Doesn’t that sound familiar, just like selling? All those of us, who are in sales for many years, know that relationships matter and that they make a difference. So, the question is not, if relationships matter. They do. The questions are “HOW do relationships matter and HOW do they make a difference?” and “What kind of sales people apply relationships in which ways?”
Especially in complex B2B selling environments, relationships have a special relevance. More than a few stakeholders have to be on the same page, there are often cross-functional buying groups to be orchestrated as a complex stakeholder network. And the sales teams are often not less complex (More on complexity, please click here).
As there are no silver bullet answers, let’s develop a structure of how to think about it. In my role, I had the pleasure to work with many different sales people and account managers in various situations and cultures. Regardless of culture, role and situation – we could identify two general characteristics – order takers and orchestrators. Both have their specific value and preferences. Both will leverage their full potential in different sales situations.
Characteristics of Order Takers:
- Level of relationships: Order Takers have their preferred relationships in the manager and director area. Most of these relationships are in IT and in procurement, including vendor management. These buyers are focused primarily on efficiency and on budget optimization. They aren’t always involved in all the discussions how a certain problem should be solved. They are always involved, when a general “buy-decision” has to be processed, when RFPs have to be created and processed, when a purchase has to be coordinated across the buying system.
- Stages along the customer’s journey: As a consequence of the preferred relationship levels, order takers and their counterparts are often involved when the customer already made a decision how a certain problem should be solved. Now, they are looking for the right products and services to make their best decision to achieve their goals. At this stage, they are focused on their desired solution, no longer on the initial problem.
- Messaging: Order takers prefer to talk about specific products and services, they focus on competitive advantages as well as unique and specific benefits. They prefer to talk about what a product or a service is and what it does. This is the kind of messaging is required after successful value hypothesis and value propositions, after the customer has made a decision how to solve the problem and knows what to buy.
Characteristics of Orchestrators:
- Level of relationships: Orchestrators prefer to talk to senior executives including C-level, across the customer’s organization, in lines of business and in IT. These stakeholders have an effectiveness and investment focus. Their challenges are e.g. how to improve the top level business objectives, how to use technology to increase effectiveness, how to create potential to grow using B2B2C thinking and the list goes on and on…Having conversations with these stakeholders requires real business acumen, understanding business and IT, based on understanding their expertise.
- Stages along the customer’s journey: Orchestrators involve themselves at the very early stages along the customer’s journey, when problems and challenges are analyzed and when different ideas and approaches are assessed to find the best approach. An orchestrator can create a tremendous value if he/she is able to identify those situations, to provide context and new ideas and perspectives how such a problem could be solved differently and what the best economic impact could be. The leadership moment for any orchestrator: Key to success is not to have all these conversations alone, but to connect the dots to the right stakeholders within the customer’s organization (bring in the right subject matter experts at the right time to the right place).
- Messaging: Orchestrators focus their messaging on the customer’s problems and challenges. What they have to sell is not part of an orchestrator’s initial conversations. They focus on understanding the customer’s situation completely, then they map what they learned to their own portfolio of products and services. Then, they come up with ideas and solutions, based on experiences with other customers, with tailored insights, facts and figures. Their messaging is focused on what a certain solution MEANS for the customers in terms of business outcomes.
A lot of differences – but also a lot of opportunities to leverage a sales team’s full potential:
In general, creating new business requires orchestrators, especially if the desired new business depends on executive decision makers. If new business – for selected products – can also be created with decision makers on a manager/director level, then let the order takers make that business. Maintaining and growing existing business is a perfect role for order takers and they will be highly efficient.
Our different customers buy differently, our sales people sell differently, every complex deal is different, and every complex buying decision is made differently – isn’t it time to check your sales force enablement programs? Are they really tailored along the customer’s journey to support order takers and orchestrators accordingly? What about the sales manager’s coaching maps? Do they reflect those differences? If not, don’t add additional rules and checklists…
It’s time for frameworks and core principles. They are key to success in complex sales environments, as a foundation for enablement services, for sales people and their manager and leaders.