The Enterprise Beachhead
Developing and marketing innovative products is only half the battle. Selling enterprise technology has become an increasingly complex process that requires more than reaching out to a single sales contact. To be successful, you must work through collaborative teams of decision makers, each of whom may have varying levels of involvement and influence in approving purchases. Navigating this task may seem daunting, but if you establish a “beachhead”–an insider who can grant access to a company’s decision makers–it can make the difference between “getting a close” and getting “closed out.”
Decision making teams include an average of 9 people, from project managers to programmers; administrative assistants to C-level decision makers, and they often represent multiple departments such as IT, Sales and Marketing, Customer Service, Finance and Accounting and Human Resources, as well as outside consultants.1 A beachhead connection can be an ambassador from any one of these departments who will open the door to the organization and give you access to the decision makers who hold the company’s ultimate purchasing power.
According to "End User Tactic Strategy of 2005," by SiriusDecisions, the following roles play into the decision making process:
Researchers/Information Gatherers - pile through the data to find relevant information about the technologies being considered. They weed out companies and products before the actual decision making progresses.
Champions/Recommenders - find a technology they think works for the company and sponsor that technology by explaining its benefits to other decision makers.
Influencers - take on advisory roles and are consulted at critical junctions throughout the process. They may or may not work for the company.
CXOs (generic for “chief” in job title) – craft the vision of the company’s purchasing needs and provide input on the final decisions.
Users/Evaluators - work with enterprise technology purchases daily and are most impacted by its implementation.
While you should try to reach as many of these players as possible, in the early stages of the process most of your initial contact will be with Influencers and not ultimate decision makers. Influencers are worthy of your time and effort, but it is important to remember that they do not have final purchasing authority.2 If you want to shorten the sales cycle, you’ll need to use your relationship with Influencers to leverage yourself as a trusted partner and thereby gain access to contacts with purchasing authority.
An additional step in determining which of your beachheads could become qualified decision makers is to examine the lead generation data you already have. While a key decision maker involved in a prior sale might not have the same buying authority in all sales, chances are good that they can point you toward someone who does.
If you research your prospects, build a strong relationship with Influencers and other leads, and use past lead generation information to analyze buying patterns, you will find your way to decision makers who have the purchasing authority that can close your sale.3
1 Business Technology Marketing Benchmark Guide 2006, MarketingSherpa
2 Getting to the Top Decision Maker, Kyle Dennis
3 Reaching the Decision Makers, Scott Bekker