As we discuss call planning and execution with sales professionals we often come across organizations that send several company personnel on a sales call. This selling approach is much like dispatching a “posse”–a metaphor from the frontier era–when a band of citizens, led by a sheriff, chased down and cornered a bandit. Sales calls can often come across this way when organizations send a swarm of people on a sales call to corral an opportunity.
When to Bring a Posse on a Sales Call
- Rule #1: When a seller needs a balance of technical, operational, executive and/or financial resources from the selling team. Here the logic is simple: each individual represents a competency or breadth of knowledge needed to answer questions that the leader anticipates arising in the meeting. If the team leader believes that technical specialists or executives are necessary to address effectively critical issues, they should be included in the call.
- Rule #2: When the buying team wants a face-to-face discussion with the selling organization. This often occurs when different buying influences want to meet the actual people that will be “doing the work” or “taking responsibility” for implementation, service or project management.
- Rule #3: Later in the buy-sell process once all buying influences have been mapped and become engaged. This can help ensure “buy-in” while alleviating any potential uncovered concerns.
- Rule #4: When faced with multiple user buyers who have a sizeable stake in the decision. Remember every buying decision involves risk and reward. When buyers have a sizeable stake in the decision they often need re-assurance that there is a concrete plan in place to minimize or eliminate risks, drive measurable results and ensure that each key stakeholder “wins” in the process.
- Rule #5: When the seller has had difficulty connecting with members of a large buying team. This allows everyone to get on the same page by ensuring the proposed solution meets the requirements of every stakeholder.
Rules of Conduct for the Posse on a Sales Call
- Rule #1: Never overwhelm a single buyer. Always align your company resources with the team of buyers included in the call.
- Rule #2: Don’t include additional selling team members just for show. Make sure everyone has a clear role, function or contribution. Practice good financial management by ensuring that there are no “Potted Plants”. These are folks that attend, say hello and goodbye but contribute nothing else. If they don’t have a speaking role, then don’t include them.
- Rule # 3: Always review the agenda and purpose at the beginning of the meeting. Verify that everyone can stay for the entire meeting. If some key individuals from the buying team need to leave early, some topics may need to be moved up earlier in the agenda.
- Rule #4: The selling team’s leader should share each team member’s expertise and role at the beginning of the meeting. This ensures the buying team sees the value of each person in attendance.
- Rule #5: The team leader from the selling team should prepare everyone thoroughly. Don’t lose an opportunity through poor or inadequate call preparation. If the team leader anticipates objections, assign, prepare and rehearse each team member.
- Rule #6: The selling team leader needs to maintain control of the discussion during the sales call. One person from the selling team has to lead the sales call, keep it focused on objectives, moving along and be responsible for obtaining an action commitment at the end of the sales call.
- Rule #7: Expect the unexpected question—the larger the buying group the more diverse the interests. Preparation and pre-call planning can prepare the selling team for this situation. Decide in advance who is best equipped to answer the question.
- Rule #8: Expect disruptive statements from the buying team. In large buying teams there will always be an advocate for the status quo or current supplier. The selling team should determine what challenging questions could be asked and be prepared to answer them thoughtfully and professionally.
- Rule #9: Agree on your value message(s) in advance. Ensure that all members of the selling team can articulate value in a meaningful way to their counterpart.
- Rule #10: Avoid digressions and technical issues that may interest only one buyer while boring others. A good rule for a selling team is to have a signal that indicates to other members to stop talking and segue back the conversation to the team leader.
Disadvantages of Bringing a Posse
- Expense: Is this a beneficial use of corporate resources? The price of the sales call escalates dramatically with each additional company representative. Organizations have to ask themselves if it’s worth the expense and time for additional personnel to be at those meetings.
- Potted Plants & Talking Leaflets: Does the meeting agenda and time allotment provide ample time for everyone to speak and provide value? As the number of meeting members increases the risks increase that someone will be a Potted Plant (say nothing during the meeting) or be a Talking Leaflet (speak too much).
- Time Utilization: Is this a good use of company personnel to attend sales calls without clearly defined objectives for each person? Often, it’s an initial or follow-up meeting.
If you decide to dispatch a team or small group to call on an opportunity, make it a strategic decision. Be thoughtful and calculating in your assessment of who you are including, why they bring value and what they must be prepared to contribute to the sales call or meeting. Establish criteria in determining when and how to best leverage all team members. Properly conceived, team selling can be very effective. When inappropriate, it can diminish the team’s chances of success.
As always we welcome your thoughts and input. Let’s start a discussion and elevate the sales profession with a thoughtful, civil and informative discourse.