THE SALES EQUATION IS SIMPLE: ‘Needs + Features = Benefit” and ‘Goodwill + Reputation = Trust’. If you can demonstrate a benefit to your potential client, and have the highest amount of trust amongst competing firms, then *bingo* you have an agreement. Well, in theory, and that is assuming that you are not seriously undercut in price at the last minute (or the decision maker isn’t bribed!).
In the event that the purchasing department is ethical, it’s a relatively direct route to winning contracts. Ensure that your firm has the features to match the needs of the client, and just as importantly, have the skills to uncover those needs, then build goodwill with the decision makers and finally build your firm’s reputation. “Reputation?” you question. “But I’m in sales, not marketing!”
Yes, your business card might announce you as a sales manager, territory manager, account manager, or any number of synonyms indicating that you are a member of the company’s sales team, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore marketing. In the Sales Equation, reputation represents 25% of your success.
So what can you do? The first step is to understand that there are internal and external factors affecting your reputation. One internal factor that you can influence are ‘Key Internal Influencers’ (KIIs), that is, staff that influence the decision maker through their opinion of your firm (or you), but are not personally signing (or chopping) the contract. For FedEx, the receptionist could easily influence the general manager’s decision to re-sign the contract, based on her hands-on experience.
“What do you think of our current courier service, Ruth?”
A smart sales manger knows that an army of KIIs working within a potential or current client helps build or maintain reputation, and ultimately improve trust.
External development of your reputation is more obvious (and often more expensive), involving a combination of advertisements, sponsorships, CRM investments, guest appearances, press releases, expert quotes, and if you’re lucky, entire articles in industry magazines. Good marketers know that a campaign of all the above is better than one-off sneezes in the media, and if budgets allow, an unknown company can immerge into a highly recognized firm. So is there anything sales can do?
Sounding similar to the KII acronym is KOL. A KOL, or Key Opinion Leader, is an external endorser of your product or service. These endorsers are often paid celebrities, but a cheaper and just as affective KOL are those people who are recognized as connectors in their industry; people who are followed en masse on Twitter, have 500+ connections on Linked In, or seem to know everybody. Sometimes they even have names like ‘Two Phones Joe’ or ‘Mr Guanxi’ to indicate their prowess.
Regardless of where your reputation is derived, the higher the reputation, the higher the trust. Simple. So get your sales people thinking like marketers, for a few minutes a day, at least.