Your B2B Customers Field Guide

Hi readers,

I have been blogging about the issues that dog sales reps, marketing managers in the B2B space today and have been getting a decent response to the content.

This post is based on what my team posed to me during one of the training programs that I led during my stint as the P&L head for a business recently in Africa.

This topic was discussed for almost the full session lasting an entire day and took the most out of me!!

So i think this topic deserves mention here in some detail- so here goes.

My take on who are the key stakeholders in the B2B business eco-system, who are the key gate keepers ( yep you cant wish them away, except if you become strategic in your approach!!) and most important, the decision makers, who will finally take the call on your pitch and give you the all important contract!!

The Engineering Guru (The GEEK..eeek!!)

  • Why he’s a stakeholder: Everyone trusts him to know whether something will actually work, including the solution you’re selling.
  • Quote: “Dialectial interference at subwavelength frequencies is manageable… if you’ve got reticular imaging, of course!”
  • Pros: Is usually willing to meet with sales folks.
  • Cons: He can and will bore you to tears.
  • Warning: May refer to specific Star Trek episodes during business conversations.
  • How to sell to him: Show that you and your firm are technically competent.  If you can’t talk major tech, bring along one of your own engineers.

The Purchasing Manager (Guy who hands you over your purchase order)

  • Why he’s a stakeholder: Controls the list of approved vendors.
  • Quote: “If you can convince me, you can convince anybody.”
  • Pros: Once you’re on his list, you’re there forever.
  • Cons: Can sometimes stop a deal permanently.
  • Warning: He’s so terrified of being exposed as useless that, if left out of the loop, he may act, well, loopy.
  • How to sell to him: Convince him that you would personally value his YES more than anyone else’s opinion because you know that he’s “naturally skeptical.”

The Head of Human Resources (surprise …surprise!!)

  • Why she’s a stakeholder: She knows everything about everyone.
  • Quote: “There are free donuts in the break room.”
  • Pros: Usually doesn’t wield all that much power.
  • Cons: Will stroke the gossip mill if you flub up.
  • Warning: Can be surprisingly devious.
  • How to sell to her: Invite her to key meetings.  Ask her who else should be attending.  And be the one who brings the donuts.

The Departmental Manager (Indentor..remember your friend on the shop floor)

  • Why she’s a stakeholder: She’s the one who actually needs your solution.
  • Quote: “We’re up to our ass in alligators here!”
  • Pros: Has problems that need solving.
  • Cons: Is usually too busy to listen to you.
  • Warning: She may be on the edge of burn-out, in which case she’ll be taking a leave of absence.
  • How to sell to her: Get the Engineering Guru to help you understand the manager’s problems, then get HIM to present YOUR solution to address HER problem.

The CEO’s Toady (Title May Vary, BUT you will get to know him pretty much earlier on in the engagement)

  • Why he’s a stakeholder: He’s the spy who watches the CEO’s back.
  • Quote: “He can’t see you right now, but I’ll be happy to hear you out.”
  • Pros: Incredibly easy to butter up.
  • Cons: Has all the CEO’s character flaws with none of his charisma.
  • Warning: Will be suspicious of any attempt to cultivate a relationship with the CEO.
  • How to sell to him: Since everyone at customer’s firm secrets hates him, he’ll appreciate any positive attention.  Ask his advice on how to get the CEO on board.

The Chief Financial Officer (Mr. Money Bags!! the treasury keeper and has the ears of the board!!)

  • Why he’s a stakeholder: Holds the purse-strings of everyone’s budget.
  • Quote: “We expect to see a significant ROI within three weeks.”
  • Pros: Can actually cut you a check.
  • Cons: Probably won’t cut the check unless forced to do so.
  • Warning: Secretly thinks that the concept of spending money to make money is “crazy talk.”
  • How to sell to him: When you present to him, make it quick, and stick to the numbers.  Don’t talk about solutions; talk about ROI.

The CEO’s Admin (Ace up your sleeve to keep away the other nasties!!)

  • Why she’s a stakeholder: She actually runs the company.
  • Quote: “I’ll bring this to his attention as soon as it’s appropriate.”
  • Pros: Probably won’t attend many meetings.
  • Cons: When she does, she’ll take detailed notes.
  • Warning: She may be, uh…, “overly close” to the CEO.
  • Care and Feeding: Always keep her in the loop. Ask her advice about how to work through the corporate bureaucracy. After all, she’s the expert

The CEO (THE BIG GUY with an ego to match!!)

  • Why he’s a stakeholder: He thinks he runs the company.
  • Quote: “If it doesn’t raise the stock price, I’m not interested.”
  • Pros: Is surprising easy to sell to.
  • Cons: Is surrounded by people who don’t want you to sell to him.
  • Warning: May suffer from “CEO Disease”, a malady where the CEO’s sphincter expands to cover his entire body, causing subsequent itching that can only be assuaged by underling osculation.
  • How to sell to him: Treat him like an equal.  And why not?  You’ve got something he needs; he’s got something you want.
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