Amplify10 was formerly known as Featurewave

Fireside Chat: Multithreaded Selling with Susan McGovern (Legion Technologies)

Susan McGovern explains that In multi-threaded selling, you typically have established contacts with multiple stakeholders within the buying process whereas single-threaded, as it implies, you are typically just engaging with one person. Listen in as Susan and Joe discuss how to leverage this approach successfully and add value in the process.

Joe Parlett – Hey, folks. I’m Joe Parlett. Thank you for joining. I am with Featurewave, which is an AI powered sales co-pilot that delivers just-in-time intelligent guidance to the selling team wherever they are in their deal cycle. But we are not here today to talk about Featurewave.

Today, we’re here to talk about multi-threaded selling. We’re hosting a series of fireside chats with thought leaders like Susan McGovern here. And today, we’re gonna talk about multi-threaded selling. Susan is currently the VP of Go-to-Market strategy and Operations at Legion.

Susan, thank you for joining. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about Legion and your role at the company and we’ll jump in.

Susan McGovern – Great. Thank you for having me. I’m with Legion Technologies. We’re a workforce management solution and focused on the hourly employees. Our mission is to make hourly jobs good jobs.

Joe Parlett – Great.

Susan McGovern – Oh, and my role, right? So what do I do? So my role with the company, as you mentioned, go-to-market strategy and operations, so basically, a lot of the revenue operations, functions. I’m responsible for sales ops, our sales enablement pre-sales team, as well as customer success, renewals and growth.

Joe Parlett – Yep, fantastic, and I know you’re very accomplished in those areas, so I’m looking forward to having this conversation.

So multi-threaded selling, I know that’s something that’s very important to you and it’s a practice that you instill in your sales teams.

What Is Multi-Threaded Selling

It’s being single-threaded in an account is a great way to put the whole deal at risk and get into hot water with your boss as well, that you can only make that mistake once. But why don’t you tell the audience a little bit about what multi-threaded selling is?

Susan McGovern – Yeah, actually it’s funny. You would think only make the mistake once. I’ve been guilty of it too, by the way. It’s one of those things where you get caught up in the sale, and sometimes you get the ear of the executive sponsor or the exec buyer and you think you’re golden and you can rely on just that and get the deal done.

And unfortunately, you sometimes learn that that’s not always the case.

So the way that I look at it, most people define being multi-threaded or single-threaded, if you’re multi-threaded, you typically have contacts, established contacts, with multiple stakeholders within the buying process whereas single-threaded, as it implies, you are typically just engaging with one person.

It might be just your champion or it might just be your champion and that exec sponsor who is potentially the signer. So single-threaded could mean just one or two people. Multi-threaded typically is when I’m talking about it, referring to a much broader set of stakeholders that you’re connected with.

What Are Benefits of Multi-Threaded Selling?

Joe Parlett – Yeah, okay. And so what are some of the benefits of being multi-threaded versus single-threaded?

Susan McGovern – I think it probably seems obvious, although as much as it sounds obvious, there are still many, many times even now that we find ourselves in situations, we’re not as multithreaded as we think we should be or we think that we are. I think there’s benefits not only for the seller, but also for the buyer.

So real quick, as it relates to the seller, being multi-threaded means you will likely get input and buy-in, hopefully, from multiple stakeholders. So I think if anybody’s familiar with practices or sales methodologies like Miller Heiman, some of the older ones that are out there, the idea is you wanna understand who your champion is, who are your coaches, what are the potential threats in the deal?

Do you know your IT buyer? Do you know your user buyer? Do you know your executive buyer? All of those represent sometimes, you know, one person for each group.

Sometimes it’s multiple people across all of those groups. I would say that there’s, depending on what you’re reading, some of the more recent research from CEB and from others will say that the buying decision today is done by consensus.

And oftentimes, it can take anywhere between, it’s silly. Sometimes you’ll find numbers like 6.4 all the way up to 12 point something buyers, part of that decision-making process. And so making sure that you are taking into consideration all of the needs and all of the potential objections that every single one of those buyers may have will really help you to better position yourself in the deal to make sure that there are no last minute objections that might come up.

So really, it’s preparing yourself and positioning yourself to have a better chance of winning the deal. From the buyer’s perspective, the benefit that they have oftentimes is they’re getting a chance to build trust and get to learn you more.

And ultimately, if it’s a mutual relationship, if they feel like they’re getting to know you and you’re getting to know all these different stakeholders, you’re actually hopefully sharing information and teaching them things that they don’t even know about themselves, or things that they don’t even know about other parts of their business, that you are helping to kind of provide or shed light on for them.

So it’s good and healthy for the sales process, but also good and healthy for the customer post-buying process.

Joe Parlett – Yeah, it definitely is. The old saying, “You don’t wanna lose a loan internally.” Don’t be in this deal and not utilize your internal resources. And the same thing goes for the buyer as well. They don’t wanna make a decision in a vacuum where they didn’t get input from various stakeholders. And like you pointed out, they are. Very few and very few instances is somebody making an enterprise purchase decision without input from many people.

Risk in Single-Threaded Selling

And so, yeah, there’s a lot of risk with being just single-threaded, as a seller working through one person. You need consensus. And to really understand the needs of the company, you need to go broadly. And you really want to build a village of advocates, if you will. So you need to understand, I believe you need to understand their challenges, their problems, and how you can help them solve them, those challenges.

But yeah, it takes a village and you gotta go wide. Otherwise, there’s just too much risk. If you’re depending on a single thread or just a couple of points of contact in a deal and you’re alienating some, it just introduces all sorts of risk. Now, although in some of these deals, a lot of times, especially when they’re run by procurement, if there’s an RFP run by procurement, they like to try and enforce some pretty strict rules. You’re gonna work through one point of contact. If you have a question, don’t try and go to anybody else. But that does introduce a lot of risk. If you are forced to just work through one person, that person may be a detractor, they may not be a supporter. Everyone around them sees the value in your solution. But this person that you’re being forced to work with, they may or may not understand the needs of all of the adjacent business functions and their peers.

As A Seller Working With a Single Point of Contact

But you’re being asked as a seller to work through one point of contact. Do you comply with that or do you take the chance and try and still build relationships directly with others, maybe use your network and have folks… Do we share board members? Does somebody on our board know somebody on their board or the executive team? Do they know each other? What do you do? Do you comply or do you still try and build this village of advocates and have multiple threads?

Susan McGovern – You know, it’s so funny. I always feel like no one wants to be the person that goes against what they were told to do by the customer. If you’re the rep, you don’t wanna be the one that’s been told, “Do not talk, we will not respond to you,” ’cause you’re afraid of burning that bridge and that relationship. And you don’t wanna be the one to if you lose the deal, to have to answer to your leadership and say like, “We lost,” or “We have a major setback because I went around.” “I was told not to and I went around.” And so it really takes the support of your leadership and an aligned sales strategy to go around.

I don’t know that there’s a single sales leader or rep out there that would say like, “Hey, it’s not worth a shot trying “going and talking to board members or anyone else in your network.” I think it’s so different today compared to 10, 20 years ago when you didn’t have as many tools as we do now to have visibility to where the potential connections exist, right, LinkedIn sales navigator. Amazing way to just go dig and find the connections you may not even had been aware of, right? And so there’s lots of ways to go around it without necessarily violating the process the customer sets out. I think the other thing is you can be getting amazing traction. You can follow the entire sales process perfectly and you can talk to, you know, 12 different people. They’re all on board. They’re all super excited. It’s that one unknown person that can blow up the entire deal. You can get all the way to the signature process and the exec sponsor or the person who’s paying for it can say, “Yep, I’m on board.” And it just takes one person who’s like out in the ether that voices some concern or objection and can completely tank your deal. And so when I think about the multi-threading and staying true to the process or following the direction of procurement, if you’re not thinking about those things, then your deal is always at risk.

Joe Parlett – Yeah, I agree. And there is that one person, you can go through, part of the risk being single-threaded or close too is that there could be somebody who’s not even part of the evaluation or that you were compliant or it just wasn’t part of your strategy to be multi-threaded. Now you didn’t get to that person who may not have been highly visible, but they’ve got the lightning rod. Your single point of contact says, “Okay, I like Joe’s solution, I like Susan’s solution.” But this person’s got the lightning rod and they say, “That’s nice, but we’re going this other direction because probably somebody got to them.”

Susan McGovern – Yeah, or the competitor has a relationship and they’re like, “Oh, by the way, they’re gonna.”

Joe Parlett – Yeah.

How To Do Multi-Threaded Selling Successfully

Susan McGovern – Yeah. It’s funny, and I’m gonna kind of throw a wild card out there for you ’cause we didn’t really discuss this part of it, but how do you know you’re doing it the right way? How do you know the reps are doing it the right way? I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately because this almost sounds like, I’m sure we’re stating the obvious, be multi-threaded, there’s all these great benefits, but then why do people not do it or how do we get to the end of a sales cycle and realize, “Oh, we weren’t successfully multi-threaded.”

I do think that we have to find new ways to make sure and hold people accountable to being multi-threaded. And sometimes it’s in one-on-one conversations, right?

I’m sure you’ve had conversations with other AEs and it feels like you know all the right people. I like to go back to the old like tried and true influence mapping, like put all the people you could possibly know down on the board, even the ones you haven’t met with yet, what’s the title, and identifying what are those red flags, so you can like tick it off mitigating some of that risk.

I think there’s lots of great ways out there that you can track how many contacts have you made, how many contacts are you engaging with? And then, I would say the next hardest part is what do you say to them? I think that’s part of the, the hardest thing about now knowing there’s 12 potential different stakeholders in a deal, those are 12 different conversations and people that care about very different things.

How do I as a rep get educated enough to know exactly what to say to each one of those different personas at the right time? And I think it’s getting more and more complicated in sales right now to figure that out.

Joe Parlett – Yeah, it is, but it’s so necessary. And I do think it’s critical that you violate that law if they say, “Hey, you just gotta work through this one point of contact.” There’s just too much risk. And as the company, they wanna make the best decision for themselves as well.

And if getting more exposure to more people help them to make the better decision, I think it’s better for everybody. Some people might be upset that the law was broken to only speak with one person, but in the end they need to make a decision that’s best for the company and it’s going to involve input from a lot of people.

So it sounds like you are of the opinion, I definitely am, that when you put together, you know, a map of, who are all the people in the steel, the influencers. And who have we gotten to? How do they feel? Are they a supporter? Are they a detractor? Who on the executive team do we know or does our network know? Who do we need to get to? And we’ve gotta get to those people.

So it sounds like you’re of the opinion that you still gotta do that, even if asked just work through this one person.

Susan McGovern – Yeah, well, so I’m also, you hear me talk about Miller Heiman, I’m also a big fan of the challenger sales approach or go-to-market approach.

And one of the things I particularly like about that is understanding the buyer personas, meaning is this person somebody that is motivated by self-promotion? Is this person motivated by challenging people?

When you understand what motivates that buyer, you know how to appeal to them, and so even if you are stuck with just a single person, I’m gonna paraphrase, but what the challenger approach really coaches you to do is to arm that person, your coach, with the right material to help train or speak to the other people internally that you may not have access to, but get them to help teach or get them to help address the skeptics and make sure that you’re arming them with the right kind of information.

And if you understand that they’re talking to, or you’re one of the stakeholders is somebody who is a skeptic, what is the type of information they need? That’s someone you probably wanna present some testimonials or some case studies to or some ROI to.

If the person is somebody that is more interested in their own self-promotion, case studies and ROI may not speak to them. Instead, you might want to talk about how they can be a part of, maybe your advisory board, or how they can participate in speaking events.

So just figuring out what those different personas and the different stakeholders really care about, so that single person that you are stuck with, you can arm them with what they need to get those others on board.

Joe Parlett – Yeah. I think they really do want somebody who’s gonna put their arm around them and make them feel like they’re gonna make them successful.

This project and help me, because we all have an agenda, and the person who’s the main point of contact on that project, on that evaluation, they’ve got their own agenda as well. Make a good decision for the company.

But what does this lead to for me? What if we do make the right decision and this project is successful? How do I benefit? Do I move up? How does it help me? So understanding that, yeah, certainly very important.

Multi-selling, multi-threaded as a practice. Who’s responsible for ensuring it? And I don’t think there’s any approach or methodology that would suggest, “Oh, be single-threaded.”

So let’s assume that selling multi-threaded is a sound strategy. Every company should probably teach their reps to be multi-threaded and make sure that that is their approach.

How to Hold Sellers Accountable for Multi-Threading Success

Who’s responsible for enforcing that and making sure that happens?

Susan McGovern – I think it’s everybody in this involved internally on your end at the company, like in the sales cycle. It’s not just the AE because there are some people, I’m sure you know this, there’s some people on the customer side of the table that just trust, maybe the solution consultant or the sales engineer, more than they would trust the AE or somebody in your professional services group has a little more credibility with another person on the other side of the table.

So I think using your internal resources to help build those relationships and credibility is key.

And I think the most successful reps are the ones that know how to use those resources. I think it starts in the very beginning with marketing and Sales Development Representatives (SDRs).

I also think that the stakeholders or the different people that you should be engaging with is also evolving. I think we need to start thinking about going lower in terms of who we’re trying to connect with. I think just five years ago I can remember still trying to prioritize executive sponsor or director or VP level and higher. And today, it’s really hard to get the attention of anybody that is just there.

There’s so much noise with phone calls and emails.

You know, I certainly don’t pay attention to half the stuff, more than half the stuff that I get. But if I have one of my team members or if there’s another individual contributor in the company that is saying, “Hey, I happened to talk to somebody,” or “Hey, I’m kind of interested in this thing, I think you should take a look,”

I will absolutely listen to what one of my direct reports or one of the other team members in the business wants me to take a look at.

And so I do think that SDRs should consider, you know, starting lower, getting to that individual contributor level and trying to network and get buy-in from them so that they can use them to get referrals internally.

So multi-threading is becoming so much more than just knowing all the different stakeholders and different functions. It’s also going pretty deep and broad and wide within the account.

Joe Parlett – Yeah, great point building that support and helping you. Like if somebody like yourself or me, I’m with you, I disregard a lot of the outreach that I receive because you just don’t have time, and like you said, we’re all being flooded with emails and texts and phone calls.

But if you can build support from individual contributors, if that’s who can potentially help you get to the champion, the sponsor, the person that’s responsible for solving this problem, that’s a great sound approach.

Susan McGovern – I’ll tell you a really quick story.

Joe Parlett – Yeah.

Susan McGovern – Because one of the best sales reps I’ve worked with, she had been trying to call on me for probably six months plus and in that time had a call with SDR, AE, pre-sales person, an RVP. We’re talking about seven different roles across the company that then led every single individual contributors, people that I never interact with in the business, all of a sudden I’m hearing from six, seven different people in the business of, “Oh, I think you should look at this,” and every one of them was saying, “Oh, the solution can do X, Y, Z for me,” and every single person, it was a different aspect of the solution that they cared about.

And so I was like, “Wait a minute, this could be something “that can actually solve problems “for like seven different teams? “I think I’ll take a listen now. Everybody is asking for it.” And ultimately at the end of the day, we bought. It was successful. And I had no interest in taking a call from her, but it was because of seven different people in the company coming to me saying, “I really think we should take a look at this.”

Joe Parlett – She built up a groundswell of support. Smart. Yeah, there’s not a single playbook for how to do it. Sometimes you just gotta be creative. Yeah. So thank you, Susan. This is great. Multi-threaded selling, folks. You have to do it. Don’t lose a loan. Don’t try and sell to one person. You’re putting everything at risk. And I think you’ll definitely get cooperation from the company that you’re selling to. They wanna make the right decision. And it is a group decision like Susan said earlier.

So Susan, thank you very much. I do have one more question before we go. We wanna make a charitable donation on your behalf. Is there an organization that, or what’s one of your favorite organizations that you would like us to make a donation to on your behalf?

Susan McGovern – One I do try to give to, St. Jude.

Joe Parlett – St. Jude.

Susan McGovern – For cancer research for children.

Joe Parlett – Yes, great. Love that. I’m actually part of a group called Rooms for Hope where we do transformations of rooms for kids who have cancer or some other terminal illness. It may not be terminal, sometimes it is. But we’ll do transformations of their room, sometimes their house or their sibling’s room and get it to be like their dream room or sanctuary so they feel happy and safe in that environment. So great cause. We’ll make that donation on your behalf. Thank you for joining. Folks, thank you for tuning in, and stay tuned for the next podcast. Thank you, Susan.

Susan McGovern – Thank you.

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