Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Selling In The Face Of Empowerment

Companies who "empower" their employees will proudly tell you that you don’t have to pitch your product to Mr. Big because any number of subordinates can make the final decision. Mr. Big will go along with anything they decide. Did you notice that Mr. Big still has the final word? To me, just saying that he will go along implies that he also has the option to not go along.

Unfortunately, at least in my experience, many of the employees who have been empowered don’t want the responsibility that goes along with the territory. Some people subconsciously feel threatened by the responsibility that comes with decision-making. They may even believe that upper management is copping out on their responsibilities by pushing decisions down in the organization. They’re much more inclined to say “no” than “yes” because keeping the status quo is almost always felt to be the safer decision. And a great deal of second guessing goes on, too, especially among those who live to please upper management and as such are mostly concerned about what Mr. Big really wants them to decide. There’s a tendency to push the decision back up the corporate ladder—or worse, not make any decision at all—if they can.

It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s one that you have to deal with constantly when you're in sales.

The biggest reason you’ll constantly be involved in complex sales is that the fabric and structure of many industries have become more complex. The Mom and Pop grocery store has given way to the hypermart. The independent local realtor is now a franchisee of a national financial conglomerate. The local lumber yard has been replaced by a big box store and the neighborhood hardware store is under siege. Waves of consolidation have swept through every industry from toy stores to funeral homes.

And with size almost always comes complexity. The management of a nationwide chain of service stations has a vastly more complicated structure than the one running your local two-pump corner gas station. There are local managers reporting to regional managers reporting to division managers who draw on the resources of the corporate marketing, finance, legal, engineering, and administrative staffs. The decision to buy a new digital sign, for example, may have to be approved by a dozen individuals. At the local sole-proprietor gas station, one person—the owner/operator—will make that decision alone.

Since creative sellers focus on the larger potential accounts, they almost by definition pursue the national organizations rather than the mom and pops in their industry. You must develop a set of tools and tactics to reach and persuade the multiple decision influencers in your prospect’s company.

Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.

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