If sales were to be defined in terms usually used by economists, and you asked sales people whether they were on the demand side or the supply side of the equation, most would tell you that they were on the supply side. In fact, when you work with and observe sales people, despite what they might say, they act and sell very much from the supply side. But if you step back, and observe successful sales people, you realize that they spend their time on demand, specifically creating demand. Most sales people spend a disproportionate amount of their time and effort focusing on the wrong side of the equation, on the supply side when we should be spending our efforts on creating demand. The role of a sales person is demand generation not demand fulfillment.
Sales people and sales organizations understand that success is measured by their ability to deliver revenue that comes from supplying their customers with the products or services of their respective companies, but to do that they must first create demand. Knowing it and executing are two different things, and while they may “talk” demand, they more often than not “do” supply.
One reason prospecting gets a bad shake in sales is because all too often, the buyer and seller are out of synch, talking to two different things, this diminishes the seller’s success, and prospecting becomes a burden. You find a number of schools playing to this dejected audience; some play to the audience’s fear and reluctance, promising they will not have to do some of heavy lifting involved in creating demand. Others tell reps they really don’t need to bother pursuing prospects in the Status Quo, just go after those who have demonstrated that they have self generated demand. However, if you are looking to be a complete salesperson, you need to execute all parts of the sales cycle, including creating demand among those who may be or appear to be content when you approach them, the infamous Status Quo buyer. Anyone can take an order from someone who is entering the market based on an experience that shakes up his or her complacency; self-generated demand is easy to deal with. The challenge is that there is not enough of it to go around, and when you spot it, so does every other also-ran. As a successful rep, you need to create demand where it does not exist, where the buyer has not declared they discontent.
The alternative to waiting for events to line up so you can take advantage of them is to take a proactive approach and create demand where others may not see any. This is the heavy lifting part of sales.
One way is to take your focus and effort off your main target, extend your activities to include a broader group of people within the company you are looking to engage. One reason many sellers are out of synch with buyers in the Zone Above the Pipeline, is they fail to or choose to ignore the underlying reason for their buyers complacency and lack of interest. The seller is looking for a response or reaction to their advances or “pitch”, supply side approach; the buyer is much more likely to respond to and be spurred to act when the impetus comes from his/her constituents. Without that why would she/he waste time and resources, no matter how good your solution is?
Let us say you sell placement service, temporary workers. Traditionally your buyer has been the HR or the Ops IT Director or Manager. Your firm can help them be productive, efficient, cost effective, and every other marketing buzzword you can think of. You can cold call, hope to persuade the HR manager to meet with you, “become their alternative supplier in case their current one fails”; or you can be more proactive. Step back and map out who else in the company and how they may be impacted by or benefit from what you supply. By looking at the connections, and aligning yourself and offering to others connected to the HR manager, you can create “internal demand”, much more likely to get a response than your call. So why not call the CFO, talk to them about outsourcing initiatives they may have underway, find out what was behind the decision to outsource. Say it was combination of cost, the ability to free up or shed resources previously needed to maintain and support the thing that was outsourced, the flexibility to react to market conditions adding or reducing resources as needed as opposed to carrying them on an ongoing basis, and other factors.
You can then draw these criteria back to your offering. Many of the same financial drivers would exist for using temporary workers as touched on above. By getting the CFO to look at it in financial terms, you can create internal demand. When the CFO approaches the HR manager to enquire about efficiency gains and potential financial gains of using temporary workers, it will generate the response you are looking for. The difference being is that now you represent an internal interest and you are also being introduced by the very person creating the internal demand. A demand you created.
If you want to drive demand by your buyers, work on creating internal demand with non-traditional buyers, or more specifically, your natural buyers’ internal customers or stakeholders. Regardless of how compelling a case there may be for your product and services, it pales in comparison to internal requirements.
One advantage of the current economy is the tendency by companies to take decisions on a committee basis, and then double-checked those decisions again by finance, is the ability to engage with multiple people involved in the decision to create and drive demand. Not only can you execute the tactic above with a number of key influencers in the group (along with finance), you can also make it safe for your natural buyer to make changes, either in the way they do things, or who they do things with.
I want to make sure we all understand that this is not easy, it takes work, you not only have to know your product, the competitors product, industry trends, and this is still outside the clients’ world. Then you need to spend time understanding the prospects’ world, who populates it, where they are, where they want to be, how they want to get there, and what is in the way. Oh yes, you need to also know who else is trying to get in their world and how. So you will have to prepare, understand broad rather than just narrow trends, and then you will need to be able to parse it down to terms that will resonate with specific individuals. As a result, the question will come down to which if any work you are willing to do. You can wait for the stars to align and have arbitrary events create demand; you can spend time and money chasing the same prospects a lot of other sellers watching the same events chase, or you can go into the Status Quo and create your own demand.