Now that we’ve covered your Zebra’s first four of seven essential characteristics, let’s talk about the final three: access to Power, funding, and ROI. Remember, these are seven characteristics to analyze using your best customers and the five most recent wins. We’ll show you what to do with each characteristic as you build your Zebra profile in a future post.
Access to Power
Access to Power (the decision-maker) is critical early in and throughout the buying cycle for faster, more consistent sales. Who is Power in the sales you’ve won? Who is Power at your best customers? Find out by analyzing the approval process. Ask yourself:
- Who owns the promises and expectations leading to project authorization?
Too often, salespeople rely on middle managers to sell the solution up to Power. They don’t meet Power until after the deal is closed. Power is not in the loop at any time during the buying cycle.
This is backward. You need to identify the critical decision-maker right off the bat because that person can make decisions and spend money without asking permission from someone above them.
Where Do You Find Power?
Power is usually the CEO in smaller companies or someone close to the CEO in larger companies, someone the CEO trusts to make major decisions. The individual implements the CEO’s vision and drives significant projects that require substantial resource investment.
Find Power by looking for the executive sponsor of past projects you’ve done for your best customers and the five most recent wins. Look for the person who set the objectives, oversaw the project, and owned the responsibility for progressing the sale while in communication with the executives, CEO, or Board of Directors.
For smaller projects, look for an operations-level person who is Power in smaller projects, repeat projects, and upgrades.
How to Find Power
Determine the Power level required for a successful deal. Ask yourself:
- Who was the real decision-maker to buy in past sales?
- What is Power’s typical title? Where do they fit in the organization?
- Was Power a highly respected individual in that organization?
- How much risk was Power willing to take?
- How would you rate Power’s entrepreneurial nature?
- Is Power typically strategic, operational, or more tactical? Why?
Observe how your access to Power differed between your best and worst customers. Did you have consistent access to Power throughout the buying cycle? Who did you sell to during the transactions?
If you were not selling directly to Power, how did that impact your sales process and timeline?
Now, set a minimum standard for Power in prospect organizations. Don’t talk to anyone below that level.
Budget affects every aspect of the buying process. Without funding, there is no sale. Follow the money to understand funding, budget issues, and the process of gaining financial approval for your best customers.
Funding issues might be at the root of decisions not to buy, but the question is more complicated than whether prospects have the funds or not. Money decisions tend to move through several filters before concluding.
If you haven’t accessed Power, you need to ask someone in the prospect company’s finance department to walk you through the fund release process. Money people look at projects differently from sales. Don’t rely on someone from another area such as operations because they are unlikely to know how funding works.
However, if you have access to Power, you have immediate access to the key people in both operations and finance. If you start with Power, the budget is less critical because Power can approve a solution solving high-level pain points and delivering superior value without budget considerations.
Ask yourself whether your best customers and five most recent wins had pre-established budgets for your solution. How have funding issues affected your ability to close quickly, even with your best customers?
Return on Investment
Power needs to understand the value your solution creates, and Power needs to hear it from you, not someone lower on his organizational chart.
Before prospecting, determine the specific, quantifiable value your solution has created for your best customers and recent wins. The best value is direct value — the savings made at the bottom line. Use direct value to drive the sale home.
Indirect value is a weak sales tool. It comes from making people more productive or improving efficiency. Finance departments might not consider indirect benefits when they are crunching the numbers for projects and solutions.
What’s the best way to show your value? Consider your customer’s preferences.
What is most convincing — detailed calculations and projections or anecdotal evidence? Do they like seeing examples from other customers, or do they prefer to see how you analyzed their needs and the potential value they could achieve with your solution?
Now You Have Your Zebra Profile
You have analyzed your best customers and five most recent wins according to the seven Zebra characteristics. You know what to look for in future – the prospects to target and how to gain a clear understanding of your differentiation from the competition. This process should hand you a decisive advantage.
Now you are ready to build a Pushbutton Zebra. Find out more in the next post.