that you might feel uncomfortable in the presence of your economic buying influences.
You might feel intimidated by someone who appears too busy or too successful to care about what you have to say.
You might feel uncertain about what this person wants or needs to hear uncertain, in other words about what you’re doing there.
There’s only one sure way we’ve found to overcome feelings of intimidation when you confront a high level executive. That’s to remember that, although the economic buyer for your sale might have a three inch carpet and a four car garage, he or she is still a human being and it’s to that human being that you’re selling.