Selling requires skill and effort. Each new customer is the result of a delicate process that involves building trust, assessing needs, and providing the right solution. Now imagine repeating that same process multiple times for a single sale.
It’s a reality that the best industrial sales professionals understand all too well. Industrial sales are often characterized by a “purchase by committee”. Purchase by committee means that a buying decision is made after an assessment from multiple people within an organization. Each of these people views the benefits of a product or service in a slightly different light, adding complexity to the sales cycle.
For example, a distribution company is considering buying some new material handling equipment for its main facility. The floor manager, who discovered the new equipment, wants to make the purchase to help his team work faster. Meanwhile, the general manager of operations recognizes the labor cost savings that the new equipment will offer, by being more productive without hiring more staff. The CEO, who holds final purchase approval, sees the benefits to the bottom line, by moving more products at a lower cost. At the end of the day, all three realize the same benefit, but from a different angle.
It begins by understanding that the first point of contact at a company is likely not the person who will make the final buying decision.
This doesn’t make them any less important. They are the gatekeeper and will be an ambassador for a product or service to other members of the team. Make a strong effort to understand their business and assess their pain points. Only once the initial contact has been convinced of the value of a product or service can the sales process move forward.
While speaking to the initial contact, look for clues to indicate that others might be involved in the buying process.
Comments such as “I’ll take this back to my team to review” or “I’m looking for some information to present to my boss” are clear indicators that there will be more people involved.
If these aren’t obvious, don’t be afraid to ask who else will be involved in the decision-making process. Make it clear that you will not reach out to anyone unsolicited, but it is important to gain an understanding of the types of people involved, in order to develop some insight into the kinds of information other decision makers will be looking for.
The first point of contact can also be a helpful member of the sales team. Once they believe in a product or service, they will be looking for information to convince others on their team of its value.
As an industrial sale progresses and the decision makers are identified, aim to arrange a meeting with everyone involved. If senior staff are willing to dedicate their time to a sales meeting, it demonstrates that they are serious about making a purchase. Be cautious about promised meetings with senior team members that fail to materialize, this may be a sign that there is no real intent to buy right now.
More importantly, a meeting with all decision makers is an opportunity to communicate the problems a product or service solves, in terms that buyers at different corporate levels will respond to. While the initial contact at a company is likely an ambassador for a product or service at this point, they may not understand how to clearly illustrate the problems that can be solved in other levels of the business.
In industrial sales, speaking directly with decision makers is the best way to establish credibility and highlight the value of a product or service in the proper terms.
Industrial sales which involve multiple people in the buying process can be complex. It is important to recognize that different people within an organization have different pain points. Identifying the problems individual buyers face and clearly communicating solutions to each is the key to a successful sale.
About Fred Yee
Fred Yee is the founder and CEO of ActiveConversion, a company that makes online marketing work for industrial companies. Fred was voted as one of the 40 Most Inspiring Leaders in Sales Lead Management in 2017, and his work with ActiveConversion has helped hundreds of businesses succeed online. ActiveConversion is Fred’s third successful company, and he continues to explore the possibilities of technology in industrial sales and marketing.