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Sales teams must learn to use strategic and value triangles

You want to matter – you want to be seen as 'strategic' so you can win the order. But when it comes to buying decisions, what is your customer's or prospect's strategy and how can you really connect with it to drive sales?

Strategy is the great motivator within buying organisations right now. But our analysis of hundreds of sales conversations each quarter suggests that it does not get enough attention from many sales teams.

Strategy matters to the customer, so if your sales team wants to matter, then connecting with the buyer's strategy is key.

In order to understand what is driving the buying decision, sales teams need to connect with what the business, as well as procurement is trying to achieve. We call this the "strategy triangle" which asks:

• What is the business trying to achieve?

• What is procurement trying to achieve?

• What are the requirements of the category?

There are different stakeholders driving decisions at each level. Appealing to procurement's KPIs is important, but connecting with the strategy of the organisation is the most important of all.

Like beautiful music that hits different notes, it is important that your value resounds at different levels too.

One question is what is your target customer's business trying to achieve?

What is the strategy for the business, business unit, function, project, team, or whatever level is appropriate to your solution? At the highest level, what does success looks like?

At a more tactical level, this is about how performance or success is defined, measured and managed by the customer/buying organisation.

It is about priorities, and decisions regarding the commitment of resources with the necessary trade-offs that they entail.

It is shaped by key business drivers both internal (such as management aspiration and business goals) and external (market trends and regulations).

The question sales teams need to ask themselves is: How does our solution impact on what the business (department, team, project, function or facility) is trying to achieve?'

Another question is what is procurement trying to achieve?

The procurement strategy includes overall business driven procurement goals (income statement, cash flow and balance sheet), KPI's/metrics, structure (reporting relationships, centralised versus decentralised, functional versus cross-functional, category management, etc), policies, procedures and systems.

The key questions for the sales organisation are; how do we help procurement achieve its goals and how do we really impact on procurement KPI's and metrics?

A final question is what are the requirements of the category?

Category management involves grouping related products or services. These 'pools of spend' are managed in a more planned and integrated manner to cut spend and drive other objectives.

The category strategy includes: spend analysis and tracking, souring strategy, procure to pay cycles, supplier performance management and risk management.

Connecting with the buyer's category strategy requires shaping how the buying team sees the future of your category. The question for the sales team is: 'How do we impact on category related budgets, KPIs & goals?'

Just as there are three levels of procurement strategy, there are three levels at which your sales team and its solution can impact on your customer's business.

We call this the value triangle. The question posed by the value triangle is: 'How high up in the organisation is your solutions value appreciated, or even felt?'

Suppliers can increase their value and become more strategic to their customers by shaping the results they achieve from their customer's business (project, department, team, etc.), from their procurement, or from the particular category of spend.

As above there are three ways in which you can impact on their strategy.

Impacting on each area can differentiate your company from other suppliers. It can make you more of a strategic supplier.

John O German is a leading global figure on selling to professional buyers. He is a director of sales consulting and training company; The ASH Group – wow.theasggroup.com

Irish Independent