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To Dig Into Large Accounts, Find A Mole

By Landy Chase

With the economy in its current condition, many business people are refocusing their selling efforts on larger accounts. The assumption is that, in soft market conditions, these bigger companies have the financial wherewithal to weather business downturns better. The marketing focus naturally shifts from small accounts to large ones.

Therein is the problem. Most sales people don't understand the intricacies of penetrating large accounts. They attempt to take a small-account selling approach to this large-account environment, and quickly get frustrated. Why? Because one cannot knock on the door of a large business and expect to have success. Selling to large accounts requires the services of the Mole.

The Mole is your inside partner for success in large accounts. This is an individual who has the ability to provide you with the kind of critical inside information that you need to navigate the maze of politics, turf wars and departmental minefields in bigger companies and get to those key individuals who buy.

Let me share an experience I had five years ago that will illustrate the importance of the Mole in the large-account sale. At the time, I found myself in a position to provide my services to an up-and-coming software manufacturer. My Mole, a Vice President of Sales, and I had several in-depth meetings to discuss their needs. Eventually, my Mole arranged an audience with the CEO. He, the Mole and I had a formal discussion at which the CEO informed me that he liked my proposal and wanted to move forward.

Sounds like a "done deal", right? I certainly thought so. Naturally, I assumed that CEO = Decision Maker. So, I didn't do my homework. I didn't learn that the CEO answered to a Board of Directors that would approve (or not approve) funding for the project. So, without my knowledge or involvement, he presented my proposal to the Board - none of whom had any prior contact with me - and, predictably, the sale was stopped dead in its tracks.

Enter the Mole.

I'll never forget the phone call that morning. "Landy", the Mole said, "I have some bad news. John presented your proposal to our Board of Directors, and (this is a direct quote) they threw up all over it".

Not to worry; my Mole then proceeded to tell me (a) who the Board members were, (b) who liked my proposal, who didn’t, and (c) most importantly, exactly what I needed to do to win approval. It took an additional six weeks, but I was able to salvage the largest client I had acquired up to that time due to a Mole Intervention. Without him, not only would I have lost this account, I would have never known why I lost it.

Unfortunately, not all contacts make good Mole candidates. Being a "friend" is not enough. To be truly effective, a Mole must possess three key characteristics:

1) Political power. Your mole needs to be able to meet with your key decision-makers without needing permission. They must have unfettered access to the Inner Circle of people who can make or break you. This  usually requires a Director of Vice President-level person.

2) WIIFM. An acronym for what motivates the Mole to dig for you: What's In It For Me. Without a stake in the outcome, your Mole candidate is unlikely to be the kind of proactive, aggressive business partner who will collaborate to get the mission accomplished. If the person you are considering will not gain benefit from doing business with your company, eliminate them from consideration for this role.

3) Corporate Clout. Your Mole has to be taken seriously by the other people who affect buying decisions. When your Mole talks, people listen.

As you have probably already concluded, cultivating a Mole is a process that requires time and patience. The cooperation described is the result of earned trust. Once you have developed this kind of a relationship, the Mole becomes your key advocate in the large account and, in most cases, is the primary reason for your ongoing success. Case in point: if you take a moment to identify your biggest and best client, you can easily complete this sentence: My Mole in my best customer account is ____________. Get the point?

Now, consider what would happen to your sales results if you had ten more people just like this one in your list of business contacts.  In large-account selling, who you know really is more important than what you know. To go for the gold, go to the Mole.

Read other articles and learn more about Landy Chase.

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