Senior Level Decision Maker Selling

Here are 7 questions to consider:

  1. Are your salespeople prospecting/selling at the right level?
  2. Where do your salespeople currently and comfortably enter accounts?
  3. Are they getting in front of the right people?
  4. Are your salespeople entering at the appropriate level within an account that matches the level of expenditure, commitment and long term-value to the prospect that your product or service represent?
  5. Do they have enough depth in their existing accounts?
  6. Are your salespeople comfortable interfacing with “head honcho” senior executives?
  7. Do they have the capacity to build relationships with a wide variety of people at varying levels in an organization? Far too many salespeople tend to enter an account at a level that is comfortable, easy and expedient.

Salespeople who enter an account too low, meaning they start selling to a person in an account with little or no authority, tend to do so for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Their self-image makes them feel inferior to key decision makers and they don’t feel comfortable “rubbing elbows” with people at the top of the organizational chart. This self-image issue is related to a feeling of, “we’re not worthy!” That may seem like a tongue-in-cheek point, but your salespeople’s self-image can make or break your bottom-line.
  • That’s where they were trained to enter an account and that’s the way it has always been done. You might hear something like, “I just always go see the person at the front desk and they’ll send you to the right person.” The old, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”routine. The problem with doing it the way it’s always been done is you don’t know how many opportunities are being left on the table or squandered – your salespeople may not know how good things could be if they were talking to people with more authority.
  • They don’t qualify their prospects well enough and they settle for talking to anybody who will listen. In most cases people who will listen to a salesperson for the sake of listening don’t have much going on and they’re happy to spend hours burning the clock on the company dime.
  • They’re not positioned well in the marketplace. The most successful salespeople are those who develop a pseudo industry-celebrity status in the market. Senior level decision makers will listen to those people who they believe have something important to say. Personal positioning is key to your sales team’s success.In many cases salespeople are driven to set appointments by quota crazy sales managers who demand that they make a certain number of calls or presentations per week.

The result?

Lots of salespeople calling on too many of the wrong people.

You can help your sales team penetrate accounts at a higher level by identifying how your product or service fits into your customer’s overall direction and their motive for buying from you.

Determine where your product or service fits:

  • Is your product or service strategic and essential to the overall business strategy of your prospect?
  • Is your product or service an operational component that relates to day-to-day activities of your prospect?
  • How much impact does your product or service have on your customers’ profitability, revenue or cash flow?
  • Would you consider your product/service an “A” priority purchase – like jet fuel for an airline, a “B” priority pur-chase – like foam cushioning for seats on the same airline, or a “C” priority purchase – like ice for soft drinks for passengers.
  • How will your product or service impact the long-term direction of your customers business?
  • Is your product or service seen as a commodity?
  • How exclusive is your product or service?

All of these issues play an essential role in determining where your salespeople should first attempt to enter an account.

If you are selling something that is not exclusive and purely operational in application, your salespeople are probably calling on someone at that level. However, what happens when your competitor gets the attention of someone with far more “clout,” directional strategy and authority within your account?

No matter what you sell, train your salespeople to enter at as high a level as possible. This will position your product or service more strategically (it doesn’t matter if you’re selling cleaning services, computers or cars). When salespeople enter an account at lower levels, they run the risk of becoming a “supplier” — someone who provides commodities, often only temporarily until someone else offers a lower price.

Entering an account at the highest level will align your product or service with the long-term strategy of the buyer. Forging a consultative partnership with key decision makers means you’re less vulnerable to price competition and your relationship is more likely to weather future changes within that organization.

Part of your job as a sales manager is to help your sales people sell “smarter.” That means, getting your sales people to understand Senior-Level-Decision-Maker Selling.

Senior Level Decision-Maker (SLDM) Selling means:

  • Your salespeople are selling to the highest levels within an account.
  • Your salespeople understand the importance of being “handed down.”
  • Your salespeople are creating partnerships with executive level customers.
  • Your salespeople are working with executive level customers to provide a wide range of solutions and applications.
  • Your salespeople are developing relationships in their accounts with a wide-range of people with varying levels of authority and influence.

Here is a breakdown of the three levels of buyers that your salespeople are likely to face:

  1. SLDM – Strategic Buyers (Their concern: “How will it benefit our long-term business strategy?”)
  2. Middle Management – Operational Buyers (Their concern: “How will we put your product or service into place?”)
  3. Personnel – Logistical Buyers (Their concern: “How much more work will your product or service require?”)

In your next sales meeting present these concepts to your salespeople. Give them a copy of the Decision-Making Pyramid and then have them complete their own personal Decision-Making Pyramid for an existing account.

Although it is initially difficult to enter accounts at high levels, it makes both selling and servicing within the account much easier. After conducting this exercise with your salespeople, they will be more equipped to target key decision-makers. You should see increased penetration in existing accounts, higher rates of client retention and less price resistance.