Sales: Understand your key influences

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Q. So I've improved my close ratio with existing customers. What else can I do to create repeatable sales velocity for my business?

A. In my last column, I recommended using post-it notes to map the buying process for your top buyer personas. Through this process, you see the flow of the sale and the common roadblocks that require a sales tool to keep the conversation moving toward a close.

You will also recognize key influencers that impact your sales. For example, when I was the vice president of marketing and sales for VMI, we identified rehabilitation therapists as a key influencer for consumers who need to be in a wheelchair. Working with our mobility equipment dealers, we frequently conducted in-service training at rehabilitation hospitals for these therapists. We shared how our products worked and specifically discussed the problems our products solved for our top three buyer personas. Our goal at these  trainings was not to "sell" our products but to become a resource to help the therapists guide their patients to solutions.

So who are the key influencers in the lives of your top three buyer personas? How often do you meet with them so they, too, can share how you solve problems for your customers?

I often ask my clients to chart their sales by month over 18 to 24 months. If the graph shows a steady gradual climb, chances are they have a clear understanding of their buyers and they are equipping their key market influencers with tools for referrals. If sales flatline or decline, however, then chances are they lack a clear understanding of the customers that generate 80% of their sales each month and, therefore, lack an understanding of who are the key influencers for their clients. If the sales graph looks like an EKG print out, then you, again, lack an understanding of your buyers.

Just as you create sales tools to help your internal team keep the sale conversation moving to a close, you will also need sales tools to equip and empower your leading market influencers.

Mark Roberts is founder of Out of the Box Solutions training and consulting. Reach him at