When our clients are elephant hunting or are selling in the enterprise space, we encourage them to engage their executives in peer-to-peer selling to their counterparts at prospect organizations.
Successfully implementing executive peer-to-peer selling covers all points of Sandler’s Success Triangle (attitude, behavior, and technique).
- Purpose is to create or advance a selling opportunity – where executive peer-to-peer selling can go offside is if the executive from the selling side believes that their purpose is to “build a relationship.” That attitude (mindset) quickly creates frustration from the sales team who expect positive momentum to be created from their executive’s call, but get back “Oh, we had a nice conversation” with nothing else.
- I have the right to ask – executives who don’t come from a sales background (e.g. your CFO) might feel uncomfortable about asking their peer at a prospect company for a commitment to make an introduction or meet. As David Sandler said, “You have the right to ask and you have the right to be rejected. Learn from your rejections.”
- Pre-call plan with the salesperson assigned to that account – you may hit resistance from your executives to pre-call planning before they reach out to their peer at a prospect organization, especially if they have a connection to their peer (e.g. attended the same university). The purpose of engaging one of your executives in a prospecting context is to create or advance a selling opportunity so you want them to be fully prepared prior to making their call so they don’t accidentally step offside and hurt your chances of closing, like telling their peer, “We’ve got a bunch of new features coming out in Q2. You might want to wait until then to implement.”
- Touch calls to current clients – when a peer speaks to a peer the environment tends to be more relaxed so your executive might learn something from a current client that either helps you keep that client (e.g. your competitor made a presentation last week) or support your client in new ways that are beneficial to your business (e.g. your client is opening up two new offices in the next 15 months).
- Clear Up Front Contract for next steps – a challenge one client had with executive peer-to-peer selling was executive calls would end like, “Your people need to start with my VP of Operations. I’ll get my Assistant to make an introduction.” “Okay. Thanks. Bye.” When a prospect makes a commitment redefine it in your terms so there is no mutual mystification. That might sound like, “Your people need to start with my VP of Operations. I’ll get my Assistant, Steve to make an introduction.” “Thank you, I appreciate that. So we know who to speak with, what’s your VP of Operation’s first name?” “Cynthia.” “Thank you. Please ask, Steve to connect, Cynthia to me and I’ll connect her to the right people on my side.” “Will do.”
- Ask for introductions – because of the more relaxed environment in peer-to-peer interactions coach your executives to ask “who are a couple of <TITLES> in your network who would appreciate a conversation with me?” on their touch calls and prospect calls. This will create more warm leads for you to chase and reduce friction in your sales cycle because of the executive source of your introduction.
In sales it’s okay to be beaten, which means you did everything under your control to position yourself to earn your prospect’s business. Leveraging your executives to have conversations with their peers is a behavior that won’t guarantee you’ll close a sale, but you’ll better position yourself to win.