I joined Jason Stone from Frontline Selling for this video webinar, the second in a series –
When inbound leads from marketing just aren’t cutting it, do you work with internal sponsors and trusted advisors for referrals to grow your business? Or, do you do it the old-fashioned way and cold call and email blast your market? My friend, social media extraordinaire Barbara Giamanco, recently posted correctly that the best two ways in b2b sales to “get to the right decision maker fast, shrink sales cycles and close business more quickly” is either through a sponsor at the target or a referral from a trusted third party.
Totally agree. Fantastic advice.
How do we do that?
Sponsors at the Target Prospect
Sponsors at a target prospect fall into two categories: Business and Personal.
Business Sponsors are those who have enjoyed the benefits of your offering(s)’ capabilities already and are willing to sponsor you in another part of their organization. These individuals are willing to sponsor you because you have helped them in the past with overcoming an issue or challenge or reaching a goal or objective. These sponsors, however, may or may not have the clout to just suggest a meeting between you and the decision makers and make it happen.
To increase the probability that your sponsor gets you a meeting, you need to first collaboratively build the sponsor’s success story. The success story arms your sponsor with a rationale for pushing for the introduction – he helped me, he can help you. Since it will be based in fact and told by a co-worker, the story will help you build an emotional connection between you and the decision makers without you even being there.
This conversational success story should brief enough to be told in a five minute meeting between your sponsor and a decision maker perhaps over coffee, at lunch or during a more serious meeting.
To write it, come to agreement with your sponsor and draft the following:
1) The sponsor’s goals or objectives before you started to work together.
“Back in 20–, we knew our company needed to improve/increase/decrease….”
2) What was the business problem or issue prior to our working together? You should be able to describe in two or three sentences the crappy situation they were in.
3) What capability or set of capabilities did they need to bring on board? Simply,
“when faced with … we needed to be able to ….”
4) The tangible and intangible payoff or payback.
“Once we implemented or bought from xxx, we increased/decreased/improved ….”
This puts the cost v. benefit on the table and implies that the decision maker would be smart to meet you.
Once the Business Sponsor has this story in hand, he can confidently make the introduction for you and ratchet up the probability of your getting a meeting with the decision maker.
Personal sponsors are friends and loved ones with whom you have a personal relationship but have not yet helped in a business sense. You are trying to get your personal sponsor to say to a decision maker,
“Hey, you should meet with Adam. He is a bright guy, maybe he can help us.”
Will that be enough? Maybe.
To turn that “maybe” into a probably, you still need to arm your Personal Sponsor with a story. In fact, it may be more important. Personal relationships are great, but in today’s busy world, might not be enough to get you a meeting. In fact, it may be a detriment. Cynical decision makers may think your sponsor is solely trying to help because it’s personal. Decision makers every day need to determine who they will or will not have conversations. So, give your Personal Sponsor some help in the form of a success story fashioned like the one above only describing another similar company’s success. Alternatively, work with the personal sponsor to write a usage story for the sponsor’s company. This will turn the personal sponsor into a business sponsor.
The sponsor’s usage story goes something like this:
“You know how we are struggling with …. We can’t stand it when….Well, my friend/relative Adam Shapiro says that when his clients are/have been in that situation, he provides then with…..He says they enjoy an increase/decrease/improvement in…. to the tune of …..Can I suggest he contact you to set up a conversation to see if our situation is similar?”
With either the similar success story or the usage story, you can turn your personal sponsor into a business sponsor.
Referral from a Trusted Third Party
You know someone who not only knows your target’s decision maker, but is in a position of trust with that person. We can call this person “TA”, for “Trusted Advisor.” You want TA to make a Direct Referral for you. In a very similar fashion to the sponsor scenario, the big question then is, “Can TA tell your story and get you that meeting?” Just in case TA is not at a consigliere-Tom Hagen level, I suggest arming him with as well with some of your conversational success stories or usage stories to re-tell during the referral. It will make it easy for the decision maker to agree with TA that he should talk to you.
But, what if instead of a direct referral, TA authorizes YOU to reach out to the decision maker and mention that TA suggested you contact them? This is the Indirect Referral.
In your opening remarks, voice mail or email, offer a success story or usage story.
It should go something like this:
“TA heard about my success helping other companies overcome …. And felt you would want to learn more. In one such situation, they were struggling with ….needed…. we provided them with the capabilities they needed and now they’ve improved/increased/decreased….”
“After hearing this story, TA suggested I contact you.”
Careful, though. In this situation, you also need to make sure TA is familiar with your success and usage stories because you have to anticipate that the decision maker will seek out TA for confirmation. Help you and TA save face by having a preparatory conversation first before contacting the decision maker.
So, I agree. Follow Barb’s advice that if you want to sell more, faster, and to the right people, you will need sponsors and referrers. Your sponsorships and referrals will be strongest and get you to decision makers faster, though, if you give create and deliver meaningful content in the form of success and usage stories as described above.
reprint from 2006*
Leadership Strategies – The Facilitation Company is a leader in facilitation training and meeting facilitation. With a network of over 200 facilitators under contract, LSI provides organizations with dynamic, professional facilitators who facilitate executive strategy retreats and problem resolution sessions and lead training classes in facilitation, leadership and consulting skills.
Despite the organization’s high quality products and services and its strong competitive position, early in 2005 several factors led Wilkinson to conclude that the organization needed to transform its salesprocesses and approaches.
- Year-over-year revenue was stagnant.
- Most of LSI’s new business was coming from Internet inquiries and call-ins rather than from proactive contacts by the sales team.
- Too often the sales teams “winged-it” on conversations, which made turning lookers into qualified leads, hit or miss.
- Product and sales training focused merely on the features of the offerings and not sales process or tools to use when working through an opportunity. Salespeople were left to their own devices to figure out a sales process.
- With everyone doing their own thing, coaching reps was difficult. For example, some reps had trouble identifying where opportunities were or what steps needed to occur for opportunities to close. They would have great meetings or calls, but the opportunity just seemed to peter out. Other reps, though, needed help with prospecting. They felt they lacked the credibility to make calls outside their comfort zone of HR professionals.
Wilkinson recognized that LSI’s fast growth had come from “early adopters” and that the organization sales had stagnated because they had not successfully penetrated the major market buyers. While the “wins” were usually buyers who understood intuitively how to use LSI offerings, the “misses” were often losses to either an internal training team or “No Decision, Inc.” With these misses, his client relationship managers either had trouble positioning offerings in ways the buyer would grasp or had trouble cost justifying the engagements.
Wilkinson needed the following capabilities to ramp up sales:
- A customized best-practices LSI sales process, from first initiation, through customer success. This process had to contain pipeline milestones, deliverables and needed to be 100% auditable for sales management in coaching sessions.
- Sales messaging that would give the client relationship managers the tools to have quality, consultative conversations which would be mapped to the pipeline milestones established in the sales process. Since the core of the sales process is the sales interactions (conversations between client relationship manager and buyer), the core of the conversational, consultative messaging included:
- How to obtain targeted buyer’s business goals and explore needs;
- Actual diagnostic questions for each targeted buyer, that would help the client relationship manager extract the buyer’s issues that are currently preventing them from achieving those goals;
- How to help client relationship managers build value by architecting the questions for them that would uncover the financial impact of the issues; and
- Then, product positioning that would help the buyer build a vision on how the use of Leadership Strategies’ offerings would help them achieve those goals.
- Tools and know-how for managers to review each client relationship manager’s documentation of their selling efforts in the form of customer correspondence. In doing so, managers would have visibility into each sales process and could monitor activity levels and competence in key areas with development in specific areas as needed.
LSI contracted with consultant Adam Shapiro to gain the above capabilities. In June 2005, Shapiro worked closely with the company’s sales and marketing leaders to develop the sales-ready messaging for LSI key products and services. A month later, Shapiro taught a customized workshop to all customer-facing personnel at LSI, using the actual sales-ready messaging tools the reps would employ post-workshop.
Wilkinson has been thrilled with the results. “We had an incredible September – the best in the company’s history. September was followed by the best October and November in five years.” One customer relationship manager who was having a difficult time closing opportunities and having executive interactions, “has been lighting up the sales board,” says Wilkinson.
“LSI has terrific offerings for increasing the organizational effectiveness of employees and delighting customers,” Shapiro says. “Their customer relationship managers just needed a way that described the offerings in terms of usage so the mainstream market would get it.”
LSI now has a repeatable, auditable sales process that gives salespeople confidence during their sales interactions and a roadmap for success.
“Adam has done a terrific job for us,” says Wilkinson. “By taking the first month to customize our messaging, he was able to deliver training that was far more impactful then anything we had experienced before. He has superb consulting and training skills and diagnoses issues quickly. Because he lives the selling approach he espouses, he served as an excellent model for our customer relationship managers and sales manager. We were so impressed with Adam’s skills, we extended the contract to have him sit along side our sales manager during the first month of opportunity reviews. Through the value he continually delivers, he truly serves as a trusted advisor for our organization.”
*NOTE: Admittedly, this success story is a re-post from a few years ago. It was lost in the transition from Typepad to WordPress. I continue to work with Leadership Strategies providing strategic and tactical sales and marketing consulting and training.
How do you leverage success with one customer into a cross-selling opportunity with another?
I hope the below presentation that I delivered earlier this week helps.
Reviewing clients’ sales call recap letters – reinforcing the letter writing process: Goals/Objectives, current situation, capabilities needed, value, next steps.