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Buyer Insights: Bill Ball on Finding the Gaps

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Finding the gaps within an organization provides opportunity. It’s those gaps that enable a sale to take place - just ask Bill Ball. In this Buyer Insights episode, Bill shares what it takes to sell into his own organization, and has a surprising request for all sellers.

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Check out the four sales fundamentals every top performer masters, how to use value-based selling to increase your leverage, and how to improve your remote selling skills as the world becomes more virtual. 

According to Gartner, there are 6 to 10 decision-makers in a typical B2B sale. But, statistics like this one paint a blurry impression.

Bill Ball, the Director of Learning and Development at DISYS, a global IT staffing company, says that number is just too low. In some of his most important decisions, Bill has a dozen or more people involved.

In this interview, Bill gives us a clear picture of how the need to work with vendors surfaces, how the buying decision is made internally, and what sellers can do to help buyers buy.

Below are some highlights from the conversation.

The enterprise is on the hunt for gaps, and they’re ready to fill them. 

For Bill, needs are primarily determined by isolating the gaps in the business that will have the greatest impact. Rather than addressing needs reactively, his company works strategically to be aware of their gaps. In his field, that focus is on recruiters and salespeople.

There can be many competing needs within the same team and year. Where the needs originate is an important factor in how they are prioritized. When Bill’s CEO needs something, the question is only how they’re going to get it done.

Buyers don’t have to look far to find a vendor. 

Bill says he’s inundated with suggestions via email, Linkedin, and the phone, in that order.

What sticks out to him?

He says, “I wish my phone rang more.”

“When I have people who are still geared toward the phone, I can ask questions in real-time. If I’ve picked up the phone and it’s relevant, and you’re not doing a feature dump, I’ll engage with you.”

He feels it’s his duty to look out for a business’s best interest and to figure out the perspective of the marketplace and how are they different. In his view, it all comes down to the conversation — and, vulnerability is valued.

“If you say you know the absolute truth, you’re missing out.”

Don’t forget the professional associations. 

Bill relies on the professional associations he’s in — the Association of Talent Development and Sales Enablement Society — for networking, primarily for his own professional development.

There are phenomenal people in such associations that he reaches out to when he wants some input or to see what’s working with other people.

Criteria for evaluating vendors.

Here’s what Bill wants to know from sellers:

  1. Does it work with our existing technology?

  2. How long does it take to get results?

  3. Does it fit with our culture? Is it something that I like, or will the other people at our company like it too?

Often a buyer’s biggest lift when making a buying decision is getting everyone else in their company on board.

The real number of people it takes to make a buying decision at an enterprise is “more than whatever Gartner says.” 

Bill rattles off the people he has to include in his buying decisions: the head of HR and her director, his boss, 2 people from marketing, 3 sales leaders, 1 recruiting team, a few folks from his Ops team, and 2 more from IT — that’s 14 people.

How exactly do more than a dozen people come to a decision?

It’s up to the chief buyer to gather everyone’s point-of-view and incorporate it into the decision mix.

Does a chief buyer need consensus from the group?

“It’s not so much getting a consensus,” Bill says. “It’s about getting buy-in on the narrative that you’re building throughout the decision-making process.”

Everyone has a different opinion on what’s needed because of the perspectives they bring from their departments. It’s the role of the chief buyer to remind everyone along the way of what they’re trying to accomplish and address.

While the chief buyer listens to everyone about what’s more important to them, finalizing the decision comes down to the opinions of the people that it will be affecting the most.

Sellers can play a supportive role in the process, but only to a certain extent. 

Collateral from sellers can be useful to a buyer in the decision-making process, but ultimately, for buyers, it’s about starting with the right vendors in the first place. This is handled during their initial research.

7 ways salespeople can better help buyers buy.

  1. Be prepared. Make the buying process easier by having the right contract, having the right terms, and applying what you’ve learned throughout the process.

  2. Volunteer other departments that might have to weigh in. Do the homework to understand what each department cares about that may have to weigh in, like HR and IT. Then suggest to include the opinions of those departments when they haven’t been included.

  3. Tailor your demo to different audiences.

  4. Professional persistence is good.

  5. Provide assurance to the buyer by bringing the CEO into the conversation.

  6. Help the buyer understand the steps so they know what features they have the capacity to absorb right away versus later on.

  7. Honesty is what builds trust. Be honest about the roadmap of what you’re selling. Your vendors will trust you more.

“Helping the buyer buy would be impactful,” Bill says.

Conclusion

The need for enterprise clients to work with outside vendors surfaces as they identify the gaps in their business. This is important because internal buying decisions are made through a process of building buy-in on the narrative of addressing this gap.

Being vulnerable and honest is important. And, sellers can be helpful to buyers by anticipating their needs.

For more information on remote selling and a complete list of links mentioned in this podcast, visit this remote selling article on our website.


Buyer Insights: Bill Ball on Finding the Gaps:

Full Transcript

Bill Ball:
It’s getting everybody on the same page of our needs, but when you’re doing that, it’s what are we trying to address, what are we trying to accomplish, reminding people of our why constantly throughout the process so people don’t fall into rabbit holes of their own point of view because, granted, if you got all those people in that magical room that you were talking about earlier, with everybody, if you asked those people, “What do sellers need?” you’re going to get 12 different answers, and that’s because they have the point of view from their experiences and their silos, so then it’s working with those people to collaborate. So it’s not so much getting a consensus on everybody agreeing on everything, but it’s building that narrative and getting buy-in as you build the narrative as you talk to the different buyers and what they care about and what’s most important to them.

Liston Witherill:
Welcome to Modern Sales, a podcast for entrepreneurs, business owners, and salespeople looking to have more and better conversations with your perfect clients. You’ll get a healthy scoop of psychology, behavioral economics, and sales studies to help you create win-win relationships. I’m your host, Liston Witherill, and I’m pleased to welcome you to Modern Sales.

Liston Witherill:
What happens when the stats are wrong, when the things you’re told are more difficult, not less difficult, and the stats make it sound deceptively simple? According to Gartner, there are 6-10 decisions makers in a typical B2B sale. According to my guest today, that number is just too low. In some of his most important decisions, he has a dozen or more people involved, weighing in on their needs, each with a potential deal-ending veto. That’s one of the many topics my guest today, Bill Ball, covers this Buyer Insights episode. Once again, this is the Buyer’s Insights series. Welcome, dear friend. And in this series, I’m interviewing real buyers at real companies to uncover their buying process.

Liston Witherill:
Bill is the Director of Learning and Devolvement at DISYS, a global IT staffing company. He’s had experience both as a seller and now on the learning and development side, primarily as an executive. Today, he shares his experience as a buyer. Get your notebook out, you’re going to want to write down some of the takeaways Bill has for you. And we’ll start with how needs get surfaced. Where in the heck do they come from, and what does the source of the needs have to do with anything? You’ll find out after this short break.

Liston Witherill:
So, Bill, my first question for you is: how does the need first get surfaced in your organization so that you’re considering buying services or products from an outside vendor? And what I’m looking for here is at what point does something become such a serious need that you guys are actually looking to engage with the outside world?

Bill Ball:
A few different ways. The primary way though is, my title is Learning and Development, my focus is on our field, which is recruiters and salespeople, and it’s a strategic function. So what I mean by that is we’re constantly looking at data, we’re having conversations with people, and trying to isolate the gaps that are going to have the greatest impact, based on the gaps that we see in the business that are impactable by my function or working across the aisle with other functions, like HR and Marketing, we determine needs primarily that way.

Bill Ball:
So, instead of a reactive kind of function, where people are asking for help with things, and they certainly do, we’re saying, “Have you seen this?” and we try to incorporate all that into what we’re looking at, we try to employ a more strategic look and really isolate so we know what we try to do, whether it’s professional services or technology, it’s going to impact something where we already know there’s a need.

Liston Witherill:
And so does it typically come from, let’s be a little bit more specific about your role, so you’re in the sales enablement function, which is your purview: when needs become surfaced, are they coming from your VP of Sales, or are they coming from your CEO, your CMO? I’m wondering who internally starts to bubble these things up to you?

Bill Ball:
It’s interesting. When needs do come from the CEO, we discuss it very quickly, and usually it’s more of not so much a “Should we do that or not?” but a “How should we do that?” and a lot of times the CEO, not necessarily just my CEO, but a lot of CEOs are less concerned with the how and certainly concerned with the why. But if you’re doing your job effectively in an enablement or learning and development kind of role, you’re constantly talking to people. So you’re talking to the sales leaders; in my case, I report up in a really unique way.

Bill Ball:
My boss heads up Field Enablement and Operations, and that includes not only my department, but Marketing and Proposals and Ops in general. So, the three of us, the CEO and she and I have discussions, but my ear is most directly pointed at the leaders of Sales and leaders of Recruiting, so a lot of things come my way. We even have somebody who looks at all of our software and manages all of that from an operational standpoint, so a lot of things come across his plate, and he’ll say, “Hey, have you looked at this?” and we blend those things together and try to make a decision. But, ultimately, it’s myself and the VP of Ops and Enablement working with the field to nail this stuff down.

Bill Ball:
They’ll call out needs, but we’ll try to gain consensus across the field and across the Sales leaders before we roll anything like that out, unless, again, it’s something that comes from on-high at the CEO level, and then a lot of times it’s more about how we do it.

Liston Witherill:
And so where the need comes from, it sounds like, has a strong influence on priority.

Bill Ball:
Correct.

Liston Witherill:
What other ways do you use to prioritize? Let’s say you’re out talking to people on a regular basis, my guess is you have a long list of different things that you could be doing, different needs that could be fulfilled, how do you decide what’s in that top three or top five?

Bill Ball:
That’s really hard. That’s keeping your eyes on the prize because there’s a whole host of technology lovers and service lovers that I would like to pull right now, but you can’t beat yourself up on that because, depending on the size of your function and the capacity of your function, those are some of the limiting factors, and then you look on the receiving end: how much new stuff can my audience and my stakeholders truly absorb?

Bill Ball:
So, from there, it’s, again, looking at where the needs are and going back to the original strategy and staying the course. Obviously, you pivot if you need to, where there’s a major issue, but those don’t come up quite as much for me, it’s more like, “This is the litany of things that I want to impact and help others impact in my organization, and let’s stack-rank based on what’s doable on the team that I have,” and so forth.

Liston Witherill:
I’m guessing you have maybe an annual planning cycle or something like that, where you’re looking at, “What are our priorities for the next 12 months?” then you’re comparing your list to that strategy, plus you have requests coming from on-high that may also alter the priority list. Is that fair to say?

Bill Ball:
Exactly. So that’s the exact exercise that I do, and I’m actually doing part of that exercise next week which, by the time this podcast comes out, too late for people who want to get in on that.

Liston Witherill:
Sorry.

Bill Ball:
But I’m pretty communicative with people that reach out to me over the phone, in particular, because I have a lot of empathy for sellers. But, yeah, it’s looking at those areas of impact, also making sure that we’re hitting all of our audience, regardless of what’s the most important, I also can’t go on ignoring people in my strategy, like my strategy has to love everybody and give everybody something, so I have to look at it that way, too, and where maybe there’s going to be some areas next week where I look at, “Okay, well here’s the two or three major things that I’m trying to do per quarter next year, and then are we going with additional head count, and here’s my business case for that, and are we going with additional technology, and here’s my business case for that,” but also then how can I pivot a little bit to help so-and-so out in Q1, and then also do a couple of things on Q2 that aren’t part of that broader picture that I wanted for you?

Liston Witherill:
So let’s say you’re going through this planning exercise soon, once again, and at any given time you have a running list, once you choose something off of that list and say, “Okay, I’m going to tackle this,” how do you go out and find options for vendors?

Bill Ball:
Several ways. One, because I have a title as generic as Director of Learning and Development, I’m pretty well inundated with suggestions and ideas on a regular basis from the, I would say, email, then LinkedIn, then the phone, I kind of wish my phone rang more. So that gives me a little bit of a sense of what’s happening in the marketplace, and the reason I say that is I feel like it’s my duty, not everybody feels this way, but I feel its’ my duty to look out for the business’ best interest and to think about where we’re going, and that’s part of my personality type, too, but I like to think about where we’re going and where my options are so when we do get to attack number five on the list that I was talking with you about earlier, I have some ideas for that, I’m prepared for that.

Bill Ball:
And then what does the perspective of the top several things look like in the marketplace and how are they different? I want to have a little bit of a working knowledge before I dive in, but I also, in a field like learning and development, and certainly sales enablement, if you say that you know the absolute truth always, always, you’re missing out. It’s about being vulnerable and saying, “I don’t have the answer for this, I’m trying something new, I haven’t done this before,” and that’s why you build networks of people, so I’m part of the ATD network, and I’m primarily part of a group called the Sales Enablement Society, where I have a lot of contact with other people doing my exact role. So, if I’m in a bind, if I feel like I’m on an island trying something new, chances are there’s somebody I can reach out to that’s going to have done that before.

Liston Witherill:
Okay, so I want to come back to that last thing you said, but a second ago you said, “I wish my phone rang more,” can you say more about that?

Bill Ball:
I have a background in working specifically, prior to this role, in working with a lot of people new to sales and in sales development, and talking about the things that are going to be changing for sellers, and certainly for recruiters in my world, but definitely sellers down the road is what can be automated and what can’t. In my view, it still comes down to the conversation. Being able to have those conversations, and I understand that you can call a link to exchange a conversation, but it’s different when it’s two people involved in a moment organically, there’s a lot that you can see and that you can read into that.

Bill Ball:
So, when I have people that are still geared towards wanting to reach out to me in that way and engage me in that way, because then you can ask questions real-time, like if you’re catching me, you’re catching, I’m answering the phone, I’m not doing something else, and if I picked up the phone, provided it’s relevant, provided you’re not doing a feature-dump on me, and it’s something I’m curious about, maybe not something I’m necessarily ready to buy, but something I’m curious about, then I’m going to engage with you, and I do have questions because I was a seller, I sold inside and I sold outside, so I get the job, I have a lot of empathy there, but you’re catching me in that moment.

Bill Ball:
And if you send me an email, especially if you send me an email that says, “I’ve been trying to reach out to you by phone” and you haven’t, we’re done right there. But the email, I mean it’s helpful, but I don’t get to really engage, then you’re putting a lot of work back on me, that’s how I look at it is: it’s less work, provided you can answer questions about what you’re reaching out to me about.

Liston Witherill:
I see. So are you suggesting you want more cold calls?

Bill Ball:
Yeah, for sure.

Liston Witherill:
Amazing. Okay, careful what you wish for.

Bill Ball:
It’s okay, provided it’s relevant. That comes back to effective prospecting, and I agree, be careful what you wish for. You know what the thing is that I get reached out to the most about? Leadership development. And I find that to be … I mean, yes, development is in my title, but how did I become the person, I mean we’ve got a whole HR Department here, how did I become the person that that was just the most popular person to ask about this? So I get one or two or three of those every single day.

Bill Ball:
I’d be much more receptive to enablement, technology, or something to help recruiters and sellers, things that help me show empathy to get things out of their way or make them more productive or help them build skills, I get that stuff, too, but I get a lot of people reaching out to me about leadership development, which is just kooky to me, but it’s prospecting, it’s understanding roles and responsibilities and figuring out who does what, so I figure people are looking for me for leadership development, I have a piece of that, but there’s some other folks that they probably just haven’t prospected or reached out to, or maybe somebody in their neck of the woods maybe just didn’t respond and I’m second choice, I’m not sure. But, yeah, I want to hear people reaching out to me, I want to know why they’re reaching out to me so I can ask questions, especially if I’m curious, and I’ll tell them right up front if I’m not.

Liston Witherill:
You mentioned that you rely on your networks at ATD, Association of Talent Development, as well as SES, the Sales Enablement Society. What does that look like? Are there particular people you go to? Do you go to the organizers of those associations? Like how do you actually rely on those networks?

Bill Ball:
ATD is a little bit newer to me, I was fortunate enough to speak on a panel at the ATD Sell Conference, which is a spin-off of the larger ATD community, but based on sales enablement, I was fortunate enough to get invited to speak there. So that’s a new one for me, but there are some really phenomenal people involved and some people who really want to learn, so I’m just starting to build that network out.

Bill Ball:
And there’s some overlap with my Sales Enablement Society network. But as far as the way the Sales Enablement Society works, it was founded in 2016, there is members all over the world now, it’s totally volunteer, and there’s a chapter in my city. So I have people that I’ve met at conferences, I have people at my local chapter, and through the combination of those two things, one of the things that we talk about in our meetings and the things that we talk about, we have a discussion board and a platform, I have people that I jump on calls with and strategize with.

Bill Ball:
The person who’s most in charge of their own professional development, I learned this a really long time, and this is coming from the L&D guy, folks, but the person who’s most in charge of your own professional development is you. So in a field that’s constantly evolving, I believe, again, it’s up to me to reach out to people and see what’s going on and have a soundboard because a lot of things that I’m trying, somebody hasn’t tried before in my organization.

Liston Witherill:
Excellent. The next question I have, let’s say so you have the need has surfaced, you start to develop your list of vendors, what’s your criteria for evaluating vendors?

Bill Ball:
I’d say, first off, if I’m speaking for the collective, because like any modern buying situation, you’re not just selling to me, you’re selling to a group of people that are going to be affected by whatever I choose, or whatever I work with them to choose is more accurate. So, certainly I want to think about, “Does it work with our existing technology? How long does it take to get up and running? How long is it going to take for us to get results?”

Bill Ball:
But I would say the layer for that, and this is partly why buyer agreement networks have become so big, is, “Does it fit with our culture? Is this something that I just like, or is this something that our people are going to embrace?” So I have to look at the different people that are going to be affected in Shared Services. I bought a learning system last year, and I had to talk to people from Marketing, I had to talk to people from HR, I had to talk to people from IT, I had to talk to people, ultimately, from Legal, but I certainly had to talk to my leaders in Recruiting in Selling, as well as my boss, and my leaders were my toughest customers, as far as that goes.

Bill Ball:
So it’s getting those people, knowing that even though everything lines up on the stat sheet and it integrates well and all those kinds of things, it’s getting all those other people on board that was the big lift for me last time.

Liston Witherill:
And how many people would you say are typically involved in a decision like that, actually have decision-making power?

Bill Ball:
It’s more than whatever Gartner says.

Liston Witherill:
Oh, no.

Bill Ball:
At least in my org it is. So I’ll just play this out for you, without trying to count because I’m an English major. I had the head of HR and her director just below her, my boss, I had two people from Marketing, I had three Sales leaders and one Recruiting leader, and I had generally people from my team in Ops and so forth, so another three or so people, and then, finally, two people in IT. So, it was quite a few. There’s a lot of buy-in that has to happen here to get something moving.

Liston Witherill:
Yeah, so I count 12 that you just named.

Bill Ball:
Yeah, isn’t that crazy?

Liston Witherill:
It is crazy. I was wondering, does everybody come together in one meeting, like you’re all sitting around a table? Like, functionally in practice, how does that work, how can all of those people make a decision together?

Bill Ball:
That would be really interesting to see all those groups together because they’d all … I say that, I know, I’m chuckling because I’m thinking about a seller listening to this conversation and imagining all those people in the room and being like, “Holy crap, what do I do with that?” But, no, it’s not like that so much. It’s more like, if I’m the chief buyer, making sure I’m gathering everybody’s point of view and incorporating that into the mix.

Bill Ball:
So where our IT Department maybe won’t be so engaged in everything that a certain platform for sellers in the field do, they certainly want to know how it fits and integrates, and does it have single sign-on and all those kinds of things. And, in this situation, they did want to see and understand and get a point of view because we’re an IT and managed services company, a question that comes up a lot is, “Can we make this internally?”

Bill Ball:
And my frame on this one this time around was, “A, we don’t have experience making something like this. Can we? Probably. A, we don’t have experience, do we have the bodies to allocate? Do we have the bodies to allocate, more importantly, to constant iteration and development a new product? I don’t know if we have that.” That wasn’t a hard conversation, but it’s one that comes up from an organization that thinks that it can do a lot of things internally, and it can, in this case, it was better to go externally.

Bill Ball:
But with the IT and the Operations people, that was more of a requirements kind of thing, a gathering of requirements and addressing that really early on so it wouldn’t be a [inaudible 00:18:44] later. With the other folks though, just about all of the other folks that I mentioned, they wanted to do a little bit of seeing and touching and feeling.

Liston Witherill:
And does that mean the decision is driven by consensus? Because you said you’re ultimately the buyer and you’re collecting information and you’re going around and talking to people and acting as the internal salesperson, for lack of a better word. So do you require a consensus, does everybody have to agree? And in that case, I’m wondering do you sometimes end up with the lowest denominator kind of solution?

Bill Ball:
That’s a really, really excellent question, and there’s some logic in what you just said. It’s getting everybody on the same page of our needs, but when you’re doing that, it’s “What are we trying to address? What are we trying to accomplish?” reminding people of our why constantly throughout the process so people don’t fall into rabbit holes of their own point of view because, granted, if you got all those people in that magical room that you were talking about earlier, with everybody, if you asked people, “What do sellers need?” you’re going to get 12 different answers, and that’s because they have the point of view from their experiences and their silos, so then it’s working with those people to collaborate.

Bill Ball:
So it’s not so much getting a consensus on everybody agreeing on everything, but it’s building that narrative and getting buy-in as you build the narrative as you talk to the different buyers and what they care about and what’s most important to them. With a learning and enablement platform, there’s tons and tons and tons of different features, so it’s understanding what each person cares about from a feature standpoint or from a usability standpoint and making sure those things are addressed, and that ends up not necessarily being limited to one kind of product.

Bill Ball:
But when it comes to finalizing, a lot of that’s done through the people that it’s going to be impacting the most and, in addition to our sellers and our recruiters, that was our Sales leaders and our Recruiting leaders. So where I worked very closely with HR, it was more like guidelines, and work with more Marketing, it was more like guidelines; work with Technology, it was more like requirements, who cared about this the most because they’ve got to use it and work with our people in it, it’s not just something that I do in my universe in Shared Services, it was our Sales leaders, so they ended up being my toughest audience.

Liston Witherill:
And do you rely on your vendors? I’m guessing by the time you’re going around talking to everybody, you probably have at least a small selection of preferred vendors, maybe two or three that look like the frontrunners, are you going to them and saying, “Hey, I need collateral so I can talk to my Marketing Department. I need tools to go talk to my Sales people, I need tools to go talk to HR”? Or are you the one making sure that their needs are being met?

Bill Ball:
It’s both. I see where you’re going there, and that’s kind of like how do you support buying through collateral and messaging, and that’s really important right now because, in a world like mine, that salesperson had to help my buy, and that’s going to come through demos, that’s going to come through some collateral, that’s going to come through some Q&A. So understanding as I think about, I’m a very visual person, so this buying process was kind of like working out in concentric circles, where I thought I knew everything, and then I talked to somebody else and that would add to perspective, I’d talk to somebody else and it would add to perspective, until I’m building a more unified perspective of what we needed.

Bill Ball:
And, as I did that, I started with a pool of about five vendors from doing my own research, as I explained earlier in our conversation, and those things, getting the perspective from the people that would be affected and the people that were in the decision-making process, it allowed me to narrow it down to about two or three. And then, from there, it was everybody looking at everybody who really wanted a piece of this and wanted to have a say in it, looking at the different platforms and what they cared about and what they were interested in, and whittling it down and choosing, but, again, the people that had the most struggle choosing and the most defined points of view were my Sales leaders and my Delivery leaders, so I had to inform the other groups where their heads were, and that helped me make a final decision.

Liston Witherill:
Well now a question for you to maybe help improve the sales profession over all.

Bill Ball:
Sure.

Liston Witherill:
We’ll see. What mistakes do salespeople make that you wish they’d correct immediately?

Bill Ball:
I don’t know if it’s mistakes, but if not being prepared in a certain way is a mistake. This is an evolving thing, right, you just asked me a question about what kind of content would help people along a certain path, and when I got to the legal path, obviously having the right contract and having all the terms done and all those kinds of thing, just making that buying process easy because you heard, in this conversation, all of the steps and all of the people I needed to talk to and win over.

Bill Ball:
So if you flip this around back to the seller, it’s understanding what HR might be concerned with and care about, it’s understanding what IT might be concerned with and care about, it’s understanding what Sales leaders might be concerned with and care about, and so forth. And being able, at the beginning of the buying process, to say we’re moving in a positive direction, calling out what needs to happen with those individuals, like asking who’s involved, volunteering other departments that maybe aren’t called out by the buyer and saying, “Are you sure so-and-so’s not involved? In my experience, this, and these are the things they cared about, have you done this yet?”

Bill Ball:
So really helping that buyer buy would be something that I think would have been really impactful in this process, and not that I didn’t get some help, but I’ve thought about this afterwards and I’ve thought about your question, and that would have been tremendous, to say, “Okay, what are all these departmental care-abouts? How are they going to influence the sale? And what can I do to help the buyer through all these steps, be it collateral or just information?”

Bill Ball:
So that’s part of it, that’s the big lift. The other part of it is, since when you’re talking about a technology like a learning experience platform or sales enablement, it’s being able to tailor your demo to certain audiences and understanding the questions. And I did my best through that buying process to set up my vendors to win because I wanted them to be able to put their best foot forward, so therefore we make the right decision.

Bill Ball:
And some of them played the same song and dance for each audience, and that was a bummer. So I think knowing when to pull in the big guns, if you need subject matter expert, if you don’t have answers to those kinds of questions or you can’t do your demo that way, understanding who is going to be on your demo and what they care about, and then helping that buyer understand the steps involved and what the different department care-abouts are, especially if they haven’t bought something like this before at their company.

Liston Witherill:
Are there any fatal mistakes that you see salespeople make? Like if they have one particular behavior, you just wouldn’t buy from them?

Bill Ball:
I don’t know about fatal mistakes. I think that professional persistence is good. It’s funny, I had one person that just wouldn’t go away, even though my budget changed because we acquired a business at the end of last year, right around my purchase date, and that affected my budget, and it just basically knocked this one vendor … for a number of reasons, my Sales leaders weren’t the highest on them, but it knocked this one vendor out of the picture, and that person wouldn’t go away. And part of me was like, okay, it’s sort of a no when no means no.

Bill Ball:
It was like their professional persistence was incredible and, like, “Well could we do it this way? And could we do this way? Could we do this way?” And I’m like, “My collaborators aren’t into this, and collaborating is one of our core values at my company, so we’re done.” But on the flip side, I had a vendor that we ended up going with, they were not in our final three, they were on the outside looking in, and it’s because of the transformational experience I had making that purchase with our Sales and Delivery leaders that I really got a sense of what could be absorbed in my organization.

Bill Ball:
It made me run back to that number four vendor and say, “You know what? I think based on what I’m hearing from you guys, we were headed in this direction, everybody but you guys, but now that I’m hearing this from you guys, we need to go back over here, and what do you think about this?” And one thing that the salesperson did, and not every salesperson can do this, but they brought their CEO into the conversation, and there was a lot of reassurance of product map, they were new in the space, all those kinds of things, so all of the things that you would have concerns about going with somebody who’s new into a particular space, and having that reassurance from the top level made a difference for me.

Liston Witherill:
Interesting. So they didn’t even have all of the particular features that you were looking for ready at the time you bought?

Bill Ball:
Correct. But what we realized was, “How ready are we going to be to absorb all those features?” A lot of what we were trying to do coincided with a build-out and a product road map that they had. So it was sort of a win-win in that sense of being realistic about how much we’re really going to be able to absorb and attack at the beginning, versus what we just needed to get started.

Liston Witherill:
That’s really interesting because I think a lot of salespeople think they need to, for lack of a better word, lie and just tell the buyer, “I’ve got everything you could ever possibly want or need. Yeah, it’s all going to be ready tomorrow,” whereas this vendor basically said, “No, we’re not quite ready to do everything, but let me show you what we are ready for and how we’re planning to sequence our product features.”

Bill Ball:
It’s funny that you phrase it that way, Liston, because that’s exactly what happened, and that’s what builds trust is not being disingenuous about what’s there and that you’re the end-all-be-all, but, “Here’s what we have, that’s really good feedback, would you like a look at what Rev B is going to look like?” And so you have a sense of what that product road map is, and you have that future conversation of, “Okay, well you’re here now, when are you going to be ready for something like this? Maybe we can work this out,” and that’s why it ended up working out.

Liston Witherill:
That’s amazing. Well, Bill. Those are all the questions I have for you. Are there any final tidbits of advice that you would give to a salesperson selling you to make your life easier as a buyer?

Bill Ball:
Again, I’d say my favorite is the phone, probably second LinkedIn, third email. I’m not text buddies with people I don’t know yet, I don’t know if that’s where we are yet in the world.

Liston Witherill:
That’s pretty weird, isn’t it?

Bill Ball:
No [inaudible 00:28:58] channels. So reach out to me over the phone, reach out to me on LinkedIn, and if I’m interested, I’m going to have a conversation with you. I’ll double-down on what I said before though: get ahead of that buying process, help your buyer buy, know what different potential stakeholders might need in that buying process, and be ready to pull out the stops on positioning your product a certain way for a certain audience.

Bill Ball:
My HR people cared about look and feel big-time, so did my Sales and Delivery leaders, where some of our Marketing people were like, “What are the capabilities with this platform? What can we integrate, what can we add to it?” they were thinking about it as a creative palette, and being able to have those conversations and bring the right people in at the right time helped seal the deal with who we ultimately went with.

Liston Witherill:
I lied, I actually have one more final question for you.

Bill Ball:
Okay.

Liston Witherill:
On this topic of persistence, you mentioned that one of the salespeople that you worked with had incredible professional persistence. One of the things that I talk about in my training is salespeople really need to be prepared to reach folks who are just not ready to buy yet, or their buying cycle’s not matching up, or their product’s not quite mature enough or filling the right niche, for whatever reason the person just can’t buy from them right now. How do you like people to stay in touch with you and stay persistent without being annoying?

Bill Ball:
Yeah, to sellers, I mean I know this is probably maybe more of a new-to-sales message, where you’re wondering, “Should I just look for people who are ready to buy?” you’re going to have a really small audience if that’s the case, so it’s where is that buyer in their process, but asking them where they are in their process and engaging with them in a way that brings value to them, “Hey, I thought I would share this with you, I thought this was interesting.” And, look, we all know that you’re selling, we do that, but if you’re leading with some value, then there’s going to be more interest for that buyer to continue engaging with you and start to reveal where they are in that process.

Bill Ball:
I just told somebody today, I said, “Look,” and this was about the same topic that you and I have been discussing, “I’m not looking for something like this,” they also did a lot with content, and we’re rebuilding a lot of that stuff right now, so there’s just zero need. So this person was a Sales Development representative, I was very honest with them, I was like, “You probably won’t be a Sales Development representative anymore by the time that I’m looking to make a change, but maybe not, so give me some things to look at now and follow up with me in X, Y, Z quarter, I will tell you exactly where we are.”

Bill Ball:
But understanding what are the contracts, where the person is in that process, and getting that information first, and do that by providing value and engaging in a curious way, versus, “Hey, I wonder if you are ready to buy something like this?” that’s the look and be-in-your-buyer’s-shoes kind of first method and that’s the one that I would imagine many buyers would prefer.

Liston Witherill:
Excellent. Well thank you so much for being here today, Bill, I really appreciate it. Final question, if anybody wanted to get in touch with you, other than picking up and calling you on the phone, what should they do?

Bill Ball:
LinkedIn’s fine, that’s the easiest.

Liston Witherill:
Fantastic. Well thank you so much, Bill, I appreciate it.

Bill Ball:
Thanks, Liston.

Liston Witherill:
That’s it for the second episode in this pilot of the Buyer’s Insight series. In next week’s episode, I’ll be talking to someone who’s driving learning for thousands of people at her organization, so the weight of every purchasing decision is absolutely huge. If you aren’t already subscribed to this podcast, please do so by clicking the Subscribe button. You can also get notified of all podcast episodes with some behind-the-scenes info, as well as other exclusive sales content I put out by signing up for the newsletter at ServeDontSell.com/Newsletter, it’s totally free and it’s linked in the show notes.

Liston Witherill:
And, finally, thanks to everyone who makes this podcast possible. [Tess Malijenovsky 00:32:47] is our producer, [Juan Perez 00:32:49] is our editor, and [Marianne Nocum 00:32:51] is our show assistant. Our show theme and ad music is produced by me, Liston Witherill, and show music is by [Logan Nicholson 00:32:58] at Music for Makers. Thanks so much for listening. I’m Liston Witherill, of Serve Don’t Sell, and I hope you have a fantastic day.

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