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Influencing the Influencer September 26, 2011

Posted by christinapappas in Content Marketing, Strategy.
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I had a conversation with a friend of mine who was asking me about my experience selling into the IT department. Now I have never ‘sold’ into any department (if we take that whole 2 week stint of door to door selling out of the picture), but I did generate leads from that group and also supported a sales team who was actively talking to them and essentially selling to them. The thing about my friend though is that his solution does not help the IT organization but because it’s a technology, they are involved. So we got into a conversation about the user, the influencer and the decision maker. How you market and ‘sell’ to each of these without one interfering with the next.

In this case, my friend’s audience is optometry offices and the ‘users’ are primarily the opticians themselves or the office support staff – not IT. However, because it’s a technology, will live on the offices systems and has the potential to house patient data, IT is involved. They are the influencer.

How do you influence the influencer?

It’s not always easy and there are all types of influencers.

  1. The user as the influencer
  2. Another part of the organization (often IT) as the influencer
  3. The champion as the influencer

Personally, I have influenced decisions, been influenced by other people to make a decision and have not been able to move forward with something because of a person of influence.

In my friend’s case, he decided to make the preliminary pitch to the users and the decision-makers and before he even walks in their door, he ensures that IT will not be represented at the initial meeting. Some of you may agree with this approach and others not. Here is what I think.

As a marketer, you are most likely generating leads that resemble the decision maker, not necessarily the influencer. But as it is your responsibility to ensure your sales team is armed with sales presentations, whitepapers, testimonials, case studies and anything else required to sell whatever it is you are selling, you need to ensure that they have the tools available to teach their prospects how to make the sale internally.

Teaching prospects how to sell internally

As a purchaser of technology, I would often ask my sales representative for ways in which I could sell their solution to my boss, my team and my company. I was often the champion for ‘the next phase’ and although I knew it could make us better, faster, smarter, it was no always budgeted. I needed someone to help me put together my case.

This got me thinking about my own sales team and what hoops they were jumping through after they had hooked the decision maker or champion. Were they educating prospects on how to sell internally? What did that conversation between decision-maker and IT leader sound like? How could we help?

You’re not always going to be invited to the conversation so you need to arm your champion with some ammo.

  1. Define who is the user, the champion, the influencer and the decision maker. Ask your sales team – the answer may surprise you.
  2. Take a look at all your content and put it into buckets based on who its ‘talking’ to. Do you have content for the influencers or maybe just for the users? How about the champions?
  3. Fill in the gaps. If my friend doesn’t have any datasheets or collateral that speaks to the IT organization, he better get started there.
  4. Talk to your current customers and people who are in the final buying stages. Is there anything you could have done to help them sell your solution internally better? What about the people still considering your solution?
  5. Coach your sales team on not only selling to the leads you generate, but educating prospects on selling internally (this really depends on what your product/service is and how many people are involved)

Have you identified the influencers? How are you supporting your sales team ‘sell’ to this group?

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