11:48:11 am, Categories: Sales & Marketing, Business Trends, Web 2.0  

When you talk about a sales rep’s network, the first image that comes to mind is that of a rolodex. We have all heard of the anecdotal sales rep that goes through his rolodex to sell his current employer’s solutions, switches to another employer, goes through his rolodex again and continue the cycle. No one doubts the importance of a sales rep’s ability to generate leads by leveraging his network. But solution selling introduces some twists.

A recent special HBR issue on Sales talks about four different social networks that sales reps need to develop to effectively sell solutions. The social network described above is only the first of the four social networks that are crucial to the sales rep’s success. Here are the remaining three.

Once the sales rep has identified a prospect using his first social network, he will need to develop a complete picture of the decision makers (org structure, personalities, preferences etc) in the account who will be influencing the deal. Herein comes the second social network. Leveraging his network of other sales reps who target this account, his coach in the account and account-specific research, the sales rep will need to identify the decision makers and the roles they will be playing in the deal.

Next, in today’s market of ever-more-sophisticated business solutions, the sales rep will need to network with the appropriate decision makers and vendor partners to develop a solution. In B2B sales, the chances that the sale rep will have all the products / services to deliver the complete business solution are very slim. Most enterprise projects involve 2 – 3 vendors, each bringing specialized products / skills to the table. So, the sales rep will need to jointly envision the business solution with vendor partners and position it in the account for a win-win-win (customer, himself and partner). This is the sales rep's third social network.

The fourth social network kicks in when the rep is trying to close the deal. At this stage, the sales rep needs to sell on the basis on business cases, ROIs and references. He will need to pull in past customers, industry analysts and champions within the account to convince the executive sponsor about the value of the deal.

Needless to say, it would be incredibly short-sighted for sales reps to focus on just the first of the above four social networks. In the B2B sales, the latter three networks are just as important. We never said solution selling was going to be easy, did we?


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