I want to tell you a story…


We want to tell you a storty

We live in the information age. All day, every day, we are bombarded with 24-hour news, an estimated 425 push notifications each in a working week, and over 300 billion emails sent globally every single day. From a sales viewpoint, when numerous bits of information are sent out without unity, it can make it difficult to clearly express a value proposition.

No wonder it’s hard to stand out from the crowd

There is a way to engage your audience, though. Its basis is as old as time itself. Develop the art of storytelling, and suddenly, delivering a compelling narrative is so much easier. We’d go as far as to say that effective storytelling is one of the most powerful tools you can develop in your sales arsenal.

Why does it work?

Telling stories is a way of humanising the sales process. There’s a reason that all sorts of tales are ingrained in every culture. People can relate to them and the way they convey information in a logical flow, presented in a way that is entertaining. You know what it’s like when you listen to a great raconteur. You get caught up in their anecdotes and are able to listen for ages without boredom setting in. 

There’s science to back it up too. Give people data, and it activates two parts of the brain. Give them a story, and seven regions are stimulated.

The art of storytelling

We’ll let you into a secret. A good story always embraces three concepts. Incorporate them into your sales approach, and they will help to drive customers to take action.

The first of these is ethos. The Greek word for character, this is all about your credibility. It’s one of the first things your customer will conclude about you in early discussions. But how do customers define credibility? It’s not enough to be well-intentioned, as customers can’t see your intentions, only the results. To be really credible, you need to get to know your customer and truly understand their needs. If you allow assumptions to drive your intentions, you will fail. Align what you deliver with your customer’s expectation, and your ethos rating will soar.

Secondly, you must develop pathos. This word is the root of ‘empathy’. It’s all about the emotional connection you build with your contacts. Empathy is important to your story. It is a tool that helps you overcome the norm and encourage the customer to think differently. Good sales stories should solve a customer’s problem, ease the pressure they are under, calm a crisis. Develop a great sense of empathy, and you’ll deliver a feeling of calm, trust and order. The aim is to be seen as a trusted ally rather than a salesperson.

Finally, logos. Not the Golden Arches or Nike Swoosh kind but pronounced to rhyme with ethos and pathos. This is the logical element of the story. We’re talking data and analytics here. The numbers that underpin the emotional side of your story. But beware of throwing a ton of analytics at your customer. Remember it only activates two parts of the brain. Use data to shine a spotlight on an important element, to underline a key point or to cement a killer sales argument. Present numbers in a relevant, interesting and succinct way, and it can help to drive home your story.

Building your story

Every story has a main character, and most deal with challenges that character meets and how they overcome them. Cast your customer as the main character. Make the story clear and easy to follow and take them through a flow.  

A persuasive opening shows the customer how things are and identifies the obstacles they are facing. The middle section builds the story, how it could be different. Show how your solution will help your client to overcome their challenge. The finale should be a compelling close — a reiteration of how life could be and a clear call to next action.

Finally, if you are doubting the power of a story, decide which of the two sales pitches below you’d prefer to receive:

1. We’ve won Vendor of the Year five years in a row. Our customer satisfaction ratings are 98%, and we have twice the market share of competitor A. Swap to us, and we’ll save you time and money.

Or ….

2. I was talking to Julie at XYZ company the other day. When I first met her, she was struggling with similar issues to you. She was telling me that since moving across to us three months ago, she’s already saved the company £5,000 and over 6 hours a week in time. And she’s had brilliant feedback from her team, they all love the product. It was so great to get her feedback. Can I talk you through how you might achieve similar results?

What’s your view on stories in the salesperson’s toolbox? Have you any success stories of your own that you can share with us? Comment below to add your thoughts.

Published: 11th June 2020.

You only have one persona?!


Target Market

One Persona, two persona….

Life is a bit different at the moment, isn’t it? And it’s prompting a range of responses. From conversations we’ve had, reactions to the lockdown seem to range from sheer panic – which is quite understandable – to a sense of contemplation.  

Here at Intelligent Talk, we are striving to take the latter perspective, ensuring that we are working to our best abilities, through the most appropriate channels for our customers and prospects. It’s a time to review how we do things and reflect on our proposition and the way we target

Talking of targeting

It is an area that many businesses find a challenge. How do you identify the right people, and how do you tailor an approach to them that works? So in the spirit of reflection, and with a resolve to come out of this situation stronger and more focused, we are sharing the top tips on creating a target market customer profile that we’ve used in our own busines

1.Know your buyer

Marketeers will recognise this as a cornerstone for any marketing plan. But it’s just as important for sales. Any type of sales communication will be far more productive when you consider a profile – what is driving the contact, their goals, needs and concerns. This is what is known as a Buyer Persona, a summary of the attributes of your ideal customer. When you use personas, the benefits include more targeted communications and the alignment of messaging across all functions.

2.Building your personas

The profile is drawn from market research, and from real data about your customers that you might collect direct from the salespeople or through surveys, interviews or other marketing tools. And of course, because not all your contacts are the same, you’ll have multiple personas. Depending on your business, there might be a couple, or there might be twenty. Create as many as you feel necessary to represent your whole market. 

3.Give them a name

It’s a good idea to name your persona so that you can build a mental picture of them and humanise them. This is important because the persona does represent real live people! Whether it’s Cautious Ken or Progressive Penny, Finance Felix or Logistics Len – take your pick, as long as the name means something to you and your team.

Elements of the persona

So what type of information should be included in a Buyer Persona? Different industries may need to record information specific to them, but generally, we’d recommend that all personas should include answers to the following:

  • Where does this person work – the industry, the size of the company, and how long they have worked there?
  • What is their job title and work experience and who do they report to?
  • What are their pain points – the challenges and obstacles they face?
  • And what are their gain point – the benefits your company can offer them?
  • What’s the consequence of leaving things as they are?
  • What are their goals and their personal motivations?
  • Where and how do they engage – communication methods, social networks?

Ready to start? See our template for more information. – Download here.

Finally, remember why you are creating personas – to communicate with contacts in a way that is relevant and resonant to them. Start with your current customer base and think of it as an ongoing process – and don’t worry about adding or deleting personas over time.

Do you use personas in your business? How did you start and what benefits have they bought? Share your thoughts below.

Published: 11th May 2020.

It’s all about me, me, me…


Attraction

Or at least, that’s how it feels to your prospect when you get your messaging wrong. There’s no more important area for sales and marketing to work together on than creating a positive brand, driving awareness of that brand and aligning a compelling message to it.

Here’s a quick test. Take a look at the home page of your website. If it features a history of your company or has a news story about your 10th anniversary, you’re doing it wrong.

Which way up should the pyramid be?

We talked in our blog ‘Your team sound like robots’ about the inverted pyramid technique that helps you to prioritise information. Often brands are the other way up. They start right at the top with the product. Don’t want that product? Then we’ve nothing else to say to you. Turning the pyramid upside down allows the brand to become more engaging. Think about the John Lewis Christmas adverts. They rarely feature any of the products you can buy from the store. Instead, the ads focus on how the organisation wants its brand to be perceived, and this gives it a broader appeal. There are far more people who want to give a thoughtful gift than want to buy a bike.

The dilemma

The thing is, ‘brand awareness’ can sound like a bit of an intangible. Hard sales leads are much easier to see and measure. So many organisations naturally drive their marketing efforts to lead acquisition activity. Of course, generating leads is vital, but it should be viewed within the larger marketing picture, which, to maximise your success, must include defining and communicating your brand. You can think of it as the strong foundation that builds trust, and when you have trust, sales flourish.

Why brand awareness matters

Every decision, including whether to purchase from you, starts with a judgement about your brand, whether conscious or not. The technology industry is a great example of how brand affects perception and sales. That beautiful large display that sits on the office wall will have come out of one of a handful of factories. The company that manufactures a third of the global display production is a name I guarantee you’ll never have heard of. You could buy a display with this name on, but you are likely to shun it for a brand you feel is a ‘quality’ one. The reality is the displays are exactly the same; it is the brand that you are paying more for.  

This is borne out by research. A Nielsen study revealed that around 60% of people are more likely to buy products from familiar brands, than from brands they don’t know.

Brand awareness in sales 

To align sales messages with your brand, you need to ensure that you introduce your brand in contexts that feel natural. Layer the information in a way that feeds the right amount of information to the prospect at the time they are ready to receive it. By structuring your content in line with the inverted pyramid process, you can drip feed increasingly targeted information to your contact.

By doing this, you can capture your prospect’s attention by selling an idea first, and then introducing specific solutions that align with that idea at a later time. It’s a long game, but one that helps you direct your prospect in the direction you want them to go, without them ever feeling pressured.

The hard truth is, people don’t care about you, and they don’t care about your products. What they do care about is feelings. To be really successful, stop talking about yourself, and start talking about what your audience already cares about.   

Have you successfully introduced the concept of brand into your sales process and if so, what results has it brought? We’d love to hear from you.

Published: 26th March 2020.

It’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say it…


tone & pitch

Well OK, what you say IS important, but we firmly believe that a huge element of successful selling is about HOW you say things.  

Indeed, a study by the University of Chicago showed that how you say something is 5x more important in getting your message across than what you actually say. 

Can you think of someone you know who has a real passion, whether that is their work, their hobby or another aspect of their life? When you listen to them speak, notice how you respond. The chances are that you will be transfixed by what they are saying. You might feel excited, and almost certainly you’ll believe what that person is saying to you.

What about the other side of the coin? The people who, yes, are knowledgeable, but there’s something about their delivery that just seems to drain the energy from the room and anyone in it. You find yourself distracted and thinking about other things as they drone on and on.

We can start to see that how you say something might really impact on the success or otherwise of a sale.

How do you inject passion into your subject?

It’s often about using the right tone and inflection. The word tone has many meanings. Here we are referring to the character of the sound, or the timbre, of your voice. The study referred to above revealed that the average human ear can distinguish 1,378 noticeable differences in tone. This means hearing is almost 100x more sensitive than our eyesight, and subtle change of tone can be picked up by the listener. Tone also has a broader meaning, as in ‘setting the right tone’, a meaning that is very relevant to a sales call.  

The inflection of your voice refers to how you change the tone. So if you speak in a monotone style, it becomes very boring and hard to listen to. Vary the tone, and the same information suddenly sounds more appealing. The use of inflection also lets you emphasise important points. Subtle changes in the pitch and flow of what you are saying let you highlight certain elements that are key to your argument. 

Tailor your delivery to your audience

Good salespeople will consciously amend their delivery style depending on their audience. Think about how you would want to be perceived by a charity. You’d probably want to come across as honest and sincere. What about when selling to a stockbroker? A different approach would be appropriate, one that shows you are strong, confident and in control.  

Why is it so important?

In our global, tech-dependent world, face to face meetings are no longer the norm. Relationship building happens remotely. Your style of speaking is even more important when selling on the phone, and you don’t have the benefit of body language to help you construct a convincing sales pitch. In fact, when speaking on the phone, almost your entire message is communicated through your tone and inflection.

It’s a good idea to ask someone you trust how you are perceived. And there are things you can do that can help yourself to become more aware of your delivery. Practice in front of a mirror, take slow, deep breaths, and practise changing speed, volume, and tone. Be self-critical and see how these elements change the way you come across. A great idea is to record your sales pitch and then adjust the tone or inflection as you need to.

Have you ever consciously changed your delivery to boost the chances of a sale? Or do you have any tips for perfecting a telephone approach? Let us know by commenting below.

Published: 26th March 2020.

Our best picks for business books on World Book Day.


World book day

If yours is anything like our office you’ve got a mix of people that remember having World Book Day at school or those in the office that are parents and were dressing their children up for world book day this morning, even if they didn’t experience it themselves in school. Either way, this invokes a sense of excitement and hedonism reminding us of the books we loved as kids, the ones that changed our perspectives, our lives. Or those we simply love for no other reason than escapism.

We asked our colleagues and some of our favorite titles have been shared in our post here – a little insight into the mind of intelligent talk.

However… in honor of World Book Day and the books that can change the way we do business, we’ve dug out 5 of the best business books of all time (please don’t quote us on this).

Number 1. Start with Why – Simon Sinek

How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action , Simon Sinek presents the idea that great leaders inspire others by putting the Why (the purpose) before the How (the process), or the What (the product). Start with Why created waves of discussion and change around our office.

Number 2. Think & Grow right – Napolean Hill

Napoleon Hill, America’s most beloved motivational author, devoted 25 years to finding out how the wealthy became that way. After interviewing over 500 of the most affluent men and women of his time, he uncovered the secret to great wealth based on the notion that if we can learn to think like the rich, we can start to behave like them. 

Number 3. The Checklist Manifesto – Atul Gawande

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right is a 2009 non-fiction book by Atul Gawande. It was released on December 22, 2009 through Metropolitan Books and focuses on the use of checklists in relation to several elements of daily and professional life. 

Number 4. Shoe Dog – Phil Knight

Shoe Dog is a memoir by Nike co-founder Phil Knight. The memoir chronicles the history of Nike from its early struggles to its evolution into one of the world’s most recognized and profitable companies.

Number 5. Art of War – Sun Tzu

The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise dating from the Late Spring and Autumn Period. The work, which is attributed to the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, is composed of 13 chapters. Each one is devoted to an aspect of warfare and how it applies to military strategy and tactics. 

Published: 05th March 2020.

Business Development or Telemarketing – which is the best choice?


Business Development

There are times in every sales professional’s life when the going gets tough.  Leads seem to be thin on the ground. The team has lost its mojo. Targets are feeling a bit too far out of reach for comfort.

There’s probably a feeling that you need some fresh leads to go after and a bit of support in hitting your targets. Someone suggests engaging a telemarketing agency to put some wellie behind your efforts. And yes, it’s always a good idea to identify the barriers to success, and if necessary, to bring in some outside expertise to help overcome them. But maybe there’s a better option to telesales? Maybe what you need instead is some support with business development.

You might be asking whether there’s a difference between the two disciplines?  There certainly is, and to understand what sets business development apart, take a look at our blog here.

So why would we recommend business development to give your sales function a boost?

It’s a strategic rather than ad hoc relationship

When you work with a business development agency, they will partner with you to align goals across a longer-term. Their objective will be to deliver very high levels of qualification and put a huge amount of focus on quality rather than quantity. A good partner will research thoroughly and identify the decision-maker or decision-making unit, and provide a full brief on the prospect. A telemarketing agency is more likely to be working on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis and so their focus is on churning through as many calls as possible to deliver leads – which may not be well qualified or of a high quality.

It’s cost-effective

If you’ve never outsourced your business development before, you may be thinking that it’s an expensive option that’s beyond your budget. In reality, it is quite the opposite. Adding internal capacity is a long-term commitment. When hiring, you have all the costs associated with employment, the allocation of management time and resources during the recruitment process, not to mention that new hires average £30,000 in fees alone. Then there’s things such as training costs and software licences to factor in. You’re easily looking at a six-figure sum. With outsourcing, you can get additional focus up and running very quickly, exactly when you need it. If the time comes when you no longer need it, you can switch if off. And whilst a business development agency may cost more than a telemarketing one in terms of fees, when you look at the return on investment, we guarantee it will be higher, thanks to the higher calibre of leads and an increased conversion rate.

It’s a way to access expertise

Even if your sales efforts are riding high, your company could still benefit from outsourcing business development if you’re trying something new. For example, if market diversification is part of your strategy, but you don’t have the in-house capacity or expertise. Different markets demand different tactics,  the approach to a large enterprise will need to be structured differently to contact with retailers. When you work with business development experts rather than just appointment makers, you’ll also find that they will identify natural opportunities to diversify and grow your business.

Do you have experience of working with outsourced business development professionals or telemarketing agencies? What were the benefits of each? We’d love the hear your views in the comments below.

Published: 03rd March 2020.

Are you getting your sales stack right?


Sales Technology

What’s in your sales stack, are you getting it right?

Sales is a competitive business. It can sometimes feel like a minefield out there. But there is a vital tool to help you, known as your sales stack, or in other words, the technology deployed to support the sales team.

Not all sales stacks are created equal, though. In a modern sales environment, one tool is rarely enough. Your stack should ideally include a combination of technologies to support you at each step of the process.

Get your stack right, and you can drive productivity, equip the team with all the background information they need, and automate repetitive and tedious jobs. The correct tools are great for the team and the manager, proving insight and data to support for smarter decisions. But with more innovations out there than you can shake a stick at, and with new ones evolving all the time, how do you choose which should be in your stack?

Here’s our suggestions for the most vital inclusions to a killer sales stack:

  1.  CRM

Your CRM system should be right at the heart of your sales efforts, nurturing your relationship with accounts all the way through from pre-sale to post-sale. You need one that delivers a 360 view of prospects and their experience with your brand so far. And one that tracks their engagement, through every touchpoint, providing a history of the contact you’ve had with them.

If you don’t have one in place – sorry, but you are way behind your competition. A great CRM can improve customer satisfaction, drive up retention and value, streamline communications, and optimise marketing effort. If you’re in the process of getting one, be clear at the start about why you are investing and what you expect the system to deliver.

  1.  Automation

We’ve covered process in depth here and automation amost works as an overlay to ensure your perfect sales process flows easily and your not boged down!

Every job has elements of routine and administration. And it’s vital, as anyone who has lost a deal because they forgot to schedule a follow-up call will know! The trouble is, it can distract us from our core focus and drive down productivity. So why do everything manually when technology can do it for you?

I’m talking about follow up emails, meeting invites, reminders to get in touch, and syncing up sales and marketing systems. All of these tedious but important tasks can be automated using software, artificial intelligence and other tools. There are lots of options from dipping your toe in the water to going all out. At one end of the scale, systems such as Zapier provide easy automation by connecting web apps together. At the other, you can go for a full digital transformation strategy and API integration.

  1.  Lead Sourcing & Engagement

Prospecting is a time-consuming business, but there is now a multitude of ways to now be able to access contact information. Tools exist to help collect data on your prospects’ behaviour, such as who visited your site or to give you the correct contact information so that you can follow up new leads.

Lusher, Hunter, Get Email.io, and Prospector.io are just some of the readily available systems that can help. And platforms such as LinkedIn Professional allow you to create communication channels with your prospects.

  1.  Booking technology

Congratulations. You’ve managed to get engagement, automate your processes and track everything in your amazing CRM. So what’s missing?

Enabling the easy attendance of meetings, whether physical or virtual, is a must in modern-day sales. Technology such as Calendarly and hosting services like Zoom make it easy for anyone to book and access meetings, dropping all the details into peoples’ schedules. Now there’s no excuse to ever miss a meeting again!

So those are our suggestions? How many of these tools are you using?

Are there others that you think you should have in your stack? Join the conversation by commenting below.

Published: 20th February 2020

We’re sorry to remind you…


We're sorry to remind you, the year is nearly over.

But if your financial year is aligned with the tax year, then your year-end is just under two months away. You will no doubt now be in the final sprint to the end of March. 

It can be a fraught time – counting down the days left to achieve the year’s targets, whilst at the same time, pulling together your plans for 2020/2021. 

If you’re home and dry with your numbers, fantastic! But if that year-end figure is proving to be rather elusive, now’s the time to take action. Here are some thoughts that may help ease the stress and prevent you from breaking that dry January pledge in a big way in February!  

Firstly, use any resources that you have at your fingertips 

Resources such as our previous blogs ‘Why your sales process sucks’  & ‘Dealing with moving goalposts’. They give advice and tips on getting your processes right and hitting those targets when you need it most. 

Now’s the time to have a really good look at your pipeline.  

 Be honest with yourself – have you let anything slip through the cracks? If so, you may find those elusive nuggets of sales opportunities are right in front of you. If the initial groundwork has already be done, there could be the chance of some quick wins. A bit of additional effort might be all it takes to push them across the line. It’s worth bearing in mind that many prospects will be working to the same financial timings and may have budgets they need to use before year-end or at least get a jump on next year while the financial planning is in full swing at this time of year.. 

Think about quick wins versus large wins.  

You need to carefully weigh up where you should be focusing your efforts, and the likelihood of deals dropping into place. On the one hand, smaller deals usually have faster completion times. But whilst you might be able to nail them down sooner, you’ll need more of them to fill a large gap in the figures. It might be one large deal is all you need. Great if it happens – but do you have the time to pay it the attention it needs and can the decision on it be made with enough speed to secure it before the end of March? There are no rights and wrongs; you need to look at your own opportunities and choose the route that you think has the most chance of delivering the revenues you need. 

Finally, is it worth bringing in some outside help?

We all like to think we can do things alone, but sometimes the right support can make all the difference when the pressure is really on. Whether it’s a specific skill you need to help you with a tricky prospect or some admin support to free up your time to focus on selling, take a frank look at your challenge areas, anything stopping you performing to the best of your ability, and ask for the help you need. 

What are your tips for a year-end boost to get you over the line? We’d love you to share your thoughts in the comments below. 

Published: 04th February 2020.

Business Development in 2020 – Doing it the right way!


Business Development in 2020

Business Development in this brave new world.

It’s the last week of January and we have all just got over being off for christmas and eating our weight in food. 5 weeks since the last pay day and a week so go we may have forgotten that its as exciting time.

Welcome to the twenties. It’s the beginning not only of a new year but of a new decade. Social media has been rife with 10-year challenges, but they’re not for us, thanks. As someone once said ‘don’t look back, you’re not going that way’.

The turning of the year always feels like the ideal time to try new strategies, to re-focus and to align the challenges for the coming 12 months.

So with that in mind, what are our thoughts for business development in 2020?

1. Saying the right thing is always going to be increasingly important

Losing a deal can be as simple as saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Try jotting down the questions you want to ask during each stage of your sales process to move the sale forward. Here’s some Business Development questions that we feel are important to include to get you started

  • How can I help? This is key. Central to a salesperson’s role is finding out how you can help your prospect. Keep this at the core of what you do.
  • What are your top priorities? A great question and one whose answer you should really listen to carefully, as you will get clues on how to close the deal.
  • Why now? This gives you a feel for the urgency of the deal.
  • Who else is involved in the decision-making process? This is crucial to ask. Otherwise, you can waste weeks cultivating the wrong people or neglecting others in the decision-making unit.
  • What has your previous experience been like? This question gives you clues to competitors’ mistakes or more information about the way a prospect likes to progress.
  • Is there anything else that I should know? You’ll be amazed at what might come out in the answer to this. It gives your prospect the chance to open up to you.
  • Let’s set up the next step. Never leave things open-ended. Get a commitment to the next step, be that a call or meeting. That way, you move the process forward.

2. Listening, transparency and being genuine are crucial  

In other words, you need to embrace authenticity. Old fashioned sales development relied on salespeople controlling the flow of information.

That’s no longer the case. In today’s Business Development world, it’s a two-way dialogue between the salesperson and the potential buyer that gets results. There’s more choice, more information and easier ways to buy than in previous decades, so both sides need to be open.

Look at how you can deliver value to your customers, be candid and transparent and aim towards a mutually beneficial relationship.

3. You can throw in the occasional @!#**@

Here’s a statistic for you. According to LinkedIn research, sales professionals swear on 20% of their calls with buyers – and more interestingly, it can help close a deal.

This would be unthinkable probably even 15 years ago. But there seems to be a golden rule. Wait until your buyer swears first!

Gong Labs data shows that closure rates can increase by 8% when both parties swear on the call.

When your prospect drops an obscenity, they are giving you a clue. They are telling you it’s alright to forget formalities and let your professional guard down a bit. In other words, it’s showing you they trust you, by revealing their true self.

What a great advantage that gives you in tailoring your sales approach. It’s almost as if your relationship strengthens as you both bond over something that might be viewed as “breaking the rules”. And when you bond with someone, you get more trust, better relationships and yes, more sales.

We aren’t sure this is the future of Business Development, however trends suggest it’s becoming ever more popular.

4. Sales and marketing have to align 

We all know the friction that can occur between the two disciplines. This year, vow to put that to bed once and for all. Align your sales and marketing functions, and suddenly the focus turns to the customer. And it’s a customer that is more in control, more educated, more mobile and empowered than ever before. A customer that has infinite access to information and people. To approach these prospects effectively, sales and marketing have to work together.

Maybe it’s time to take a new approach that develops a mindset of helping the buyer, not selling to them. Indeed, some companies are investing in new positions of ‘sales enablement’ – a function designed to integrate sales and marketing, along with other relevant departments, with the objective of improving sales effectiveness. According to Aberdeen Group, the best-in-class companies within industries have a 50% higher quota attainment than the average. And those best-in-class companies are twice as likely to be investing in sales enablement.

What are your thoughts on new approaches to business development in the new decade? Do share them with us by commenting below.

Published: 27th January 2020

Influence the Influencer.


How to influence when not getting through to the Decision Maker

It’s an occupational hazard in sales. Stuck with a gatekeeper who, whatever approach you take, is determined not to let you in until they know more. Or you get to talk to the ‘decision-maker’ – only to find out they are really an influencer. Part of the decision-making unit, yes, and have influence, but there are others who need convincing of the merit of your offer.

Sometimes you just can’t get to have that direct conversation with the person who holds the ultimate power to say yes or no. Indeed, with email filtering and call screening, it’s becoming rarer to get straight through to them. But it’s not the end of the world. You can influence the person you ARE talking to and give them the tools to convince the people that have the final say.

Here’s our top tips on influencing a decision when it’s not the decision-maker you’re talking to:

1. Identify who you are talking to and determine their role

You need to understand precisely with whom you are engaging, and importantly, how influential they are in the decision you want made. Are they a gatekeeper, whose role is to screen calls and deliver on information that is relevant? Don’t underestimate the importance of these people; they hold the power over what information gets passed to the decision-maker. Or are they part of a decision-making unit? They can certainly influence the decision but need someone else to give the final approval. Structure your conversations with meaningful questions to identify how much influence they hold, how long they’ve been with the organisation, and what relationships they hold.

2. Become an influencer marketer

We’re not suggesting you should try selling fad exercise plans, weird supplements or the latest gadget. But the methods used by influencer marketing work – you know what we’re talking about: Mr ‘I bought a Tesla because Elon Musk said I should’ – and can be used to great effect in a B2B sales development environment. If it’s good enough for the most successful networking and sales platform in the world, LinkedIn, then it’s good enough for us. Here’s some ideas:

  • Align yourself with the influencer you are talking to – ask questions about their ideas and why they think your proposition will work for their organisation. The key is to really listen and be genuinely interested in what they think and why they think it. The more you can align yourself with them, the more likely it is that they will prove to be your ally.
  • Hype things up a bit. In the world of Instagram, influencer campaigns are successful when they leverage our links to culturally relevant people with whom we empathise. On a B2B level, you can use relevant brands you’ve worked with to excite the person you are talking to. Referrals and word of mouth recommendations carry enormous weight. You need to understand which brands that you’ve worked with are important in your prospect’s marketplace – not necessarily big world-wide names, but key market players. Even better if you can get a testimonial to add credibility.
  • Develop a culture of sharing. Successful B2B interactions depend on the strength of the relationship as much as the level of influence. Ensure you create and develop a positive relationship with your influencer. Right now, they are the face of your brand within their organisation. With the right nurturing you can turn them into an advocate for you, making it easier for you get your proposition to the final decision maker and receive a positive response from them.

3. Critique your marketing

Is your marketing material up to the job? We’ve talked above about how to build a relationship with your influencer. Now you need to arm them with the right tools. Your message is being passed on through a third party, and we all know what happens when you play Chinese Whispers. By giving the person high-quality marketing collateral that articulates your message perfectly, you will help to ensure nothing gets lost in translation.

When you find yourself in this position, it’s certainly a challenge. But with the right approach, it needn’t be an insurmountable one.

Published: 26th November 2019

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