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Selling Internally

by David Brock on April 28th, 2013

We know the importance of selling internally.   We get support, resources, and commitments to help us close deals with our customers.  We get the programs and products we need to better penetrate our territories.  Selling internally is critical to our success and ability to accomplish things.

So it’s the same with our customers.  To accomplish what they want, they have to sell internally.  The problem is, too often they don’t recognize the need to do this.

See, buying has changed.  It used to be that come in with a great idea, great value proposition, great justification–the customer selects you, and they find the money to move forward.  But now it’s different.  More people are involved in the decision making process–not just higher in the food chain, but laterally in the company.  Customers won’t take on as much risk as they may have in the past.  Finally, unless the project is aligned with the top priorities of the organization, it just won’t be approved–regardless how good the business justification.

It’s new for us, it’s new for our customers.

For our customers to get what they want–to implement our solutions, they have to learn how to sell internally.  It’s something they’ve never had to do before, it’s something they don’t realize the need to do, it’s something they may not be comfortable with, it’s something they don’t know how to do.

Yeah, yeah, I know.  If we’re great sales people, we offer, “Let us go with you to the executive committee and help you sell this.”  I made that offer just the other day.  My customer, an experienced EVP.  We’d done a lot of business together, he trusted me.  I also knew the CEO, Chairman, and CFO.  They knew me and that I had helped them produce outstanding results.  They were the people he had to sell.  I knew Rich was smiling over the phone, he’s a sales exec and recognized what I was doing.  Hee said, “Dave, I know it would be helpful, but it’s just not appropriate.  I need to do this myself.”

The reality is, most of the time, the customer has to do the selling themselves.  When they recognize this and know how to do it, as Rich did, we can get a lot done.  But most of our customers don’t know they have to sell their ideas, don’t like doing it, and don’t know how.

If we are to get our jobs done, we have to recognize this new reality.  Not only do we have to sell, we have to help the customer buy–this means helping them sell internally.

They have to align all the stakeholders, direct and indirect, each with their own agendas.  We may be able to help that, first we need to get the customer to recognize they need to do this.  We help them with their buying process, we provide great value and concrete business justification.

Now they need to take it up the food chain.  It’s no longer just getting a few signatures.  It’s getting approval and investment.  It’s getting their (and our) project prioritized and chosen as one of the few that in which the company will invest.  Not only does it have to be aligned with the company strategic priorities, but they have to convince all the stakeholders and decision-makers in the food chain that this is the project that need be done.

All the things we do naturally, understand the decision-makers, their priorities, and so forth, have to be done by our customers.   But it’s not a natural act for them.

What are you doing to help your customers sell internally?

Are you helping them recognize this is critical to getting thing done?

Are you helping them develop and execute their sales stategies?

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  1. Thanks, Dave for this one!

    Here is my take on internal selling, from a sales enablement professional’s perspective:
    Why Selling Internally Is Key To Success for Sales Enablement Professionals

  2. Dave – Good point. This is especially true of large organizations. Your job as a sales person is to help your customer help you. You have to help him put together the value proposition of the product / service you are trying to sell that he can take it to his colleagues / superiors for approval.

    Not sure if this is new though. This has always been the case for large organizations. May be you are seeing it happen more these days.

    • Harry, I suspect it has always been true, however, it seems to be intensifying. As customers accept lower levels of risk and involve more people in decisionmaking, helping them sell internally becomes more critical. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Dave,

    If you want someone to champion you effectively, you may need to help them see the opportunity from a broader and more strategic perspective than the narrow interests of their position. That’s where business acumen and the willingness to think like an owner are critical.

    • Jack: It’s great to see you commenting, I’ve missed you! You make a great point, as we help our customers sell what they want to achieve internally, they need to look at it from a much broader context—actually from the point of view of the executives they need to approve the idea. Without this, they won’t achieve their goal. Sales people (who have great business acumen) might help their customers be more effective in this. Thanks for the great comment.

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