7 Differences When Selling to Companies

Here are seven important differences between selling to companies and selling to multiple buyers.

If you are selling to companies, chances are you are selling to multiple buyers. In some ways everything is the same when selling to multiple buyers as opposed to single buyers, and then again everything is different.

Selling to multiple buyers is the same as selling to single buyers in that for both you need: a sales process, sales skills and a sales philosophy. So the fundamentals of selling are the same.

Even though the sales fundamentals are exactly the same, the fact that you are selling to multiple buyers by its nature makes it different. You need to take into account these differences if you are selling to companies and multiple buyers.

So what are these differences?

Here are seven important differences when selling to companies and multiple buyers:

1. You need to have conversations with multiple people to find out what the problem is and its impact. You need to have multiple conversations with as many people (roles) as necessary to put the ‘problem puzzle’ together. I say ‘problem puzzle’ as each person you talk to will have their own unique perspective about the problem. When you are selling to a single buyer you can obtain all the information you need from that single person and you only have to deal with one perspective – much easier.

2. It costs a lot more time, money and resources to sell to multiple buyers as opposed to a single buyer. It becomes even more critical when selling to multiple buyers to have a formal qualification system in place and for you to apply it consistently. (I recommend having a three-filter qualification system: one filter for the company, one for the opportunity and one for your competition.)

3. You need to get a collection of “yes’s” which eventually culminate into the final “yes” from the person who makes the final decision. You need to get “yes’s” from the people who will use what you are offering, from those who influence the decision as well as from the final decision maker. One “yes” is no longer good enough as it is when selling to a single buyer plus not all “yes’s” are created equal. You need to find out all the people involved that you need to get a “yes” from and which series of “yes’s” lead to the final “yes.” You need to work out the “yes puzzle.”

4. You need to learn the jargon for the company and for the role played by each person with whom you will speak. For example a CFO talks in financial jargon and a VP of Marketing talks in marketing jargon and hence if you are to communicate you need to talk in their jargon (and not yours!). One language does not fit all when selling to multiple buyers.

5. Multiple buyers are normally involved when the risk is higher and there will be a tendency to go with the lowest risk solution. Hence when selling to multiple buyers you need to put more emphasis than you do when selling to a single buyer on showing that you are the least risk solution that can deliver the outcome they are looking for.

6. You have a LOT more information to distill in order to get the total picture when selling to multiple buyers as opposed to a single buyer. With a single buyer you can probably get away with informal notes. With multiple buyers you need a system that works for you and helps you capture all the information you collect so you can analyze and share it. (I say ‘works for you’ as a lot of sales force management systems don’t work for salespeople and eventually become ineffective.)

7. When selling to multiple buyers you need a strategy tailored for that specific opportunity. When selling to single buyers you can probably have a general strategy that you can apply to all single buyer opportunities. Having a single strategy for selling to companies and multiple buyers will be a disaster. You need to spend the time to decide your strategies for each multiple buyer opportunity and you need to continually fine-tune each of your strategies throughout the sale. You will need multiple strategies: a competitive strategy, a pricing strategy, a solution strategy and a “why buy from us” strategy etc.

If you want to sell to companies and multiple buyers, you will need to take these differences into account and adapt your tactics and strategies accordingly.

There is, of course, another big difference that was not covered in the list above. That is when you are selling to companies and multiple buyers typically the rewards and prices are much higher. So even though there is more effort required in selling to companies and in adapting your strategies and tactics accordingly, the extra rewards should make it very worth your while.

(c) 2008, Tessa Stowe, Sales Conversation.

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