Sales engagement with advocates and skeptics

Sales is core to any startup, in an ideal case sales is conducted in a systemised way by a team with clear processes and playbooks, but at the beginning, its manual and starts with relationships and meetings. 

You’ll often encounter situations where meetings are required, commonly this happens with B2B companies, and during these meetings you’ll encounter, on a spectrum, advocates and skeptics. Advocates tend to be excited and willing to be a part of your vision, so their appetite for risk, taking a chance on you and collaborating with you is high. Skeptics tend to have the opposite attitude. 

To win over advocates and skeptics requires you to calibrate your conversation and the content of your pitch to meet their different attitudes to vision/innovation and risk. Heuristically, a skeptic is going to want evidence of results before they’ll be reassured, so you can equate to a formula – the more skeptical, the more advocate case studies you will need to a-lay their concerns, since you now have a rough spectrum, you can use this to prioritise your Hitlist, why focus on highly skeptical leads who require lots of proof, instead of easy advocates first?

Turning to the conversation around the pitch, generally regardless if advocate or skeptic you want to be explicit in highlighting the value to the client, why should they care? No, not about how innovative your business is, but how much financial return would your product bring to their business. Its easy to forget, but the reason any of us are in business and work is to generate value, and for a business, that’s about generating $$$, so be explicit, demonstrate- by using our product/service, this is the increase in business you will get. 

Focusing on the advocate, you want to highlight how your solution is innovative, or ground breaking and will allow their business to get an edge or lead against their competitors, advocated are already excited and comfortable with the risks of innovation, so they’re generally looking for how you are actually innovative.

Skeptics are more nuanced, ultimately they are averse to the risks of innovation, there is a cost (financial, time, complexity) that you need to resolve for them before they will be comfortable even considering your solution, so with skeptics you want to highlight how easy it is to integrate, how cheap a test would be, how little effort a test would take, how quickly decoupling would be, etc. then you contrast that with the up-side value a success would bring. 

Finally, especially for industries that are highly commoditised and ‘dry’, highlight the individual and personal impact on the customer, demonstrate (e.g. via role play) just how easy it would be if you were in their shoes, to sell to their customer, if they, in their own customers shoes are convinced by your pitch, then they are also believing that they can pitch your solution to their customers.

Ultimately all these tips are focused on highlighting the value of your solution.

In summary –

  1. Prioritise advocates over skeptics, and get the use cases from advocates to help you convince skeptics
  2. For advocates wow them with vision and being ahead of the pack, for skeptics make them feel safe (you have a solution for each of their concerns that’s easy and painless to implement) 
  3. Highlight value over price, demonstrate the impact of your business in contrast to the risks and headaches of anyone else 

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