Do you remember the Challenger Sale? If you’re not familiar, it was a book that came out of the research done by the sales experts at Corporate Executive Board, and it was a big contributor to how selling, and what it takes to be a successful sales person, has changed over the last decade.
Recently, CEB released another round of research that explains how it is not enough for a sales rep to become a trusted informant, confidant and consultant to a primary decision maker at prospect organizations. What they’ve found is that the average buying decision involves 5.4 individuals within a company. A sales person needs to get 5.4 people to say YES to a purchase decision, even if that decision doesn’t directly impact their day-to-day responsibilities within an organization.
It’s difficult enough to train and resource your channel partners to sell your products to just one decision-maker. Their effectiveness, and your mutual success, is less and less likely with each additional individual who gets involved in the process. When there is an average of 5.4 decision-makers, investing the time, money and resources needed for success becomes daunting.
Fortunately, CEB’s research provides conclusions and recommendations about HOW to navigate the dynamics of the 5.4. Here are three of the biggest take-aways to get you started:
- Identify the "Mobilizer”. Each of the individuals in the 5.4 will fall into one of seven different roles or archetypes. The ‘mobilizer’ is CEB's term for the individual who readily sees or will benefit most from your product solution and is willing to advocate for it among the 5.4. The challenge is that this person isn’t always the one who you speak with first, or even the one who appears to be most enthusiastic toward the solution. But, if you identify this individual early on, they will help keep the buying process alive and moving.
- Facilitate consensus.One of the first steps to overcome when trying to sell a solution to the 5.4 is getting them to agree that there is even a need or problem to be solved. Getting everyone to the table in order to set agreement around the problem should become your partner rep’s first point of focus. Helping educate those individuals involved in the buying decision is imperative.Over the last 10 years, we’ve all been told that the education needs to come in the form of persona-driven content. Surprisingly, research now shows that can be ineffective. Buyers today are more educated than ever. As a result, it can be intuitive for an individual to see the value in a given solution for themselves or their department. What isn't as obvious is how a proposed solution is beneficial for the other 4.4 people involved in the decision. They want to understand the bigger picture so they can more thoughtfully contribute to the decision.
- Involve detractors early. For many channel partner reps, the procurement department represents a significant roadblock to success. CEB found that procurement is involved 80% of the time in buying decisions. But what they also found is that if they are engaged early on in the process, their influence is only 20% of what it would be otherwise. While it’s counter-intuitive for reps to do this, it can have a profound impact on their ability to accelerate and close deals.
Once you’ve initiated your partner ecosystem to the concept of the 5.4 you’ll need to resource partner reps to engage that audience in an effective way. Whether it’s giving them access to training, sales tools or playbooks to help them succeed, you won’t increase channel success if you don’t properly equip partner reps to easily operate within this new sales reality.