Inside Information

By Heather Baldwin

In war and in sales presentations, there are few things more valuable than help from the other side. If you have a champion inside the company, he or she can lend weight and credibility to your presentation – and in some cases completely alter the outcome of the presentation. That’s what Kevin Davis, president of TopLine Leadership and author of Getting Into Your Customer’s Head: The Eight Roles of Customer-Focused Selling (Times Books, 1996), learned during one of the largest sales opportunities he ever worked on.

Davis was the last of three competing presenters to a committee of seven decision makers, the most senior of which was a Mr. Burns, the executive vice president. With about 10 minutes still to go in Davis’s presentation, the phone rang – Mr. Burns’ cab had arrived to take him to the airport where he had a plane to catch. As the executive stood up, Davis said: Mr. Burns, before you leave, may I ask you one final question? Sure, was his reply. Davis asked: Now that you’ve evaluated all the options, is there any reason why my solution is not your best option? Mr. Burns replied: Yep! and out came his concern about Davis’s solution.

Davis was ready for the objection, but he never got a chance to address it because Mr. Burns’ comment “triggered a firestorm of conversation around the conference table,” recalls Davis. “Mr. Burns missed his cab. But several other decision makers drove him to the airport so they could continue their discussion.” It wasn’t until weeks later that Davis learned a lower-level decision maker had resolved the executive’s concern and Davis won the sale. Without that well-informed champion on the inside, however, the result likely would have been quite different. So before you show your first PowerPoint slide, make sure you’ve got an ardent supporter who can sell your strengths from the inside. “Today,” Davis says, “as much as 90% of a sale takes place when you’re not there. So you’ve got to make sure the person championing your cause has the tools to sell other decision makers for you.”

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