Ralph Vetsch, Principal at SBI and Channel Subject Matter Expert, takes a look at the often overlooked Influencer Channel and how it can help your company Make Your Number.

The Influencer Channel is often overlooked. If utilized correctly, it can help you:

 

  1. Learn about opportunities earlier in the sales cycle,

     

  2. Win more deals, while also….

     

  3. Increasing the cost of sales for your competition.

     

This combination is the sales equivalent of a hat-trick.

 

Note to Sales: Go Chase that Huge New Opportunity!  

 

The earlier sales can engage in a qualified opportunity the higher the chance of winning that opportunity.  Any sales leader will agree.  But often opportunities are presented to sales in the form of an RFP (Request for Proposal), or the earlier RFI (Request for Information). 

 

These opportunities are usually large but also require a lot of work.  Most of the effort is not related to sales.  The work is more about filling out lengthy questionnaires.  These are often slanted away from your strengths.  Worse is that the win rate is often very low so many sales leaders walk away from RFPs.  In other cases, a new startup customer or new facility already has the competition installed and well entrenched.  You never even got to talk about your value proposition.

 

So, the prevalent question is, “How did your company get outsold even before the opportunity presented itself?” 

 

 

That Baby is Not Yours!  

 

What happened is that your competition was working the opportunity months ahead of you even knowing about it. Worse is that when you get the RFP, the RFP was written to favor your competitor… ….on purpose. 

 

If a project exceeds a certain amount, then many companies are required to go through an RFP.  However, any RFP process is after the customer has already:

 

  1. Agreed on a problem

     

  2. Agreed on a solution

     

  3. Agreed on a vendor to solve that problem.

     

The project team does not have the time to write the RFP and still do their day jobs.  They also don’t want to reopen the vendor discussion if there is a preferred vendor.  

 

Enter the Consulting Firm to help the customer find a solution to their problem, but also write the RFP.   The consulting firm is hired because of their subject matter expertise.   One of their value propositions is their extensive market experience and insights.  They draw on this expertise to help the client agree on a solution to an identified problem.  The solution to the problem will often be aligned to a vendor recommended by the consultant.   That vendor will be invited to present to the customer and validate their offering.

 

The customer now has a solution to their problem and a vendor that has come recommended by a trusted source, their consultant.  That vendor has demonstrated their ability to solve the problem.  Reopening up the discussion of solution and selection of a vendor can be seen as moving backward by the client.  However, the company is obligated to issue an RFP to assess other suppliers in the market.

 

This is where the consultant helps the client in authoring the RFP.  The RFP must be written to be vendor neutral.  However, it will include specific capabilities that can only be addressed by the preferred vendor.   Many times the vendor will even provide the consultant a document with “suggested capabilities” to be included in the RFP.  This document is referred to as a “Lock Out Spec”.  Most times the customer or consultant welcome the spec because that means less to write.

 

For more on succeeding with RFP, leverage these posts:

 

  1. Turn Your RFP Losses into Wins
  2. To Win an RFP Sales Campaign – Do the Opposite of Your Instincts
  3. Develop a Winning RFP Strategy 

 

How Did Sales Lose the Deal Even Before They Knew about It?  

 

You get the RFP, and it is immediately clear that the sales effort will be an uphill climb.  Worse you can’t even get access to the customer to talk about your value proposition.  You are left to sell within the “fill in the blank” questions in the RFP.  Your competition:

 

  1. Knew about the opportunity ahead of your company

     

  2. Are well positioned to win….and

     

  3. Any chance of winning will require a costly sales effort.

     

     

Being on losing end of these opportunities is no fun.  The trick is to be that company on the winning side of that scenario.  The goal is the be the company that is written into the RFP.  The answer to this situation is selling to the Influencer Channel.

 

Companies that have conquered the RFP process know that you need to sell to the consulting firms that write these RFPs.   These silent channel partners influence the market toward other companies.  The Influencer Channel will never buy from you directly, but they will recommend you.  Most often they can’t receive direct compensation from you.  Compensation would be seen as a conflict of interest with their client.  Even better the Influencer Channel will inform you about opportunities far ahead of your competitors.   

 

 

How to Tap into the Influencer Channel to Leverage RFP’s  

 

The consulting company sells expertise.  Their expertise is what gets then billable hours with their client.  Best in class companies educate, not sell, to these consulting companies.  They inform on market trends or emerging best practices. They will educate the consultant on customer use cases that were solved with their product.   Most consulting firms maintain their expertise through this knowledge transfer process.  Best in class companies respond by being the ones doing the educating….and win more deals.  

 

My current company, SBI, works with companies in all industries to grow revenue faster than the market and the competition. Channel optimization is one aspect of our assessment. Download our Gap Gulf Assessment Tool to see how your company aligns with current emerging best practices against other top-performing companies.

 

For more assistance, visit me and my colleagues in The Studio.

 

 

 

Additional Resource

 

Learn more about how top companies use AI to win at the AI Growth Summit.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ralph Vetsch

Works with clients to uncover hidden revenue potential and sales friction that are hampering growth.

Ralph brings his decades of experience both in numerous vertical markets and geographies to help clients realize there untapped growth potential.  His strong technical and engineering background allow him to extract the compelling business value proposition of his customer’s solution. He also brings 25+ years of global. expertise in channels as an effective primary or complimentary go to market path for his clients, both for new and existing products and throughout the world. His experience spans high tech start-ups through billion-dollar publicly traded companies. He brings a passion for “cracking the code” for why his clients have not realized their growth potential and help them make their number.

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