Of all the tragic misconceptions that afflict salespeople in selling environments with multiple buyers, the worst might be the notion that lower-level “influencers” are mere obstacles in the seller’s path to the big honcho—the person with final buying authority.
Do you believe that the ultimate decision maker (UDM) is the only buyer who is really worth your time? Do you think that “strategy” means figuring out how to bypass or maneuver around the lower-level customers so you can get to the UDM?
If so, you are losing a lot of business. That’s not a strategy for anything but disaster.
For one thing, a lot of those influencers may not have the power to make your sale, but they do have the power to kill it—and they will, if you alienate them.
They can’t make your sale, but they can kill it.
There is much more to this, however, than just the danger of making enemies. As I dramatize in my new book, “Sales Strategy From the Inside Out,” lower-level buyers can be your most valuable resource. They can actually direct you to a winning strategy.
After all, what is an effective sales strategy? It is a plan that guides you from one logical step to the next as you move toward a sale. In order to know what those steps must be, and how to complete each one successfully, you need information.
Somehow, you must discover the client’s key needs, the forces driving the buying decision, the stakeholders involved, the way the buying process works in the client’s company, and more.
Wouldn’t it be nice if some expert guides within the company would give you this information freely? How about if they also would coach you through the steps necessary to complete the sale? And suppose they’d willingly bring you to the top decision maker because they actually want you to win?
Such guides exist in every client organization and every one is a potential coach. If you can get them to see you as a valuable consultant and partner, capable of serving their needs, you can stop worrying about how to get to the ultimate buyer. They will take you there—and root you on to victory.
Action Selling In Action
Dan Crear, a sales executive for Action Selling of The Sales Board, was in hot pursuit of a great opportunity at a thriving global bank. (Yes, even today there is such a thing as a successful bank.) The ultimate decision maker was the kind of person who liked to spread the decision-making authority around. Nine people surfaced as key influencers.
Crear assessed the situation and determined the role of each player. Then he devised questions to draw out their personal stakes in the buying decision. One key question was: “What evidence do you have that your current situation is producing an ROI?”” This led each decision maker to define what ROI meant to them.
Once the payback was defined in individual terms, every one of them wanted him to win the deal. With their support, he did.