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How to sell software to decision-makers

Bryan Smith
Apr 27, 2020 12:30:00 PM

Larger customers operate completely different than selling to individuals. It can be confusing as to where to even begin with bigger entities like municipalities, corporations, hospitals, universities, and government agencies.

Sometimes multiple people are involved in making a chain of decisions, and the sales process can take a very long time to turn over, which can discourage the short-sighted.

Usually the longer buck is the bigger buck – and that’s exactly what you get when you start targeting the larger customers.

Developing an effective sales cycle with your sales reps that knows how to get key decision-makers to make the final decision to have you in their buying process is the best strategy for long-term prosperity with your business ventures. The world of b2b sales is where most serious companies exist.

The work before the sale

These customers get pitched countless products and offers every day. They have developed their own effective strategies for deflecting and discouraging bogus offers from unworthy suppliers.

Much of your work is going to be in validating your sales team as worthy of their sincere consideration.

It is not as simple as “I have what you need” – there are tons of ancillary considerations that go into making the significant decisions that could mean substantial earnings for you as a supplier to a large customer.

It is by far easier to build more success on top of success. Your first one sale will be about as hard as your next 99. Larger entities have a strong preference for long-established, proven vendors, and ultimately it’s the experience of servicing existing customers that will give your sales team the confidence they need to service other larger accounts.

Without some reputable clients under your belt it can be very hard to get more, but whether you’re on your first large target account, or on your thousandth, there are certain universal procedures you should have yourself prepared to go through.

How decision-makers think

Most people will tell you that managers and other key decision-makers follow a highly rational cost-benefit analysis for making decisions. That’s only partly true.

The reality is that people make decisions irrationally based off of their feelings, and then later justify their decisions with rationality.

Your sales team does need to have a thoroughly polished narrative of how the client has a significant problem, how your solution solves that problem, how the cost of solving the problem is low enough so that implementing it makes a provable benefit for your client. Of course that needs to happen. But that is a justification you are going to have to be able to repeat at any moment when your service is called into question. It does not get people to make a decision.

So what is it that makes decision-makers give you a final decision then?

The answer is whether or not they feel safe giving you that final decision.

Key decision-makers are only people, just like everyone else. Their brains are constantly evaluating the social risks of their own actions for themselves. The logical, rational narrative of their company’s cost-benefit calculation is how they justify their social position within their organization.

If they do not feel safe giving you the “ok”, if you are not validated in the back of their mind, then no matter what PowerPoint slides you show them, or what case studies you have, you will find the following behaviour from a decision-maker:

  • They will complain about your cost
  • They’re always too busy to talk to you
  • There’s some other hoop you have to jump through first
  • There’s always another competitor or other solution that does what you do
  • The problem that you solve is not significant enough
  • They say their hands are tied

Whether there’s any truth to that is entirely subjective – and it’s entirely subjective to whether they feel safe with you or not. Your software can fit in a rational value-explanation narrative. Everyone’s can. That’s not the problem.

The problem is that those decisions are made by people, and decisions are made by how people feel.

How do you validate yourself?

There are three P’s with validating:

  • Persistence
    People get comfortable with you the more times they see you. If you continually have pleasant interactions with someone, over time they will trust you enough to buy from you. Psychologically they have to justify to themselves why they’ve spent time with you – and they’re going to do that by trusting you.
  • Patience
    You cannot take up too much of their time. You have to give them intervals of ‘cool off’ time before scheduling a time to talk to them again. This sales cycle can take a very long time to affect purchasing decisions – but it works.
  • Practice
    The more you do something the better you get at it. The more times you’ve been through the sales process to a larger b2b client, the more natural and easy it will be for the prospective client to go through the buying process for your services.

Commitment is key

After a final decision has been made to buy your product, you enter an account management phase that is your greatest opportunity. For larger clients, there is an 80/20 rule when it comes to your first sale to them.

Usually, about 20 percent of the total business you will ever get from that client comes from that customer.

If you service that client well after the point of the initial sale, you can usually develop that account to give you much, much more business over time now that you’re in the door.

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