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May 16, 2009

Selling to different roles requires different words

Win ratios start to pick up almost immediately once sales professionals and marketers realize that succesful sales is not about a script - rather it is about adapting to the person you are talking to. 

Here's something I have learned from the field of engineering and asset intensive industries. I am sure it applies roughly to each one of the industries out there. I have tried to identify the language, concerns and areas of interest that I have found relating to each level. 

Interestingly they are all similar, but they are represented with different word sets. 

(Note: This is talking about people like the EVP of Exxon, not of Joe's Pizza Barn.)

Its broken down into the levels that I generally get to speak to, feel free to add you own comments and concepts. 

1) CEO / EVP / Board Members

Interests (if they are worth their paychecks): Earnings per share growth, return on invested capital, book value growth, cash flow and market share. (As a driver for all of the others)

Some of you will note that issues related to safety and environmental integrity of operations are not there. My experience, sad but true, is that these issues normally do not rise to this level until something dramatic has gone wrong. A very reactive approach to managing these areas.

To be fair, it is also true that normally there are people assigned to manage these areas on their behalf. Whole programs normally. 

Decision Criteria: If we want it, we'll buy it. 

2) Directors, General Managers, Managing Directors: 

Interests: Net Present Value/Costs, Cost effectiveness, Operational efficiency, LTIFR (Lost time Injury Frequency Rate), Whole-of-Life costs, sustaining market share, independence and robustness. (These levels are very focused on being able to act independently and removing dependence a lot of the time. 

Decision Criteria: If it carries obvious and rapidly realizable value, then we will buy it. 

3) Senior Line Managers

Interests: Whole of life costs, cost effectiveness, risk reduction, efficiency and productivity. 

Decision Criteria: It has to be able to realize benefits within 6 months (say) before we can consider it. 

Note: Managers are game changers in many organizations of this type. They have often large corporate structures under them and they are directly responsible for significant earnings and cost responsibilities.

But... from here down you start to get into the ego game. People are less likely to think about what is the best for the organization, and more likely to think about what will be best for them personally so they can climb the ladder. 

They have many ways to say no, and often no way to say yes. They are always wondering "what can you do that we cannot do by ourselves?". They confuse capability and resource capacity, and they are keen to have it seen that they did the work. 

The senior people are more than happy, on the other hand, to make it known that they identified the work - and got extremely capable people to do it for them. 

I hope this is of some use. Feel free to add your advice if it adds to or is different to this...