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Monday, March 22, 2010

A key aspect of any lead generation or prospect marketing campaign is to determine who you are targeting.

The "buying circle" for every client proposition is different and, even within similar categories of products and services, different clients will target different influencers and decision makers.

The term "buying circle" refers to the group of individuals who are involved in the buying decision. Generally, buying circles become more complex for bigger ticket sales or for new product or service categories.

For low-value transactional sales there may be just one decision maker. For more complex product offerings there are likely to be numerous people involved at different stages, from specifying requirements, the vendor selection process, through to building the internal business case and getting it signed off.

And, whilst it's true that the higher up the food chain you are the better, it doesn't always follow that your best entry point to an opportunity is the top of the tree.

To many in sales this may seem like heresy; I grew up on "power-base selling" and "selling to the top" as well as scoring leads on BANT and MAN.

And, it is indeed true that you need get access to the top fast within any opportunity to gain influence, but that's not the same as starting at the top.

In very large organisations the reality is that you may have to start somewhere else. Perhaps with a key influencer or someone who is aware of a need within the organisation.

The important thing to to be aware of where they are within the buying circle and therefore how to handle them.

Here's an example:

Let's say that you sell a specific product or service that isn't an existing category for the prospect. By that I mean that they haven't bought it before from anyone so are unlikely to have incumbent suppliers and processes in place to procure the service.

You know there are a number of individuals who will be involved in the buying circle, from a senior executive who will sign-off a deal, through to individuals who are involved in the decision making process but do not wield huge influence (such as a user, perhaps). (When is comes to users they are more important later on in the sales process as, whilst they may not be able to say "yes" they can definitely say "no")

Of course, reaching the most senior decision maker may be ideal but it presents a number of challenges.

Firstly, access gets more restricted the higher you go, along with the amount of time you have to get their attention. Secondly, they are unlikely to respond to anything that doesn't address their key strategic issues.

In some cases you really do need to engage at this level, so be prepared to invest all your time in "thinking" about your approach before anyone attempts to reach out to them. A well thought out research pieces can be a good approach in this space.

At this level you spend more to get less results in return but the rewards can be far greater.

Below the rarefied atmosphere of the top you have a raft of middle managers and departmental heads who can be far more accessible. They are more likely to respond to a more tactical pitch that relates to their specific business mandate. However, they usually don't respond unless there is an identified need. Blue-sky thinking doesn't get much traction at this level.

The combination of better access and more immediate need can be very effective in getting prospects into the pipeline; you just need to have a clear game plan of how you will get to the top through them.

These are the deals that will stall most often. As long as you are aware of this and have a strong sales process to move them forward or drop them down to lower-cost lead nurturing activities then they are still worth pursuing.

Of course, these things are never an either/or situation.

I believe that it's best to invest some high-cost resource building relationships at the top, possibly through events, round-tables, etc and use lower costs resources, such as telemarketing, email and online demand generation tactics to find entry points lower down the pyramid.

You'll find that these tactics will yield bread and butter prospects where you have a high conversion track record and strong credentials.

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Posted by: David Regler @ 2:52 pm |   | Links to this post  

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