Sometimes, decisions are made by committee—groan!—and that means a lot more leg work for a Freelancer who’s trying to sign a contract or a sales professional trying to sell a product or service. When you must gain the confidence of several staff members, you may never know whose opinion really controls the sale (although you can ask). All you can do is be prepared by understanding the kind of information that the designated contact person in each department is likely to appreciate and make sure that you deliver it.
When the Finance Department contributes to buying decisions, you have to know that tangible and intangible value received in exchange for dollars invested is the primary concern. Therefore, present your product or service in language that communicates the expected ROI of the purchase, over the short and long-term, and indicate whether the organization will save or earn money when the product or service is introduced. A case study to illustrate the financial impact of your product or service on a reasonably comparable organization (in terms of operating revenue or type of business, for example) would be greatly appreciated by the this team. If Finance does not have confidence in the pricing or ROI of what you’re selling, you will be asked to make monetary concessions or the C-Suite execs will decline the project.
If your product or service will require technical support, this decision contributor will want to be assured that its set-up and maintenance will be easy and compatible with other systems currently in use. Provide the team with information on how to integrate the online requirements of your product or service with the existing technical infrastructure and software. Reliability is another IT concern and the fear of system crashes lies just below the surface. Present data to demonstrate that the online component of the purchase will be dependable and low-maintenance. Finally, a show-and-tell to illustrate that the system is intuitive and user-friendly, thereby minimizing staff training time or frustration of the end-users.
As you might expect, C-Suite executives, including department heads, are the most important of all those with input into the decision-making process because they have the power to green-light your proposal or kill it outright. When selling to the higher-ups, it’s important to learn which factors matter most and whose opinions will have the most sway on their opinions (usually the end-users). If the end-users clue you in to the hot button issues, then discuss them and keep your message simple and clear. Emphasizing high-level value, as the executive defines it, is probably a useful guideline. A case study that makes you and your product or service look particularly brilliant, especially regarding the most pressing issues, would be a good selling tool. Be aware that C-Suite executives are usually too busy to process a complicated sales narrative. Think of soundbites that communicate impactful and tangible benefits.
These team members will use your product or service most often. Their opinion carries a great deal of weight and their approval of your product or service is a priority of the C-Suite. Key selling points for this team revolve around the functionality, practicality, ease of use and time-saving potential of your product or service. Seek feedback from this team as to what they consider the most relevant features and benefits and as well, how you might best promote your sale to the other decision-makers. You may be able to convince this team of the benefits of certain add-ons and upgrades, which will enhance the user experience and the amount of the sale or billable hours.
Take time to demonstrate and ensure that your product or service will reliably meet or exceed the expectations of the end-users because if it does not, this is the team guaranteed to express concerns that will damage your credibility and the potential for future business and referrals. Your in-house advocate will be found in this department (try to cultivate a team member with a title that confers authority) and if you cannot convince the right person to step forward and take on the role of champion, then your sale or contract will most likely suffer diminished prospects for approval by the ultimate judges in the C-Suite.
Thanks for reading. May many billable hours find their way to your door in the New Year!