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Establish a Beachhead into the Buying Process

Act like a force of U.S. Marines who are establishing a beachhead and then moving inland toward their ultimate objective.

New sales leads - based on a white paper download, case study download or online demo - are simply beachheads into a much larger buying landscape. Use these new sales leads as critical new windows into your prospects current thinking and business requirements. A beachhead – a term I use to designate a sales lead that gives you an initial point of contact into an organization - can be established at many positions in a company and then must be utilized to broaden your understanding of the critical decision makers and the process that will determine the ultimate sale.

It is critical for IT marketers to fully understand the combination of business and technical decision makers that influence the purchasing decisions for their products. Many firms miss the opportunity to establish a 'beachhead' within prospect companies by overlooking the involvement of key business and technical users who are researching their product offerings.

One client recently asked us to qualify prospects exclusively with CFO titles. Why? Because they had determined that the CFO was making the final decision in many cases. With some more in depth study we determined that the CFO had actually played a fairly remote role in the buying process. The real 'decisions' were actually being influenced, vetted and determined by key business stakeholders and reviewed by technical decision makers. The CFO was simply rubberstamping the decision and performing a 'purchasing' function instead of a buying function.

It's critical to sell to buyers not to professional purchasing agents. The enterprise technology purchase is so complex that the purchasing function is relegated to negotiating terms - not choosing vendors. If you wait until the payment plan is being negotiated, you've lost the opportunity to participate in the decision process. In this case, the CFO was not a good beachhead to influence the sale. Beachheads are influencers who are involved early in the buying process when vendor selection is still under consideration.

Instead of qualifying sales leads based on their titles, consider each sales lead with business and technical influencers as a potential beachhead to be nurtured early in the buying process. Then, use that beachhead to dig deeper to determine who within the organization will help to accelerate the decision process.

One crucial step is to research the prospect organization’s structure, past purchases, and their current technological needs. Use this data to find out who has been involved in other IT sales. This strategic information gathering will be very useful when your sales team makes their initial contact.

Don't launch directly into a sales process with your new beachheads- start by asking questions!

The more you can learn from conversations with business stakeholders or email exchanges with technical influencers, the better understanding you will have of the entire buying process. Don’t be afraid to ask who is involved in the buying process. Each company and technology solution can have a different buying process - so get a road map for your product from your new beachheads. You are more likely to find an ally within the organization if you are direct and convey an attitude that suggests that you do not want to waste anyone’s time – regardless of their involvement in the buying process.


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