This week on The Buyer’s Seat, I interviewed Adam, a former business acceleration leader with over 20 years of experience across a range of industries including Big Tech and Fin Serv.
For years, we’ve been telling sellers and marketers that they need to talk business issues. Our industry overall has gotten a bit beaten up for talking too much about speeds and feeds and not being able to connect that back to some overarching business strategy or business issue.
But recently we reached out to 102 IT buyers responsible for billions in spending. What was interesting is they told us that 2020 might feel a little bit different to them. Yes, they do want to talk about digital transformation, all those things are important, but not really right now. They really couldn’t spare the energy to focus on things beyond their current quarter. Think in terms of 30, 60, 90 day periods. For us, that made us wonder. Well, how do you deal with that as a seller? Do you try to combat that? Do you go with it?
To help us think through that, we are pleased to chat Adam with us. Adam is one of your IT buyers.
Here are three key takeaways from the conversation:
1. Funnily enough, we may really view 2020 as a great time from a sales perspective. The reason why is because historically organizations, especially large organizations, it’s tough for them to make decisions across an enterprise. But right now we have unprecedented access, especially to senior-level roles that we might not have gotten access to before. There’s this unique opportunity. You think about the fact that organizations, they know they don’t have all this stuff figured out because there is no playbook for this. There’s this openness to new ideas. There’s a willingness to admit vulnerability. There’s a desire to be educated, which for salespeople who are using an educated based approach, it’s a prime time.
2. If you take an abundance mentality and start building up coalitions and different stakeholders, you’ll nurture more decision makers, more contacts all up and down the organization. Lower levels have a lot of empowerment and autonomy now. That’s going to pay dividends when the organization starts to move again into the next normal. They’re going to go back to be a little bit and have lots of stakeholders involved. So for the sellers who play it right in this period of time, all that leg work will be done and those relationships have already begun.
3. Your buyers may be obsessed right now with the short term, that’s natural. So the best thing you can do for them right now is to answer the mail, right? Give them the short term need that they have, but it doesn’t mean that you don’t do that from an education-based perspective and start laying that groundwork for what more business-oriented solutions might look like in the future.
Panel Discussion Highlights
I’m really interested in this last corporate job that you had in terms of a title that says business acceleration and helping the organization make decisions. Thinking about it from an IT seller’s perspective, why does an organization need a position like that? Then in practical terms, what does it do on a day to day basis?
I think that as companies grow and scale, especially the ones that start off very entrepreneurial, you try and attack a whole bunch of different problems in different ways and you end up creating different groups and they’re all doing what they believe is right. Hopefully, they’re all successful but the thing is, everybody believes that their specialty is slightly unique, slightly more complicated, more complex, and requires different systems and tools and different approaches.
Then over time companies start to develop… We call them silos, but sometimes it could just even be different operating models. When it comes to making enterprise-wide decisions, it becomes harder and harder because you have these entrenched feelings of, well I’m a little different. I need slightly different and slightly unique technology, et cetera. When you start developing those silos, decision-making slows down. Technology choices take longer. Implementations take longer and are more complex and more expensive. Then the organization tends to not react as quickly as they hoped.
I think that it just becomes a little difficult to bring everybody together to match the same drum beat and sometimes it just takes an organizer. It’s really almost like a project manager that also is responsible for the outcomes of a vision.
What I do hear sometimes from salespeople though is that maybe decisions have gotten a little easier recently. I think it was Microsoft CEO recently, and he was doing an analyst call and he said one of the things that’s helped Microsoft over the last several quarters is that everybody has basically tried to accomplish two years of digital transformation, basically in the last two months.
Well I think that there’s one fundamental change that has happened in the psyche of executives. That is for the first time in a very long time, almost since 2008, finally, the risk of inaction is higher than the risk of action. For the past 10 years, things have been going so well that it was riskier to try and do something different, do something out of the norm, try and make a massive change than it was to just do nothing. Now you just can’t afford to do that.
So how do you as a seller, how do you navigate this unusual time in the sense that there is a lot of urgency? Buyers are saying, listen, we’re sort of figuring this out a quarter at a time, but at the same time, you know that to keep yourself from being commoditized, I do still have to connect to digital transformation and bigger picture things. How do you straddle that? If you’ve got a buyer who’s fixated on today, how do you add value in the right way?
Well, step one, help them fix today. The difference between a seller and a great seller is that the great seller is able to actually pick up on real cues and focus on trying to solve problems. I think that we’re in a very unique window right now, where there’s unprecedented access. You can get meetings with almost anybody over a video call, 15 minutes, 20 minutes here and there. This is the opportunity to take that, take those small windows, develop relationships, develop coalitions, become a known quantity. Then when it comes time to really lending deals, you’ve got those relationships.
I think that if people are asking for short term solutions versus longterm solutions, just give them a short term solution. You don’t have to go close the massive enterprise agreement. It’s okay to go land a couple of skews over a short period of time, develop credibility, develop a relationship, and then close an enterprise agreement later. It’s not like you’re not going to have a quota next year. Sell things along the way. I think that’s the win. I find it… If you’re going to want to land very complex deals, now’s the time to start having those broad conversations across many business units so that when the time comes to start landing the enterprise level discussions with procurement or sourcing or whomever, you can say, Oh, here are the 30 people that I’ve talked to.
That’s interesting. When you think about it that way, that makes sense. But I bet most people, given the pipeline damage that most people suffered this year. They wouldn’t think about it just in that way, but they might look upon this year very differently, six months, 12 months from now.
Yeah, pipelines will be extended, but I think that they’re also going to be broadened. I think you’re going to have the opportunity to land bigger, better, longer-term, more complex, and more interesting deals over the longterm. You’ve probably lost some of the non-strategic stuff in the short term. Hopefully, people didn’t get hurt too much, but I think there’s far more opportunity ahead than problems behind.
And on that positive note, if you’re looking for more insights on navigating your buyer personas at your target accounts, you can connect with one of the thousands of advisors in our network from Fortune 1000 firms. Contact us here to see what an Emissary can do for your business.