A Survival Guide For Selling to Committees Part 2

by  Leonard L. Given

In Part 1 of this article, I discussed the reasons for committees in IC manufacturers and OEMs to the semiconductor industry. I also discussed the necessity for collecting certain crucial information early in the sales process, and common mistakes that sales teams make when dealing with committees. In a continuation of this topic, I want to stimulate your thinking with some recommended approaches to take when dealing with a committee sale.

Considerations In Determining Your Committee Approaches

Know the environment—At the risk of being too repetitive, I want to emphasize that "information is power." With it you stand a much better chance of succeeding; without it you stand a much better chance of losing. Invest the effort to find the necessary information early the sales process and throughout the sale and relationship.

Identify and enlist the help of a "coach" and/or a "champion" early in the sales process—As you meet with committee members one or two at a time, find out where you are liable to be blocked and who can be cultivated into a champion, or at least a "believer." What you are looking for is LEVERAGE. Committees, just like organizations don't make decisions. Individuals make decisions and the right committee members or significant outside influencers, properly selected and cultivated, can move the decision in the committee.

Be careful if your "champion" is a strongly affiliative, nice person—He may believe in you and your product and have the best intentions in the world, but what he seeks is acceptance by others, particularly his boss and the more respected individuals in the organization. In a committee meeting where you were expecting that person to champion your cause, he may simply fold because a strong committee member voiced an opposing opinion.

Do select a strongly affiliative person as a "coach."—This type of individual is ideal because, if she feels like your friend, she will want you to succeed and will provide you with inside information on the people and politics in order to gain your acceptance. To establish the necessary trust level it is essential that you demonstrate to her a sincere desire to further both her well-being in the organization and further the organization's success. In other words, be interested in a "win-win." If you cannot find this type of "coach," look instead for an effectively manipulative person who has good intentions for the organization. The information you acquire will not be as obvious, but you will indirectly be pointed in the right directions . . . and that person will likely be acting as a subtle champion, influencing your selection.

Don't assume that the committee members you observe taking charge of a committee meeting will control the decisions—Many times there are committee members who work indirectly to achieve their goals. They are persuasive and often move the outspoken people to their way of thinking. They are often the de facto decision makers.

Look for support in the not so obvious places—Peripheral plants and the obscure, conservative engineer who is not usually outspoken may be just the committee medicine the doctor ordered. Getting in the door and proving a success at that peripheral plant may provide the evidence you need to get the committee interested in your product. A "white paper" from that conservative engineer may stimulate the committee to consider you as a viable option.

Understand deadlines—You can use them to your advantage. If you are the leading contender, find some way to delay the evaluation of competitors so the deadline passes. Otherwise introduce FUDs (fear, uncertainty and doubt) in the minds of the committee members and sell them on extending the deadline with special relevant payoffs you can offer.

If you are making a one-time $30,000 sale, it is not likely that a committee will be involved, and you can't afford the kind of effort it takes to "know the environment" as thoroughly as suggested in this article. However, most of the sales to the semiconductor industry are significantly larger, and on-going relationships are being built for a continuing revenue stream. With so much at stake, the front-end and continuing effort is worth it and could make the difference between you and your competition

‹‹ Leonard L. Given
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