How should you approach the c-suite? That elusive senior person in a large business who can approve your deal? Often, the answer is: you don’t. Instead, target the person whose problem you aim to fix.
How do you approach that really senior person who you know can approve the deal and you need to get to early in the cycle? The answer usually is that you don’t and shouldn’t, and I’ll show you why.
Often the person who can approve the deal is not the person who actually has the problem that your deal is gonna fix. Let me explain, if you go to the ultimate decision maker, even the CEO of the business, she or he has hundreds of problems that they’re focusing on and the problem that you can fix may not even be on that list, but somebody in the business does have that problem and there’s a legitimate reason that business needs to buy your product or service. But you have to start with the person who has the problem, not the person who can approve getting it fixed. Go to the person who has the problem and you’ll get traction. Go to the person who can approve the decision and you may not get traction. I’ll show you in this blog how to find the right kind of business and the right kind of person within that business to begin your journey with.
Imagine a room full of buyers, imagine another room right beside it full of buyers. In reality, they’re prospective buyers in both rooms. Now in one of those rooms there are people likely to be affected by a problem that you can solve and your competitors can solve that problem too. In the other room, there’s a room full of people who have the problem that only you can solve or maybe the other guy can solve it but you can solve it so much better. Clearly you want to walk into the second room. Clearly you want your sales people to be calling on the people in that second room. Clearly you want your marketing people to be talking to the people in that second room.
Well, let’s get away from the theory for a moment, what’s the first room and what’s the second room? We’re talking about who the target market is that we ought to be talking to in the first place and that’s a critical factor for marketing and for sales to get right in the beginning. So we clearly want to understand who it is that has the problem that we can solve and begin with him and often in a large business, it’s not the person who ultimately will approve the deal, it’s the person who’ll create the business case for the deal at all and that’s who we want to influence. Finally of course they’re going to go to that ultimate decision maker and if we’re half decent at sales, we need to have got to that ultimate decision maker at some point in the circle. My point is, that’s not who you begin with. You begin with the person who has the problem that you’re gonna fix.
Sometimes, just sometimes, it really is the CEO. My point is not that it’s not the CEO, my point is don’t assume that it’s the most senior person. Ask the question, who actually has the problem and that’s who you should be calling on. I’ll give you a quick example. One of the things that align.me does is to work on sales and marketing alignment. Companies that are frustrated about lack of alignment find what we do attractive. But in our experience there’s an equal chance, almost exactly equal chance that that will be the CEO or the Head of Sales or the Head of Marketing. We’ve done this recently, we went through all of the deals that we won over the last two or three years, and what we found is that the pattern has been for these last two or three years as it was for the two or three years before that. About a third of those deals were initiated by the CEO who got frustrated that the sales and marketing weren’t on the same page. A third of those deals were frustrated marketers who said I just can’t seem to get sales on the same page, can you help? And the other third were frustrated heads of sales who said the same thing about their marketing counterparts. So in that case, we clearly need to target all three of those.
The point is don’t assume and the point is don’t assume that the company that, whoever the role is, works for is the same kind of company you’ve been targeting in the past. We want to target companies and roles within companies who have the problem that we can fix uncommonly well.
Shortly I’ll show you how to do this in Funnel Plan but before that I’m gonna do two things. I’m gonna share with you my conclusions and I’m gonna invite you to receive other blogs like this. Let’s get to the conclusion first.
It really comes down to doing six things in somewhat, and this won’t surprise you if you’ve listened to my blogs before, you know that I’m quite a process thinker, in six very serial steps. Point one, be really, really, really clear on what problem it is that you solve better than your competition. Point two, make that decision and the next decisions I’m gonna recommend together, that is get sales and marketing and finance and ops and the CEO of your business together and make a call, make a decision, what problems do we think we solve really well, choose one.
I’ll include a link here in the blog to the most recent video blog that I did on how to choose that problem, if you haven’t already watched that. But my second suggestion is to choose the problem well together. Okay next make a list of the common characteristics of the kind of business that that problem really affects. Make a long list if you need to, typically there’s something about size that makes that problem even more common or more problematic when it strikes. Is there something about geography that makes that problem more typical? Is there something about their propensity to be moving around, their propensity to not be moving around, their capital structure, their organisation structure? What’re the traits that really make that problem either turn up or when it turns up, hurt like crazy? And write all of those down because what you’re really describing is the ideal client profile, because clearly we should be talking to companies who have as many of those traits as possible. Next what kind of businesses have all of those traits? Now you might use traditional segmentation at this point, it might be by industry, but what are the types of business that we can easily find, that have a good number of those traits? And finally who is the person within each of those businesses and it’s often a different role type by each of those businesses. You might even have as many as 10 segments there. But who is the role holder within each of those business types, who most has the problem? Once again its not the decision maker necessarily, it’s the person who has the problem, because they’ll take us to the decision maker.
Well if you enjoyed this blog then likely you’ll enjoy others. If you haven’t already, can I invite you to subscribe to receive this blog. Go to align.me/blog and either subscribe to the twice a week blog or, if you prefer, the once a month which has a recap of all the key blogs from the month. Frankly what most people do is subscribe to both and you’re welcome to do that. Now if you prefer, you can also subscribe to the YouTube channel here and can consume these blogs in that way. If you have already but you have a colleague who hasn’t, then now will be a great time to invite them and I’d be so grateful if you do that. Why don’t you do that now, either subscribe or flick along to friend, come back and then I’ll show you how to do that in Funnel Plan.
Well let’s begin with the output of Funnel Plan itself, way too small a font for you to read right now, but you can see in the Funnel Plan we’ve got the strategy in terms of the objectives, what we’re trying to sell, through who we’re trying to sell through, the ideal client profile, target segments, philosophy and techniques. Today we’re obviously talking about strategy and specifically what does the ideal client look like and where would we find them. Let’s take a look at that in the Funnel Plan software. Start by going to plans and I’m gonna chose my blogging video plan here, we’re going to select the blogging video and obviously we’re looking at strategy, but I want to take a look at the initial strategy that I would have put into the plan before I actually did my thinking about the problem choice. Simple questions, what do you sell, to whom do you sell and through whom do you sell, would have been pretty populated now, in this one it hasn’t been, but these are very simple strategic questions. But we’re now asking a question about the target market if you like, the same as to whom, but after we’ve already chosen the problem.
The question becomes two-fold, firstly what does the ideal customer look like and that’s where we’re gonna put all of the characteristics that we would expect to be true in the sort of company or sort of business affected by the problem. They might be size characteristics, they might be something about the structure, the geography, really it could be anything that would really make that problem more present than less and then what type of business and what role? Now within the type of business, I can influence, I can input, the kind of business itself the role that I wanna target. Now this focus and maturity we’re gonna cover on another video, so I won’t cover it now, they’re not mandatory fields at this stage. So for example if I’m gonna add another segment to that, I can put in information, the business type and the role, but I won’t put anything in focus and maturity now. Can’t select because you don’t really need it. And that’s it, that where I can input into the Funnel Plan the basic information to capture who it is that most has the problem and where we’re likely to find them. Don’t forget that with Funnel Plan at any time you can bring out the help center and by hovering over the section that you’re looking at, the help center will change and it will give you information that will help you understand specifically the question being asked and how to think about it.
In next week’s show, I’ll show you how to deal with that pattern, now imagine you’ve identified six or seven or eight or nine different target segments, and they’re all quite different, but there are common characteristics about each of those segments. And we’ll look at what, what is it about those segments that impact our strategy and it’s the maturity, how mature are they when they go to buy a product like this and what impact does that have on our strategy? I’ll show you how to do that next week. But for now, may your funnel be full and always flowing.