For this installment in the Insight Selling series, I will rewind the clock on Monica’s opportunity and produce an alternative ending. In Part 2 of this series I described how Monica could have created a simple strategy map for her prospect and connected it to her solution. Once the map was created, she would have had the ability and resources to produce insights that the executive in her opportunity would have found interesting, useful and challenging. This would have helped her differentiate herself from her competitors including the outsourcing firm. Let’s assume all that has taken place. When Hans van de Veer, the Director of IT, first told Monica that he had budget to investigate a new software solution, Monica informs Hans that she will be requesting an insight meeting with Katarina Telstoid, the Director of Finance.
Here are some positive outcomes of securing this high level meeting:
You have the opportunity to bring the senior executive (Katarina) into the process early with key information she will appreciate in order to to gain her buy in.
- Your credibility will be elevated such that as she engages later in the process she knows that you are in sync with her goals and objectives related to your solution.
- Your sponsor that set the meeting with the senior executive views you in a more strategic way, and begins to understand how you and your solution will help them be successful.
- Most importantly, you separate yourself from your competitors and their solutions.
Back to our situation. After informing Hans of your interest in securing a meeting with Katarina Hans replies with, “I don’t think that will be necessary. Katarina already knows about the project and has asked me to lead it on her behalf.” What now?
Prepared for this objection, Monica responds with, “Hans, help me understand your concern?” “My concern” says Hans, “is that Katarina is a very busy individual and for that reason she asked me to lead the project.”
“That makes sense,” says Monica. “I can understand why you feel like a meeting like this won’t be necessary. Other customers have expressed a similar concern so I can appreciate your position. What I have found with a project of this magnitude is that an executive like Katarina will appreciate the insights I present to her because they are derived from our experiences with people she would respect. In fact, prior to the meeting I’ll share with you some of those insights and so you feel more comfortable sponsoring this meeting. I have found that there is nothing that an executive like Katarina appreciates more than a project leader like yourself that promotes thought leadership.”
“OK,” says Hans. “I’ll see what I can do but, I can’t promise you anything. So, what are some of these insights you’re talking about? I can tell you right now that if you walk into her office and start selling your company or product it will be a short meeting for both of us.”
“You are right,” Monica states confidently. “Let me give you an example. Did you know that the Director of Finance at …”
The Executive Meeting
Monica has secured her meeting with Katarina, but rather at the beginning of the sales cycle, instead of the end. This gave her the ability to deliver valuable insights and secure additional access.
Monica and Katarina’s meeting is scheduled for thirty minutes. She arrives early for her 9:30 meeting. She sits in the reception area until 9:40 when Katarina’s administrative assistant Edward finally appears and escorts her into Katarina’s office. The meeting is already ten minutes behind schedule. As you know, these meetings almost always start late! Executives like Katarina are busy, in demand, and work a tight schedule. If they have a conference call that is running late but their next meeting is with a salesperson…so be it. Executives will almost always accordion their schedule with what they consider non-essential business.
Monica is not surprised. Because she knows the rhythm of executives, she only planned for a fifteen minute meeting. If she gets more time great, she’s prepared regardless. After brief introductions, Monica gets right to the point. “Katarina, before we get started I want to do a time check with you. We were scheduled for thirty minutes together this morning. Will that still work for you?” “Thank you for asking Monica. Actually I have a team meeting at 10:00 so we will need to be finished by then.” “No problem,” Monica replies kindly. “As you know I am with BPM Symphony and we specialize in helping financial firms like yours in a variety of ways. More specifically, I thought you would find insightful that at …” and Monica delivers her insights.
Monica’s insights are supported by highly visual handouts that have been customized for Katarina. They lead into a brief question and answer session whereby Monica validates her value proposition and the alignment of Katarina’s strategic initiatives, business issues and key performance indicators with Monica’s broad improvement strategies and the impact they can have on her operations. Monica also learns that a potential competitor is outsourcing, acknowledges this as an option but immediately presents compelling evidence as to why her solution is differentiated. However, she doesn’t attempt to differentiate her solution by selling its features. Monica differentiates by focusing her solution benefits on Katarina’s desired outcomes.
The meeting concludes with a few final exchanges. “Katarina, not only did we cover all of your topics of interest but, we finished on time.” (Yes, Monica took credit for respecting Katarina’s time. You should too in your executive meetings!) “One last thing, as we go about our preparation work with your team I can almost guarantee you that my team will uncover some internal insights that you would find valuable. If that happens, what I will do is distill those insights into a fifteen minute insight meeting where I will share those with you.” “Sure, if you find anything interesting let me know and I’ll schedule some time to go over those.”
Monica has not only differentiated herself from all other competitors (including a low-cost outsourcing firm) but she also secured future access to this executive! With proper planning, Monica will continue to secure future access at the end of each insight meeting. No more surprises at the end of an expensive and lengthy sales cycle. Monica will have a predictable results and a successful year.
In the final installment of this series, I will discuss how you sell the value of your solution during the insight meeting. While you may be thinking in terms of ROI, you might be surprised at the rules of value and the different types of value offerings you can provide.