Technical Sales Prospecting Tips – Circle of Influence

If you’re in technical sales, or any kind of sales for that matter, you usually focus on the decision maker. This is the person who can say yes, sign that contract, and close that deal. However, it can often be hard to get in touch with them, especially if you don’t know them personally. Maybe you’ve used all the outreach methods you can think of, but you still haven’t been able to connect with them.

The good news is that you don’t always have to target just the decision maker. Although this isn’t often mentioned in technical sales training, there are other people you can reach out to and get nearer to that sale.

When you can’t approach the decision maker, the people you can target are the circle of influence around them. These are people who can impact the decision maker’s buying decisions. The circle of influence can sway the decision one way or another, depending on their opinion or research. If you are able to build a relationship with the someone from the circle of influence, you are one step closer to the decision maker.

Technical Sales Training Tip 1: Who are in the Technical Sales Circle of Influence?

One important technical sales tip is to find out who belongs in the decision maker’s circle of influence. Usually, people who work for them, or their subordinates, are part of this circle. These are the people who work with each other on a daily basis. Subordinates are usually in charge of certain areas of the decision maker’s job, so they have direct access to them.

Another circle of influence are cross-departmental teams. Usually, there are regular meetings with other departments – purchasing, engineering, and operations, for example. During these meetings, someone from one department can recommend, refer, and pass information about what you’re offering.

Technical sales engineers should not forget about reaching out to these circles of influence. Theses circles of influence can help shorten your technical sales cycle and get you in touch with the decision maker you are looking for.

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Technical Sales Training 2: How Do You Reach the Circle of Influence?

The most common ways of reaching out to people in technical sales and industrial sales are through calls, emails, and LinkedIn. Let’s go through the different methods one by one.

Many technical sales engineers still like to do cold calls. This can still work, but in the time of COVID-19, many people now work from home. If the only phone number you have is a company’s main line, it is unlikely that you’ll be able to reach the person you are looking for. Cold calling may not be the most effective way to reach out to people.

One thing that technical sales engineers should be made aware of during their technical sales training is the presence of spam-blocking software. Sending cold emails may still work once in a while, but many companies now use spam-blocking software. If it’s the first time you’re sending an email to someone, there is a big chance that your email will not make it to their inbox. Again, sending emails can still be effective, but a technical sales engineer should not limit themselves to just emails.

Arguably, today’s best way of contacting a prospect in technical sales is LinkedIn. Many technical sales engineers are using it as a company directory to look for phone numbers and email addresses. However, many people forget to send connection requests first which is very important in building a relationship with that person. In an ideal situation, you would be connected on LinkedIn with everyone you wanted to talk to, including decision makers.

If this is not yet the case, you can first start connecting to people in the circle of influence. Sending connections increases the likelihood that you get a response from a message. It also increases the likelihood that the right people in industrial sales will see your content.

Ultimately, what you are trying to do by contacting the circle of influence is to shorten the technical sales cycle from when you first make contact until you close the deal. You can do this using any method-calls, emails, and LinkedIn.

One important technical sales training tip to remember is that different people have different preferred methods of contact. Even paying a visit to someone might be effective. Remember that when you do cold visits, you might get to meet someone only twenty percent of the time, but it is still worth trying.

Some people still prefer calls over emails or personal visits over LinkedIn. You should keep on trying different ways until you figure out the person’s preferred point of contact. For most people in industrial sales, the shortest path of least resistance is to connect with them first on LinkedIn. Don’t sell to them right away. You need to build value first, and then shift to a sales standpoint. Make sure that you go after as many as people in the circle of influence.

After you make as many connections as possible in as many different departments you can, there will eventually be someone in the circle of influence of the decision maker. When this person recognizes the value you bring, they can connect you, and you can finally have a conversation with the decision maker. Hopefully, this is the first step towards a fruitful relationship that will eventually lead to a sale.

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