Generating and following up on leads are both key to maintaining a successful business. However, finding those few influential decision makers you want to sell your product or service to can be difficult and time consuming, especially when it is estimated that in a typical firm an average of seven people are involved in most buying decisions.
Here, we explore how online channels and influencer mapping can enable you to create relationships with the people who matter.
What Constitutes a Decision MakerWe all understand how important it is to speak to the right person in relation to lead generation however, finding that person's contact details, let alone directly accessing them, can sometimes be tricky. Critical decision makers will usually be different people dependent on the company or sector you are selling to, so unfortunately a 'one size fits all' approach doesn't exist.
To avoid losing the sale you need to identify the individual that is responsible for the budget that your product or service would fall into. By giving your well-honed pitch to someone without the authority to agree a deal, the likelihood is that any information you have imparted will be inaccurately relayed to the decision maker, making a return call or email reply unlikely.
It's worth remembering that the staff members lower down the hierarchical chain still influence the decisions that are made higher up, so maintain professionalism and respect with all staff. Generally speaking though, we try to contact one of the following staff members when prospecting new clients:
- Managing Director
- Sales Director
- HR Director or Business
- Development Director
Going to the top of the tree isn't a fail-safe method; prior research into company structure will pay off.
When searching LinkedIn and other social sites, look for the phrase "Full P&L responsibility" on people's profiles as this gives an indication whether a contact is actually a decision maker, or whether they are merely an influencer that is not involved with the profit/loss activities of their team.
Exploiting Social MediaThe benefits of social media in the sales process are vast and they are even more useful when trying to target specific people within organisations. In a survey conducted amongst B2B companies by DemandGen in 2012 an overwhelming amount shared their business related content via social media. 54% said their preferred network was LinkedIn, 39% stated Twitter and 18% opted for Facebook. Google+ and Pinterest also featured within the poll, receiving 11% and 6% respectively.
These statistics, combined with Pew Research Center's findings that 74% of online adults are using social networking sites (as of January 2014), are the reason the online landscape is a great place to prospect decision makers. It is the best place to form an understanding of their interests and opinions, as well as find their contact details in a more informal environment.
Another benefit of using social as a tool to source influential contacts is that you are able to see other people they're connected to. You may be lucky enough to find out that a colleague went to school with the MD of a potential client or another unexpected link, but any network information can be useful if utilised to create a business map or profile for prospective clients.
Influencer MappingThe lengthy process of finding decision makers can be made simpler by mapping both the business hierarchy as well as the key influencers. The quickest and best method to do this is simply to pick up the phone and contact the organisation to ask some open questions about who is involved in the decision making process. This is an often undervalued process that enables you to profile not only the person you ideally want to contact, but also the rest of the organisation. It can be updated as and when people's roles change or new positions are created.
This also allows you to note down who is charge of which budgets to ensure you maintain a professional appearance with the client and that your knowledge is current. These maps can be continually expanded with individual contact details as well as extra information such as interests and opinions and could be stored within whichever CRM system you use.
Another advantageous step would be to consider that each influencing member of staff plays a part in the decision process. For example, there may be a HR Director that has to identify the need for your product or service in order to pass you the details of the Managing Director for final sign off. Depending on your business, you may need the buy-in of several people and knowing who these are will only improve your odds.
Decisive ActionsSpeaking to the relevant decision makers is intrinsic to the sales process so give it the time and effort it deserves. Utilise influencer mapping and social media, amongst other methods, to enable your team to have a more detailed overview of your prospective clients and to target them more efficiently.
Instil your companies own variation of the following process for productive and successful decision maker targeting:
- Identify prospective client businesses.
- Map the key influencers and the decision chain within each business.
- Use social media to see how targets are connected and whether you have mutual associates.
- Build relationships by seeing what your influencers are interested in and creating conversation.
- Make contact with the decision maker, utilising all prior research to upsell your product or service to them in a personalised manner.