Below the “C” level are the middle Managers who run the business. This is not always apparent from their titles; I have never been given a business card which has the title “Middle Manager” so you need to be able to position them within the overall organization. Some companies have a position, Chief Operating Officer (COO), which is the man who is usually responsible for delivering this years’ business plan (sometimes a 3 year business plan), sometimes the CEO of a Division of a larger organization is really a middle manager, it is almost impossible to know what a VP does (particularly in Citibank in my experience). You need to find out who is responsible for the part of the organization that you are selling to. The easiest way is to ask the guy you are talking to what his role & responsibility is. This is a specific instance of talking to people about what they are interested in. Most executives are very interested in their role & responsibility and will happily spend a couple of minutes telling you how important they are. Maybe wait for a second or subsequent meeting when you have a fledgling relationship but supplementary questions on “How do budgets work?” or “What does the buying process look like?” or “Who do you report to?” will also give you knowledge you have to get, and will build a relationship. We are definitely getting ahead of ourselves. If the middle manager is responsible for running the business he will ultimately be responsible for delivering aspects of a company business plan that is handed down from the planning and strategy level. The commonest aspect is a Budget. How much money he can spend is always an aspect of a budget. The budget is usually structured into at least three levels:
- Company wide
- Division / or Function specific
- Sub – Division or Sub Function
Most purchases of significant size are made at the Company or Division / Function level. An example of a sub- budget might be that the company knows that it needs certain raw materials or consumables as inputs to some process. A relatively junior executive may have day to day control of re-ordering these commodities from an existing supplier. At best he may be able to justify on price or availability grounds that he buy from you rather than the competition, but you are not going to make your reputation by selling at this level. I have frequently had accounts where this was the main type of business done and I have always sought to just do it efficiently, provide good enough service so that the company will not go away from my company as a supplier (or me as an account manager) but try to optimize my time so that I can either get up the executive ladder within the account to get a larger share of their spend, or to attack a new account. In today’s world if you are not adding value (rather than milking existing accounts) eventually you will have the account taken away from you and given to someone else. If the company becomes convinced there is no further opportunity in the account they will give it to a lower cost channel (telesales or Web Self Service) if they believe that there is more opportunity and you are not delivering it, they will give the account to another salesperson.
Unlike the CEO the Middle Manager probably does spend his days in meetings, conversation and exchanging emails on operational issues and he is interested in the “How” things contribute to his success. Success is a key word. Many Middle Managers are even more insecure about their reputation within the company as someone who delivers than salespeople are. You need to understand that in the competitive world of the Middle Manager each year they are either formally or informally ranked by the “C” level and most want to be in the upper quartile of managers that are potential future “C” level or at least they want to avoid being in the lower quartile who are candidates for downsizing, “outplacing” or early retirement.
There are two scenarios; either the Planning Process of the company has identified a need for a major procurement of replacement or new capital equipment, in which case the middle manager has been given ownership of the procurement and it will be in his interest to run the process well, reach a decision that is right for the business and execute the project well. In this scenario he will be easy to reach, will meet you and you will be given the opportunity to sell to him.
(Health Warning – it is not uncommon that procurement exercises are exercises in compliance, that there is an incumbent or early winner and the process is just “for Show” or rather just to avoid problems with auditors, stakeholders etc.. In this case you need to decide whether you are going to make trouble – usually go over the head of the Middle Manager, or walk away, or put in a form bid without really working the opportunity. How you decide on your response is up to you in discussion with your manager, always tell the company if you believe you cannot win the business, otherwise they will assume you “failed”.)
The second scenario is that you are asking him to initiate a purchase that is not anticipated in the business plan (and is not budgeted for). This is clearly a more difficult sell, but actually it can be more valuable for both you as a salesperson and him as a manager. As a salesman you get to shape the requirements (needs) that will eventually be reflected in the formal procurement process (usually in a Request for Proposal, RFP). The objective here is to ensure that all the differentiation of your product is included in the RFP and underpinned with business value, while the competitor’s products features & benefits are marginalized. If I received a RFP from an account in my territory that I had not been aware of, I used to read it once to check for tell tale competitive slant and 80% of the time I did not bother to respond as it was clear who was supposed to win the evaluation. The value from the Middle Managers perspective is to give himself visibility to the “C” level as someone who has the vision to do more than act as a manager of an existing process / budget and to build a reputation as someone who can see how a change can improve the business (and deliver the improvement by executing the project). This is how you get into the upper quartile pool from which “C” level candidates are selected.
Either way the Value Proposition needs to take into account the dual purpose of the procurement process and implementation project:-
- How it will benefit the business
- How it will benefit him
So a model answer might be:-
“When this is fully implemented” – focus on future state not current problem
“your process / function / division” – create ownership
“will be 20% more efficient” – or however you can quantify the comparison with current performance
“giving you a $ improvement in – company win
“a ROI in 2 years” – company benchmark that must be achieved
“and making your division the – you have to be able to justify, but this is
highest performing in the company” the most powerful statement you can make
to a Middle Manager.
One final thought on organization. All the text books assume that all decisions are top down, which is why you are told to “call high”. Generally true, but do check this assumption. I definitely lost a deal in an account where I lost patience with some middle managers who were “not getting it” and went over their heads to an executive I had a relationship with. Unfortunately it back-fired; the company culture was “middle-up”, the evaluators almost never had their recommendations overturned by the executives. The executive role was to set direction and is this case request middle management to look at and evaluate a solution, but middle managers owned the decision whether it should be done. Maybe 80% of the time decisions are strongly influenced by top executives; but the middle-up model is not as rare as most text books lead you to believe. There is no upside in making an enemy, so keep the middle managers onside if you can.
If you are selling to someone who is responsible for buying a commodity from an existing budget, focus on being as fast and efficient as you can be. As discussed above if you cannot sell yourself up the sales value chain, you will be replaced.
We have included a new section of “Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sales & Selling”. Chapter 4.2 The Organisation They Work In is more about matching your sales campaign to the Customers role & responsibility within his organization.
Click Here to see the Contents page.
The potential customer is clearly affected in his buying behaviour by the economic circumstances his organization is experiencing. This chapter is more about the matching your sales campaign to the Customers role & responsibility within his organization. Again with a little thought this model can be applied to selling to consumers, but is usually simpler. The decision maker tends to be either the breadwinner or the wife. When selling to organizations you need to think through the role & responsibility of the person you are talking to.
Again the key is to focus on the interests of the customer, not your burning need to sell him something. In your own life you must have experienced a “boor” who talks to you about something he clearly finds compelling which is of absolutely no interest to you. If this experience is repeated more than once, you will go out of your way to avoid that person at any social event that you encounter him. Likewise meeting a businessman does not give you immediate permission to launch into a pitch, assuming you might want to meet him again.
You have to start somewhere, right, so start by trying to put yourself in his shoes. What has he been meeting, talking, emailing about today?
Rob Shares Headlines from Today’s Sessions
- Oracle announces the “Oracle Public Cloud“
- Platform as a service and Apps as a service – includes fusion CRM (don’t think this is the SaaS offering)
- Oracle Social Network A secure collaboration tool for everyone you work with.
- All 100 new Fusion products are now GA worldwide. Includes CRM.
- Sting just came on stage to advertise his performance tonight!
- Open World keynote from Infosys – big and gnarly SI – great messaging around what enterprises need to do: Anticipate tomorrow’s demand, influence tomorrow’s demand and fulfilling tomorrow’s demand – rated by Forbes as the 15th most innovative company in the world. Some cool stuff – look at their SocialEdge offering
- More odd than anything else, Marc Benioff’s keynote was cancelled the day before it was meant to take place. As a leader in this space, it would have been great to hear what Benioff had to say.
When Rob & Jonathan return from Oracle Open World 2011, we’ll update these posts with as much information as we can gather.
Today was the opening day at Open World for Partners – 2011. I got my program free bag and water bottle and then off to the first event.
I spent the morning attending the Fusion Application session, how it all works and where to from here. I must say it is exciting times but I keep wondering how long will it be before this is available for Oracle Customers within Oracle CRM On Demand. I get the feeling that I might know more about this tomorrow.
Within the presentations there were a number of references to Customers using Fusion and the many different deployment options that are available (Cloud, On Site, Hybrid). Rob and I also saw details about the following:
- In line social media collaboration alongside BI
- Big new Fusion Learning Centre
- Focus on CRM and HCM as fusion – both cloud and on premise – Fusion learning centre
- Plus improved solutions catalogue – need to ensure all assets are utilised
- All available on YouTube – streaming
The jet lag is starting to kick in and I have to run to Larry’s keynote. More to follow tomorrow.