If you are in sales, especially B2B sales, you might have had (or will soon have) the difficult task of selling to committees or boards. If so, there is one tool that will help you increase your close rate and shorten your sales cycle.
The Challenges With Selling To Committees
B2B salespeople across the globe face three challenges that need to be addressed and overcome if they want to be consistently successful in sales in today’s economic climate.
The first challenge is the increased involvement of procurement, purchasing or sourcing departments when a proposal is issued. These departments normally report to a committee or board versus one individual. That means the salesperson doesn’t have an economic buyer to focus on. In addition, the purchasing and/or procurement department usually establishes specific rules of engagement that restrict direct contact with the economic buyer and direct the salesperson to work with a “proposal manager.” In many cases, mystery buyers (or unnamed committee members) appear very late in the decision-making cycle.
The second issue is the delay of closing the sale/getting a signature on the contract. Many companies select two, three or four finalists that they pit against each other to extract favorable pricing, terms or conditions. This makes it extremely difficult for you, as a salesperson, to effectively manage their pipeline and forecast when the contract will be signed and for how much.
The third issue deals with engaging an outside consultant or another third party in the proposal and/or decision process. Several notable, global consulting companies have staffed up to help manage the proposal process (including writing the proposal, vetting potential vendors and establishing the buying criterion).
Know Your Committee Members
I have had four decades of successful B2B sales, sales leadership and executive management experience. Over the years, I have found you must understand the roles/responsibilities of committee members so you know what’s important to them.
In addition, you must understand how they make decisions (i.e., consensus, dictatorial, etc.). It is quite helpful to know how the committee breaks a tie if push comes to shove. As with any sale, it’s important to know what the committee wants to accomplish (in order of priorities) as well as specific metrics detailing how the committee is measured.
Once you’ve made your “pitch” to the committee (or board), I suggest you send a VALU follow-up email within 24 hours of your meeting. VALU stands for:
• Verifying the business’ issues/challenges
• Asking questions and analyzing impact
• Linking your unique capabilities
• Unveiling proof
Use the following email as a template:
“Dear [first name]:
I appreciate the opportunity we had to meet on [insert date] to discuss some of the current challenges at [company name]. The purpose of this email is to recap our meeting to ensure that I have captured the information correctly and to establish an action plan to proceed.
• Your most important business issue at this point is:
• The reasons are:
• You are looking for a solution to provide you with the capability to:
• In order for us to move forward, you indicated that the next step would be:
Please look it over and I will call next week to follow up.”
There are two main reasons for sending a VALU email within 24 hours of your meeting. The first is to ensure buyer and seller alignment so that there are no surprises during the buying process and you create a mutual action plan to reach an agreement. The second is to create a sense of urgency with the buyer so the proposal is signed more quickly. After all, the buyer fully understands the cost of delaying the decision.