Start With the Top Dog: A Sales Primer

Talking to VITO

Talking to VITO Do you need to adapt the way you try to talk to a VITO because of this bad economy?

Parinello : Oh, yeah. Now, more than ever, the VITOs are watching everything and thinking about risk and mitigating the risk. You've got to look at the whole cost of implementation: Is additional training required? Is changing the way products are handled required? Also, VITO is looking at cost of implementation divided by time: time to value, time to result. Should you craft an opening pitch to try and address those money-related pain points or anxiety points a VITO might have?

Parinello: I think VITOs don't like to be pitched. VITOs like to be approached by someone who is knowledgeable in their industry, and maybe not so much about their company, because no one knows more about their company than VITO. I mean, it's good to do some research before you go in, but to earn the right to get a minute of VITO's time, you've got to know the industry they're in.

I should take the time as the seller approaching VITO to understand how other VITOs in the industry create revenue, contain costs and increase effectiveness and efficiencies of revenue-generating employees, and how other VITOs in the same industry maintain compliance and stay out of jail. If I do those four steps right there, I will become a thought partner. It's not about pitching VITO, it's about adding something to their day that they need. They're all looking to increase something or decrease something else. They're in a constant state of urgency to get this done; so when it comes to pitching, I think it's more about understanding the VITO's world that they're operating in, and how I could offer an idea they haven't yet thought of. How do you become familiar with such a wide variety of industries?

Parinello: Let's say your prospects are in four or five different niches; maybe they're manufacturers, distributors, hospitality, health care, pharmaceuticals, whatever. All that the entrepreneur has to do is join the biggest association that caters to that industry. Let's say it's the American Furniture Manufacturers Association. There are bazillions of associations that service these industries, but pick the one that's the most popular. And all you've got to do is join and read their newsletter. Get their audio tapes that they sell at conferences. So to educate yourself in a market it's more about understanding what's going on in that market and what association or associations are serving that market and what they're saying. How many VITOs should you be calling?

Parinello: You can't really pick a number, because everyone's pipeline and everyone's revenue plan is different. I could tell you this: You will save so much time by going to VITO first rather than calling on more available individuals low in the organization--they'll spend time with you, but they can't make a decision to buy. It's senseless. It's an epidemic that needs to stop. And no one is better suited to stop it than the entrepreneur, the owner of the company who can take the steps necessary to call on a level where approvals are made.

Mattson: I would say in today's environment you need to double the amount of VITO-type contacts you [make], because it's harder. Create what I call a 'prospecting plan,' which is to determine how many new opportunities [and] how many new conversations you need in a month. Then the question is: Where do they come from? How many of those should be referrals and how many of those should be from XYZ sources, whatever they are? Then you determine how to get them. You get much better results that way. How do you learn how to speak at the same level as VITO?

Parinello: Here's what I want you to take out of your vocabulary: The first step is to never, ever use technobabble, industry jargon or buzz with the VITO. Never use an "F" word with the VITO, and the "F" word is a feature or function. Now if you just stop there and look at every bit of literature you've ever created for your company, every bit of marketing and campaigning and look at it, you're going to go, "Oh no, oh we have 'F' words in it, we have technobabble in it, we have acronyms, buzz words . . ." Get rid of all of that stuff and replace it with simple, easy-to-understand language that speaks to VITO and what they want to achieve. And there are only four economic metrics that VITOs want to achieve. First, make more money; second, work smarter rather than harder, increase efficiencies and effectiveness; third, cut or contain costs; fourth, stay out of trouble, stay out of jail. So it's pretty simple and, when in doubt, if you just default to any one of those four--you're on thick ice; you're safe with VITO. What do you do when the VITO tries to get you off the phone as quickly as possible?

Parinello: Let them do it. VITO's in control, they've got huge egos. We're not going to tell VITO what to do; they're running the company. The response would be: "Great, go back to doing whatever you're doing. When we finally catch up, let's make sure we talk about 'yap yap.'" And the yap yap you're going to give VITO right now is the best reason in the world for VITO to have a conversation with you. Which is, "Hey, the next time we get together, let's make sure we talk about the three ideas we have to increase revenues while at the same time cutting expenses, and we can pull it off in about 90 days. Have a great day." If you say that to any VITO, they're going to say, "Wait a minute, what did you just say? Increase what while at the same time . . . how the hell do you do that?" And all of the sudden, everything else goes on hold. Can you give me an example of how you can turn a call into less talking about the product you're offering the VITO and more talking about how VITO's company can benefit from your product?

Parinello: We've been taught to ask all the right questions of the wrong people and all the wrong questions of the right people. Whenever you want to take VITO's temperature or you want to find out what's important to VITO, you add one word to a question: "personally." And then you add time: "During the next month, or between now and the end of this year, what is important to you personally about blank."

Mattson: Here's a good exercise. We call it the "feature benefit exercise." Here's how it works: Take your product and service and put it into some columns. For example, in a column labeled "Product A," write out all the features of what you're selling and all the benefits. At the end of the column, write out all of the problems that it solves. Ask yourself, "What's the pain that product solves for VITO?" Then the next step is to create a list of questions that will get VITO thinking and saying to themselves, "Ah, I want to hear more about that."

Don't start out saying, "Let me tell you how good it is."' Instead you say, "Hey, we work with a lot of VITOs like yourself." That's a credibility statement, and VITOs want to know what other VITOs are doing. And then you say, "Here's what we have found--we have found that they're struggling with XYZ," and then here's the start of your question: "I don't suppose that's something you're also struggling with?" And shut up and let them talk. Do you think that if you address something that's a pain point for them that will be more effective than just saying, "This product is going to make your business make more money?"

Mattson: Absolutely. Because people want to buy for their own reasons. You've heard of the saying: "People hate to be sold but love to buy." People need to buy for their own reasons. So their own reasons would boil down to: How do you put it in such a way that VITO says, "Oh, I like that, I want to do that" vs. "We have the following 32 functions on our software . . . " They don't care about that.

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