Business Issues: Page (1) of 2 - 08/02/04 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at page facebook

Zero-In On The One Who Says Yes (And No)

Keep your eye on the benevolent dictator By G.A. "Andy" Marken

There are many "buying influences" in today's solution sales situations.  There are a lot of people who can say yes -- but only one can say no.

He (or she) is the benevolent dictator.

Every company has one, but when it comes to marketing products and services, companies trying to close a sale often forget that this person is pivotal to their success.

Certainly, we have to promote the benefits of the products, and we have to reach what is termed the decision-making team, but all too often, we're playing to the stands and ignoring the person in the box seat.

The result?

Everyone is "amazed" when the sale goes to a competitor -- a competitor who didn't have engineering, manufacturing, operations, MIS, administration, purchasing and finance "sewed up."

Dictator at Work
It's fascinating to watch benevolent dictators at work.  They allow others to do the basic research and make the preliminary judgments, but they reserve the final say for themselves.

As people in the industry become increasingly sophisticated in their marketing and sales approaches, advertising, public relations and sales promotion efforts must be expanded to do more than just sell the concept of advanced technology.  Those efforts must also sell the products' and services' proprietary benefits to all of the benevolent dictators.

Company managers realize that the products they buy are not purchased simply because they meet certain specifications.  Managers are buying the supplier's total capabilities.  That includes the firm's technical aspects, their business, marketing, and support reputation.

The buying decisions made by new and old customers alike go far beyond simple technical persuasions.  Success is no longer assured by offering technically superior products.  Markets are so competitive that comparable products are always available.  For example, Windows and Linux-based systems can be found on almost every street corner.  Low-, medium- and high-end printers abound.  Memory of every shape and size can be bought from hundreds of suppliers.  Cameras, camcorders and production software is virtually everywhere. 

For this reason -- if for no other -- it is vital that a firm's advertising and PR activities communicate both their business and marketing aspects as well as the technical features of their products.

Highly Placed Advocates
One of the key objectives of your promotional and sales efforts should be to build advocacy within the prospect's organization.  An advocate is anyone who really wants to buy from your company.  If your advocate is too low in the organization, his or her suggestion simply runs up through channels as a recommendation.  However, if a highly placed advocate sends the same idea down the organizational chart, it becomes a directive.

Unfortunately, today's marketing and sales resources are finite.  We have to use them carefully to reach the key benevolent dictators.  We have to concentrate on making the benevolent dictators our advocates.  They don't make all of the decisions ... just the ones that count.

In their book Winners: How America's High-Growth, Mid-Sized Companies Succeed, Richard Cavanaugh and Donald Clifford, Jr. discussed a two-year study on what's right with American business.  This book went the next step beyond that of Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, Jr.'s, book In Search of Excellence.
Cavanaugh and Clifford studied how mid-sized growth companies have outpaced the rest of the nation's businesses in almost every sector.  They found that management of these companies focus on the value of their company, their products and their services, and often get premium prices. 

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Related Keywords:marketing, sales, company managers, advertising, PR, Andy Marken

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