We know all about the importance of team selling, don’t we? It's that powerful strategy in which multiple team members from different functional areas of a selling organization work collaboratively to win deals. Especially in the enterprise world, team selling is widely implemented. But what about the other side of the big deals? What about the collaboration that happens within the accounts we’re targeting? What about team buying?
I refer to major accounts because that’s where the real complexity lives on this issue. In selling to small and medium-sized businesses, you typically have the luxury of dealing directly with the actual decision-maker, often the owner or president of the firm. As challenging as that interaction may be, it’s limited in its scope. In enterprise accounts, though, you deal with buyer networks that include individuals from across the organization, each of whom brings a unique perspective. Accounting, purchasing, legal and other teams are represented. And while sales teams can and do work hard to understand these different buyers, their focus is typically on the functions each person performs.
Can you see the challenge there? There’s much more than simply understanding organizational functions that goes into creating effective communications strategies with these key players. They are people, and they must be approached as individuals.
For example, the buyer network’s accounting manager represents a department with a charter that is probably familiar to us all. So we naturally make assumptions about the accounting department’s functional frame of reference. We know all about accounting, don’t we? But what about the accounting manager as a person? What about his or her behaviors, traits and tendencies? Can we really assume that all accounting managers think and act in the same ways? Recalling the classic “people buy from people” credo, how can we increase the chances of successful communication with each of these buyers as the real people they are?
We would begin by identifying their individual behavioral profiles. In Sandler Enterprise Selling, we work with DISC, the popular behavior assessment process, to make that understanding happen. We would consider all the critical questions regarding the many personalities in the enterprise account buyer networks. From a DISC viewpoint, is the attorney a “D” – dominant, and the finance manager a “C” – compliant? What about the marketing manager – is she an “I” – an influencer? And the program manager, is he an “S” – a supportive Steady Relator? How do the buyers’ styles map to the variety of personalities on your selling team?
Without a framework, you’re flying blind. But with a practical guide for identifying and adapting to the maze of styles, you have the basis for an effective action plan to help you overcome these daunting challenges. DISC provides that!
In major account deals, the stakes are high for both sides. With our sales bias, we typically think in terms of the costs of enterprise pursuits regarding investments made by selling organizations. The money, people, time, energy and more. But what about the costs for the buying organizations? The same types of expenses are involved, but with a multiplier. Why? The buying organizations are already in pain – the pain that’s created the need for the major purchase in the first place. There’s something that needs to be fixed or improved. If a bad decision is made, that organizational pain will increase. Heads may roll. There is lots of pressure, lots of stress, and lots of risk with all this collective drama exacerbating the emotions. It’s critical, then, for selling teams to come prepared not only with a strategy, but with a solid behavioral strategy.
In selling to major accounts, comprehensive preparation is a major survival skill. And a key component of good preparation is following a sound Go/No-Go process to maximize the likelihood that the deals pursued are the right deals. After all, the only thing worse than pursuing a bad deal is winning one! But with the best Go/No-Go decision confirmed, the behavioral framework becomes a key competitive advantage.
In Sandler Enterprise Selling, we use the Team Buying Tool, which provides a four-step guide to navigate behavioral buyer networks, to consolidate this advantage.
First, buying team members are identified not only by title but by their impact on the deal – High, Medium or Low. Of course, a buyer’s impact on a specific decision is different than their organizational authority.
The DISC styles are then determined through communication among the selling team members, based on their individual experiences with the buyers. This is, or should be, Team Selling 101. The customized motivators and demotivators for each buyer are identified, rounding out the profiles.
Next, the behavioral profiles of the selling team members are listed – their DISC styles and traits. With the behavioral work done to this point regarding both teams, we’re ready to craft the selling strategies for effectively communicating with the individual buyers: what to do, and even more importantly, what not to do.
The last step is identifying the concrete action items that will move the process forward, including the due dates and the specific selling team members responsible. Carefully planning these touchpoints by aligning complementary behavioral styles lays the groundwork for productive interactions. The rule here is a simple one: ducks with ducks!
The behavioral complexities of major account buying networks can create vexing challenges for selling teams. These challenges, though, can be overcome. By understanding the different styles of the buying and selling team members, you can make educated decisions and adapt your behaviors to increase the likelihood of successful interactions. Put in the time and you’ll earn the right to make the behavioral alignments of team buying with team selling a real competitive advantage. You’ll be more effective in terms of communication … and you’ll win more deals!