Book Review: “Selling to VITO”

I recently finished reading the book “Selling to VITO”, the Very Important Top Officer by Anthony Parinello. This book although written 10 years ago is still a great resource for any salesperson to read. It provides both a strategic plan and tactical initiatives for one to undertake when building a partnership with any client.

Mr. Parinello covers a great deal of information in this book and perhaps the simplest way to break my thoughts down is into two categories which include (1) Strategy and (2) Tactical suggestions.

Some key Strategic takeaways include:

Build Your Relationship on an “Equal Business Stature”

Meaning you do not want to be seen as the “salesperson” but rather a key strategic partner and team member for VITO to rely on. To do this you must understand what motivates your VITO (growing revenue, decreasing cost of sales), ensure your value proposition aligns with VITO’s needs and even more importantly you can deliver on your promises! When I was working in Boston, an old manager and mentor of mine used to say something similar. His recommendation was to keep your relationship with VITO or another individual in an organization at a peer to peer level. You never want to seem to be someone’s subordinate rather a valuable member of the team. Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask VITO what criteria he uses for establishing a business partnership! This is obviously key to long term success and a question not very many people ask.

Quantify Your Value Proposition

VITO is looking for results and your messages needs coincide with VITO’s needs.

Examples of this can include:

  • By deploying ABC widget in their infrastructure
  • SteveCo was able to reduce their cost of goods sold by 10% per annum.

We realize that for many of our clients who are relatively new to the market and may only a few reference customers or perhaps have simply a great technology but no customers at all, there are still ways to quantify the value add your solution can provide to a client. Sometimes it is simply a matter of speaking to those early adopter customers about their experience, drivers, results they have seen. In other cases, if a pilot or reference customer doesn’t exist – it is tougher – but we can always seek to do some financial modeling to begin to nail down a quantifiable result. Remember, this is a continuous work in progress for any company big and small and it will evolve and sharpen over time.

Value Proposition

The most important ratio that you can incorporate when building your value proposition is, Return on Investment = Net Profit before taxes / Shareholders Equity or (Gain on Investment – Cost of Investment)/Cost of Investment

Have a Plan

You must be prepared and have done your research before attacking any account and especially before meeting with a VITO. Go in as well armed as possible – you can do research on the web, if publicly traded read their latest press releases & financial reports and reference LinkedIn or other social media platforms. Your goal is to understand what motivates VITO. Internally as an example at VA Partners, we develop a ‘Path to Sales Success’ for our clients which outlines all the steps involved in winning a new account from prospecting and researching to solution implementation. In addition, for meetings with our clients, prospects or our clients clients or prospects, we use what we call a ‘Meeting Plan’ to outline who we are meeting, why they are meeting with us, what we hope to gain from the meeting and next steps.

Tactical takeaways include :

Don’t be Afraid to ask for the Business

This is so key. You must express your desire to VITO that you want to work with him or her and ask what it will take to win her business. The point here is to express your interest in being a partner with VITO, identify what VITO looks for in a partner, time frames involved and if you can meet all these requirements then would there be anything stopping you from doing business with VITO.

Be Able to Build Rapport with VITO

This needs to be done at a professional and personal level. Professionally it is a matter of conveying yourself professionally and in a manner that deems respect – follow through on your promises. Personally, take an interest in your VITO – what motivates them personally, do they work with a number of not-for-profits and so forth. Remember though to not push it, let VITO take the lead.

Don’t get Bogged Down in the Bureaucracy

Anthony Parinello refers to them as the ‘Seymours’ of an organization. They are the intellects, the researchers, the infantry – they carry out orders and do not give them. They enjoy accumulating information and knowledge on your behalf can be a black hole of time. You are bound to eventually have to deal with your VITO’s team. You want to do it at the direction of VITO and understanding VITO’s ultimate drivers.

When Sending an Email or Letter to VITO Place Your Most Compelling Information at the Top

If you want VITO to take an immediate interest remember it has to be geared toward VITO’s goals. Also remember that VITO’s admin team knows what motivates VITO too. This will help you get through to the stage. SteveCo increased customer satisfaction by 25% over the last quarter. He also decreased cost of sales by 10%, by partnering with ABC Corp. This speaks to VITO’s goal of increasing customer retention and improving the bottom line.

Be Yourself

Don’t try to be anyone you are not. You don’t have to use PhD based psychological or mirroring techniques. Just be honest, work with integrity and have your VITO’s best interests in mind. As a firm believer in your solution, your messages need to be emotionally connected and sincere. Remember, you want to be the sort of salesperson that VITO wants on her team.

Thank you for reading and happy hunting!

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Book Review: “Selling to VITO”