Adam Freeman, Head of Presales at The Access Group, approached me (Consensus Founder and CEO) and Freddy Mangum (Hub Founder and CEO) with this objective: let’s put together a guide to help presales leaders sell presales technology into the C-suite.
Adam had gone through this process fairly recently making an initial then expanded purchase of Consensus’ demo automation platform for his Presales organization and he wanted to make it easier for others. I had recently published a book on a buyer enablement approach to B2B sales called “Selling is Hard. Buying is Harder.” And both Freddy and I, have founded companies with technology designed for Presales, so we’ve guided hundreds of presales leaders through the buying process.
In this article, I’m going to walk you through some of the best practices we discussed and have seen to be successful.
Step 1: Set the Vision, Take the Risk
The first question to ask yourself, and your organization, is “Why change?” The second question is, “Why change now?” And the third question: “Who will lead the change?”
Since you’re reading this article, I presume you’re the one interested in leading the change inside your organization. This requires you to be the first to catch the vision of how the change will benefit your organization. Then you need to be able to effectively communicate that change.
The vision for making a change can contain many different components. Here are three we believe are compelling to most organizations. You’ll need to decide which is the most compelling to your organization.
- Return on Investment. This usually takes the form of showing how you can reduce costs or increase revenue. Tying the purchase to one of these two financial outcomes increases your odds of getting top leadership’s attention.
- Business Agility. Does this technology help you embrace new changes in how buyers are buying or the landscape of the marketplace. It helps you embrace new ways of working and selling.
- Work Excellence. How does the presales technology elevate the performance of your leaders and contributors? For example, when purchasing demo automation technology, such as Consensus, you could point to scaling presales productivity with existing resources.
Taking on the role of internal champion or changemaker comes with its risks and rewards. I would argue that the rewards always outweigh the risks when you’re trying to lead a big jump forward. (More on risks and rewards in the Emotional ROI section below.)
Step 2: Understand Each C-Suite Role Perspective
One of the keys to selling internally is to fully understand who needs to get involved in the purchase and what drives their perspective on the purchase. Each role has a unique view and things they care about that are quite different from other roles. Here is what different roles in the C-suite care about:
- CEO (Chief Executive Officer) – Increase enterprise value
- COO (Chief Operational Officer) – Improve operational efficiency
- CFO (Chief Financial Officer) – Increase contribution margin
- CRO (Chief Revenue Officer) – Consistently deliver revenue growth
- CPO (Chief Product Officer) – Maximize product market share
- CCO (Chief Customer Officer) – Improve pre- and post-customer experience
- CTO (Chief Technology Officer) – Deliver innovating products that win
- CPO (Chief People Officer) – Recruit and retain top-level talent
Step 3: Map Your Buying Group
Be proactive about which stakeholders are involved in the purchase. Keep in mind that your vendor is likely to know more about what roles need to involved in the purchase than you do. Remember, they’ve led many other champions, or would-be changemakers, through the process of purchasing their technology, so they’ve seen it all. If they aren’t already giving you advice on the different roles that need to get involved and how and when to engage them, reach out and ask for that advice.
Remember these different roles that often get involved:
- Executives – Identify the key economic buyers with the budget that will sponsor your purchase. Make sure that it aligns with key executive initiatives.
- Influencers – Enroll them early in the process and then align them to support your purchasing recommendations. Make sure they are key influencers.
- Users – Obtain validation that your users will benefit form the purchase of the specific technology. Ensure that they will use it and get value if you buy it. Sometimes this requires running a pilot before a larger purchase.
- Blocker(s) – Some stakeholders will object. Be prepared to address their objections ahead of time, which could include security standards, interoperability to other systems (such as CRM), etc. Again, your vendor will know the common objections that are raised. Ask them to help you prepare to educate the stakeholders on common objections before they even come up.
Step 4: ROI (Financial AND Emotional)
Most people selling internally already know they need to show a financial ROI of some kind (increased revenue or perhaps increased profitability). What most champions don’t think enough about is that people and organizations make (or decline to make) purchases based on emotional reasons, such as what I call the 5 Ps:
You win the C-suite’s minds with financial ROI. You win their hearts with emotional ROI.
When you sell internally, you need to consider the emotional reasons the other stakeholders are either supporting or blocking your proposal. Emotional reasons are often misunderstood and subconscious. It might be helpful to ask yourself what main emotional reasons lie behind your willingness and interest to lead the presales transformation inside your organization. Are you doing this because you can’t stand the overly complex problems that you have today (pain)? Or are you hoping to gain visibility inside your organization for upward mobility (promotion)? Or are there other reasons.
When you make the case so clearly that it becomes evident to your stakeholders that they personally will benefit from this change, and that benefit is greater than the emotional investment they’ll have to put into it, you’ll win their hearts.
When putting your financial ROI together, make sure to validate the assumptions underlying your calculations with a few others. Make them conservative. To get attention, the potential ROI should be at least 4X the cost of the technology and preferably 10X or more.
Step 5: Verify the Value – Nibble, Bite, Gulp
Your vendor may want you make a large purchase upfront. And you may feel confident enough to do that. There is nothing wrong with that. The benefits will come more rapidly as you consistently push adoption across the organization quickly.
However, consider that it will be a much easier sell internally if you start small, with a short timeframe to show value, then quickly expand upon that value. Explain upfront that you’ll only be asking for the large check once you’ve already proven value. Most vendors allow for some kind of paid pilot.
If the pilot goes well, you have the confidence that you can scale the solution across the organization.
Nibble – Ask for a sandbox environment where you can run some basic tests and play around with the solution.
Bite – Deploy to a small controlled group. This is the pilot. Get data to validate your ROI assumptions.
Gulp – Deploy globally utilizing internal references and validations of value recognized.
Step 6: Develop Your Plan to Buy
Build a specific plan to buy. Consider running it by your vendor and getting their advice. They’ve helped lots of others go through the same process.
- Map your stakeholders
- Identify what matters to each
- Inspire stakeholders on your vision
- Educate stakeholders on why to change and why now
- De-risk the change with proof points (case studies, customer testimonials)
- Build emotional consensus (Emotional ROI)
- Quantify expected return on investment (Financial ROI)
- Set and follow a timeline for a decision
Too often internal buying is a haphazard process. To increase your chances of success, follow these guidelines and map out an intentional process, then get input and support from your vendor and others in the community who may have gone through the process earlier. By getting into the minds of your internal stakeholders in the C-suite, understanding their hearts, backing yourself up with social proof from those who have gone before, and defining a financial reason to make the change, you’ll be on the path to success.