Isolation in a Complex Sale

What is isolation during the sales process? Terry Slattery answers this question and tells you the sales skills needed to break the isolation and move to getting a sale. It’s the goal of a good sales person to use isolation after the decision process. Learn the two key ways to break the isolation: reach the emotional customer and work with the logical customer.

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What is the role of isolation in a complex sale?

Isolation refers to the distance between a decision and the impact of that decision, especially if it’s a bad decision. One of the things that tells us you’re looking at isolation is when you have a strong business case and you’ve been meeting with people and everybody’s agreeing your ROI makes sense and all that, and all of a sudden the thing goes dark and it’s not moving. What happens is there’s someone who’s passed themselves off as the decision maker or as the gatekeeper to this process and they may in fact be blocking this process going any further because they think they have higher priorities, they think of another solution. There are a lot of reasons why they won’t do it.

As soon as we know that a deal has stopped and it looked like it made sense, the question is you got to take a look and say, “Okay, what’s happening to this organization right now, because thing isn’t going forward?” What you’re going to find out is there’s someone else probably who’s going to absorb the costs, consequences, and impact of delay, and they’re not, in your contact strategy, they’ve not been in the meetings, and so you’ve got an incomplete cast of characters and the person who’s going to be most affected by the delay or inaction has no representation in the process. That’s what we refer to as isolation.

The classic example is: you may be talking to someone who’s goal is to run a process and to keep the vendors in the dark and treat them like commodities. In the meantime they scrub off your differentiation and the person who would benefit the most from it is not even aware it’s going on or themselves is locked out of the process. The job of a good sales force and the job especially of an effective sales executive and strategy is to use isolation to alter the decision process. You can break the isolation and alter the decision process.

How do you break the isolation?

There are two ways. You can do a direct run at all the people who are going to suffer the consequences of delay or maintain the status quo of no action, and have a conversation with them. Of course most of the time they’ll get themselves involved at that point, but the other thing that happens is when you are trapped by the business processes at work here with selecting a vendor, and you are forbidden to contact those people who we refer to as the emotional customers, then you want to ask the questions of the gatekeepers of what we call the logical customers, to pull the agenda of the emotional customers into every conversation you’re having. Those are planned conversations. They can be mapped and executed very effectively and they will end isolation. They won’t win you any friends over on the vendor management side of things because at that point you’re blowing up this simple model they’re using to focus on price instead of focus on value. It’s in your best interest if you don’t tend to compete on price, to blow up isolation and end it.

If I find myself in a situation where I know I’m being isolated from an emotional customer, how do I bridge that?

Most of the time you’ll have to ask yourself some questions to figure out who’s missing here in the cast of characters? Let’s pretend they don’t value my differentiation adequately and therefore they go with a lower price but probably higher cost competitor. I want to end that isolation and get that person involved, that’s what we refer to as the emotional customer. They may be distanced or very removed from the process. So you want to ask yourself what’s going to happen if these people don’t value our differentiation correctly and how’s it going to show up in their life? When will it show up if it involves cost or financial consequences? We want to know when does that happen and who gets the bill for it?

As you process the answer to those questions, you have two ways to use the information you gain from those questions. First of all to tell you who you should contact and what you should be talking about. Or you may use them at meetings with the gatekeeper, with the logical customer, to make sure that they understand that there’s more to this decision than they’re currently using to select a solution provider. At that point there will probably be a little discomfort, they’re not going to be too happy that you’re altering the game as they’ve laid it out, they may try to push back very hard. You anticipate all that stuff before you do this and have thought through how you’re going to handle it.

The point is you use it two ways; reach the emotional customer and work with the logical customer to help them expand the criteria you’re going to use, and of course that in itself will end the isolation.

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