For most companies that sell technology solutions, data, and related services to the financial industry, the selling process is dramatically more complex and requires longer sales cycles than most business segments.
A “complex sale” is usually one that:
• Impacts multiple departments, divisions or business units
• Involves a committee or input from multiple people
• Involves buyers seeking multiple options
• Includes multiyear terms for agreements
• Addresses a strategic need or solves a mission-critical issue
As someone who runs an agency that works with clients in the finance industry, we are seeing more companies entering this space, such as fintechs introducing new technologies and business models. That said, we are likely entering into a phase whereby financial companies will have many more vendor relationships. Effectively evaluating companies and vendor management programs are growing in importance as companies are seeking to better manage their business relationships. So, how can a potential vendor come across as an appealing option?
Getting To ‘Safe’ Status
Since the financial industry is highly regulated, buying decisions are weighted toward “safe,” or “sound,” options. Getting to safe status means having your prospects view your company as the right choice, even if you represent a small or young company. Achieving safe status means you are in a position to validate you can deliver the results you are promising. This can be accomplished through:
1. Implementation of a customer reference program (to demonstrate results and ROI)
2. Association with other well-established partners (channel partners)
3. Significant endorsements (such as by an association or analyst firm)
4. Integrated communications programs (PR and marketing)
Integrated communications programs thrive on having something meaningful to share, which is why accomplishments, such as customer case studies and strategic relationships, as mentioned above, can provide content that resonates with target audiences.
People can’t buy from your company unless they know about you. Companies that invest in both brand building and thought leadership campaigns are more likely to influence people to take action. Thought leadership, a subset of a communications program, means you are discussing issues facing the industry and demonstrating the value of your insights. It means your subject matter experts have opinions and informed positions on issues. It means your company executives are well-read and know where the industry is going (at least in the area in which you do business).
If you are looking to develop a thought leadership program on your own, you’ll need to identify which executives have the knowledge and willingness to participate, agree on the issues and trends that appeal to prospects (and that point back to your organization), and the best places for the information to be shared, such as at an industry conference, in the media or on company-owned channels.
Demonstrating ROI And Staying Power Are Key Elements To Your Story
Companies that excel at the complex sale demonstrate both a return on investment (ROI) and the compelling benefits of the investment. The Benefit of Investment model of evaluating decisions addresses a strategic need or outcome, such as improving customer service, reducing operational risk or consolidating technologies.
Being a safe choice also suggests that your company will be a force in the industry for years to come. Buyers will rarely roll the dice on a company that looks like it is “trying out” or testing its viability within the industry. As vendors take on mission-critical processes, financial institutions (and sometimes regulators) need to be assured that vendors are fiscally sound or well-funded and have contingency plans in place.
In closing, the risk on the buyer’s side of a complex transaction is huge. It can literally impact their career at the company. Marketing and selling within these situations requires a highly disciplined integrated approach, patience and a team working to promote your organization as not only a safe choice but the right choice.