When times get tough, it seems that the authority to sign off purchases seems to move higher and higher up an organisation. Are you still selling to the right people?
Judging from the discussions at several networking events recently, many of us are finding more senior people involved in purchasing our products or services? In an effort to reduce risk and be prudent with finances, contacts you may have worked with for years suddenly have to consult more colleagues to authorise expenditure. In fact, you may find you have to deal with completely new people altogether. It’s like starting the client/customer relationship all over again.
If you haven’t yet noticed that the purchasing dynamics are changing in your client/customer, you may be in with a shock. An entrepreneur we know was surprised when an invitation to re-pitch for a long-standing client account landed on their desk. When they rang their client contact they discovered the authorisation to purchase their services had moved to a more senior person. That person, along with the organisations’ procurement officer, was now re-evaluating all supplier relationships.
So if you’re worried about the changing dynamics in your clients and customers, here are 5 ways to keep you ahead of the game and selling to the right people:
1. Keep in touch with your client/customer contact(s) – enquire how things are going and what changes are happening, not just in the organisation but also in their own job. Give help and support wherever you can.
2. Ask your contact(s) who else you should get to know in their organisation. This isn’t to undervalue your relationship with them; it’s to help improve your understanding of their organisation in these changing times. It will help you to offer even more relevant and valuable products and services in the future.
3. Try and identify other key people in the client/customer organisation. Who currently has the power to buy? Who may influence decisions? Who may gain the power tomorrow? Speak to your contacts in the customer/client, ask the opinion of other suppliers and watch out for the announcements of new appointments/ changes/ redundancies in the trade press and on the client’s/customer’s website.
4. Call on your allies in the organisation to make introductions so you can get to know others. If you feel someone in your own business is more likely to ‘click’ with a specific individual, then let them forge the relationship. Make sure everyone in your business is in regular communication with each other so you are all consistent in what you say and do. Ideally, create a plan which maps out this customer/client relationship and all the approaches you are taking (and plan to take) to protect it – so everyone is clear.
5. Plan a series of relevant interactions to the key people you’ve identified. These interactions must be interesting to them (you might need a separate plan for each person). The purpose of them is to remind each key contact that you a) value them as clients, b) are interested in them and c) want to help them achieve whatever it is they want to achieve.
The current recession is proving that the landscape of an organisation can change very rapidly. Keep up to date with your customers/clients and what’s going on. The more positive relationships you can forge with individuals in that organisation, the greater your chances at being able to retain their business.
About the Author: Michelle Daniels, Managing Director of Extended Thinking is an experienced and effective business development and marketing strategist, Michelle has built a successful career increasing top line growth for service businesses and organisations. She helps her clients turn their marketing, business development and thought leadership plans into reality with her ‘hands on’ support and practical advice. A prolific writer, Michelle also combines creative flair with business nous to produce highly effective results. She has written (and ghost-written) for many professional and business publications and is a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and professional services marketing group.
Extended Thinking is a hands-on marketing and business development consultancy. Bringing together great minds and great ‘doers’, we help our clients devise and implement plans that achieve real business growth. Our clients come from a wide variety of backgrounds and sectors, but invariably are those who are too busy or lack the resources to action their marketing and business development plans. We roll our sleeves up and muck in to free them up to do what they really want to do and are good at doing.