- September 22, 2023
- Posted by: Dave Kurlan
- Category: Understanding the Sales Force
Did you watch any or all of Attorney General Merritt Garland testifying at the House Oversight Hearings? I’m going to explain how that hearing, and others just like it, are the same as presentations that salespeople make to buying/purchasing committees at large companies.
Congressional hearings aren’t expected to uncover any new information, they won’t have a gotcha moment, and minds are not going to be changed. No way. Those hearings are nothing more than an opportunity for Congressmen, from both sides of the aisle, to bash or give kudos to the witness, for republicans to bash democrats and for democrats to bash republicans. It’s an opportunity to lecture, pound their chests, get their talking points on the record, and hope that a five-minute video of them delivering a short, fiery speech will go viral. Political Theater. Nothing more and nothing less.
That’s what big, important sales presentations are. Theater.
As with congress, the stakes are in the ground, lines are drawn in the sand, opinions are firmly in place and minds are made up. Nothing will change that on testimony day and, as a result, nothing changes.
When salespeople work night and day preparing their slide decks, talking points, and presentations for the big day, in hopes of landing the big, important account or project, they often do so without the awareness that opinions are firmly in place and minds are made up. The rest is all buying theater, where those on the committee hope to impress their boss’ boss with insightfully crafted, pre-written statements and questions to challenge the salesperson who isn’t their preferred choice.
How were those opinions formed, and how were their minds made up?
Selling does not occur at the big presentation. Not even a little bit. It occurs over time and prior to the big presentation. It’s conducted one on one with as many of the people on the buying committee as possible. It’s conducted with the decision maker who, by virtue of forming a purchasing committee, has supposedly delegated authority for a decision. But make no mistake. If decision makers don’t like the committee’s recommendation they will overrule it.
It’s also important to remember that each of the members of that purchasing committee may have relationships with salespeople and/or companies they have previously used. Through the sales process (or if you insist, their buyer journey), they may develop a favorite based on their respective roles. Someone from finance cares about price, cost of ownership and perhaps value. Someone from operations cares about functionality and logistics. Someone from among the business user group cares about ease of use, efficiency and time to mastery. Someone from IT/IS cares about integration and data privacy, and in the C Suite they care most about disruption and delays. That’s not an exhaustive list and it doesn’t address the fact that for many on the committee, they care even more about how this purchase, and the problem it solves, affects them personally. Impact and emotions.
Salespeople need to conduct discovery for each person on the committee because that’s where the selling takes place. They should expect the needs, wants, impacts and emotions of each committee member to be different. Discovery takes up most of the second stage of the sales process. You don’t need to repeat stage one with anybody on the committee and stage three (qualification) should be completed with only the senior most person you are speaking with. During stage four, everyone hears the presentation and receives the proposal and closing would take place with the decision maker and/or their delegate.
What really happens on presentation day? Theater. Salespeople validate what the individuals on the committee already believe to be true. If you’re not the one getting the business, nothing you do on that day will change that UNLESS the one who is getting the business screws up big time.
You might be wondering what happens if your price is better? It doesn’t matter because only one person on that committee cares about price. You might be wondering what happens if your product or service has more bells and whistles? It doesn’t matter because when people on the committee see those bells and whistles in the presentation they don’t change their mind and think, “That’s awesome, we need that, and I’m changing my mind.” They say, “We can get along without those bells and whistles.”
Don’t you see? Those presentations, like Congressional hearings, are just theater.
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