Two of the toughest decisions in an effective sales process are how to best enter an opportunity, and at what point should you consider your investigation/diagnosis complete. Poor decisions made in either of these areas can kill your opportunity before it begins or leave it in a state of purgatory where it atrophies from no action.
From an account entry perspective, the traditional approach of entering high up in the organization has the benefit of “access to power,” but is increasingly hard to connect with and initiate conversations at that level. Aiming lower in the organization makes it easier to connect, but often means you’re not connecting with people who have the authority to do anything.
From an investigation/diagnosis standpoint finding the point where you’ve uncovered enough areas of impact to build a business case that can withstand the power of inertia, while not overcomplicating the process and passing the point of diminishing returns can be quite difficult.
How to Effectively Enter Accounts to Create Sales Opportunities
When you’re looking to enter an opportunity you should try to establish at least three points of entry, at varying levels of authority and responsibility. When we implement outreach efforts, we aim to connect with the following people:
The role/title we believe manages the problem.
The role/title that person reports to.
A senior role/title.
A peer role/title to the first person’s boss.
On occasion (especially it it’s a senior person who is the initial target), we will target a role below the person who we believe that manages the problem.
Our goal in doing this is to find at least two avenues to begin conversations. Unless the person we believe manages the problem is a senior level person, we assume that they don’t have the authority to change approaches or vendors. This is one of the reasons that we attempt to connect above the role.
Additionally, we also reach out to role players who don’t directly manage the issues we are addressing. While we realize that these people are rarely directly involved in a purchasing decision, we like to connect with people who are impacted by the issues we address. They can often give greater insight into the impacts of what’s happening and they often serve as great coaches who can introduce us to the right people and provide insights as the sales process progresses.
How to Tell if You’ve Done an Adequate Investigation
Let’s be clear about one thing, you can never expect to make sales decisions with access to all of the information. I often see salespeople make the mistake of trying to get to the end of the sale without enough information, and sales managers make the mistake of wanting to know absolutely everything before having the confidence to move forward.
Determining the right time to end your investigation is highly situational. Over the years, we’ve learned a couple of key points that will help guide you in determining the right point for your conversations:
You must be sure that you’re addressing an issue that is big enough to justify the time, energy, money and risk you will be asking your customer to take. Beware here as it is common for sellers to underestimate the perceived risk, and buyers to overestimate it.
Regardless of how big the prospect’s problem is or how well your solution fits, you must take into consideration the other issues that your prospect may be addressing. Today you are competing with the budget for everything, so it is crucial for you be able to demonstrate how your solution creates impact beyond the direct issues you impact.
Another reason that otherwise solid deals get lost is that those who deal with the issues on a day-to-day basis are (for lack of a better word) committed to the status quo. They perceive the changes you make be recommending as threatening or too difficult.
Therefore, your objective should be to get enough insights and data to understand and demonstrate multiple impacts at multiple levels of your prospect’s organization.
The 3x3 Sales Matrix
It is for this reason that we created The 3x3 Sales Matrix. This incredibly simple tool is designed to be used by salespeople and managers alike. Here’s how it works:
Connect and engage with three contacts at three different levels (or areas) of your prospect’s organization.
Identify three compelling issues that each person is dealing with that you can impact.
In our experience, using this ourselves and with clients, we’ve found that if you can complete this matrix fully, you’ve got a 90% likelihood of making a sale (assuming of course that the issues pass the “is this big enough” test).
Now, by no means are we saying that you must have all 9 boxes filled to be able to make a sale. The point of the tool is that any box that isn’t filled measurably decreases the likelihood of a sale.
Utilizing this tool gives you greater insight and predictability into managing individual sales opportunities and allocating your time and resources more effectively.
The Matrix & Marketing
An additional benefit of consistently utilizing The 3x3 Sales Matrix is that it provides tremendous intelligence and insights into the real-life, real-time issues you're impacting from a sales perspective. Providing copies of the matrix to your marketing team serves as literally an endless supply of content ideas that can be utilized to increase lead generation, enhance lead nurturing and to providing the sales team the tools they need to sell more...faster.