Business development is a contact sport, and a hard one at that. In the world of industrial and technical sales it is easy to fall into the trap of demonstrating a lot of know-how, at the expense of know-who. At the end of the day some know-who skills are going to be crucial, as someone has to sign a purchase order. How do you balance these two capabilities in a technical selling environment?

Top performing companies often attack this dilemma using these four tactics:

  1. Team up. It is tough to find all the great selling skills in one individual – people have relative strengths and weaknesses. If you have a sales team member who is the ultimate networker, connector and people person, but who lacks some product knowledge and technical ability, then team them up with a good technical resource. They can tag team on sales calls and your company gets the best possible combination in presenting your capabilities.
  2. Develop account plans. Map out the key roles and responsibilities in your target accounts. Who are the buyers, influencers and blockers? Who do you know and who do you need to get to know? Many organizations go to great lengths documenting account plans, but often teams that have a simple one pager with great clarity of purpose and a shared vision for the account, set about successfully expanding the scope of their know-who.
  3. Measure performance. The value of the business relationship is in the trust and knowledge that comes from working together, not the number of meals and golf games. So take care to measure performance, benchmark key statistics and report regularly to reinforce your capabilities and track record. Then make this widely available to your customer organization through electronic, social or print media. This needs to get into the hands of the key Know-Who targets, as well as the head of operations. When it comes down to a critical procurement decision, the data that shows how you improved productivity or reduced downtime will usually outweigh any lavish entertainment.
  4. Focus on the Who in new markets and ventures. Geoffrey Moore perfectly explained in his book “Crossing the Chasm” the value of the Who in his description of early adopters in selling new technology. The same applies to new markets or geographies. A roadmap into the movers and shakers is critical in getting in front of the people that can actually make a purchase rather than the people who just like your technology.

Adopting these tactics will provide your know-who players with a high value story to communicate with customers, and gets your know-how capabilities in front of the right people.