Account-based selling, where multiple decision makers must agree to buy a product, is more complex than selling to a single decision maker. However, account selling still involves a one-on-one interaction, just at multiple levels and different points in the account selling process. The concept of discovering a decision maker’s need and meeting that need with your product is the same as for other types of sales.
When selling in an account, the key to getting to that one-on-one interaction is often having an advocate on your side within the account. What is an advocate? It’s that person in the account who will do two things for you:
- Introduce you to other key decision makers who can influence the sale
- Champion your product to others within the account, even when you aren’t there
Selecting a Selling Advocate
Selecting the right advocate in sales is crucial. Your advocate needs three qualities. First, you need access to the advocate. If you can’t easily see the advocate, then you won’t be able to work with that person. Second, the advocate needs to be well connected and respected. Your advocate must have influence within the account and know who else has influence. Having an advocate who is new or not well-respected will doom your sale from the start! Third, and possibly most important, the advocate must passionately support your goals to sell the product in the account. The advocate needs to see a real benefit the product will bring to the account and/or the person must believe it will make his or her life easier.
After selecting the right advocate, you need to develop the person for the role. Four areas are crucial to developing an advocate:
The advocate needs a road map for selling of your product within the account and needs to understand clearly what his or her role in that process will be. The best way to do that is to gain alignment with the advocate on expectations. This means you both agree on what "good" will look and sound like in his or her role as the advocate, and what will help him or her meet that role in a well-thought-out way.
2. Product Background
The advocate needs to be an expert on your product. If you expect the advocate to support your product in closed-door meetings or with other key stakeholders, then you need to ensure that he or she knows all the key features and benefits of your product. Your advocate must support the purchase of your product when you aren’t present, so he or she needs to be well prepared for that situation.
The advocate needs to feel like he or she has your complete support and can access you easily. In addition, the advocate may need you to help him or her by doing some of the leg work in the project such as creating materials or other resources. If you have a technical support department, you may also want to link the advocate to someone in that department to provide additional support.
4. Routine Engagement
Finally, have routine engagement with the advocate. Often account representatives think that once they have given an advocate the resources for a project, their work is done. Not true! You should schedule routine meetings to discuss the project status, adjust plans, and, in a professional and diplomatic way, hold the advocate accountable for his or her role in the project. Taking a little time at the beginning of your relationship with an advocate to develop him or her can yield a large payoff at the end.
Networking Through the Advocate
One of the key roles an advocate can play in an account is introducing you to other decision makers and stakeholders within the account. If you have selected the right advocate and developed him or her, then that person probably will be willing to help introduce you to other decision makers and key stakeholders. When you are aligning with the advocate on his or her role in the account selling process, you should establish that introducing you to other stakeholders is part of the overall strategy for the product. Be clear and concise when asking the advocate to make an introduction. Networking via your advocate is one of the most effective strategies for building a positive consensus for your product.
In account selling, the difference between making or not making the sale may come down to having an effective advocate for your product. An advocate’s role—as a champion for your product and a bridge to networking with decision makers—can be a deciding factor in the account sale. Selecting the right advocate, developing him or her appropriately, and then utilizing him or her effectively will significantly increase your success in an account.