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Decision Makers Vs. Influencers

What salesperson has not been disappointed to hear he/she has lost a deal as the result of selling to the wrong person? Despite asking, many salespeople, without knowing it, find themselves pitching to someone other than the decision maker.

Because this can be a fatal error, let’s think about how to identify and get to the true economic decision maker. First, let’s identify all the players in the decision-making unit. There is the economic decision maker who pulls the trigger, and influencers who have the ear of the decision maker, such as users, technical advisors, Board of Directors, and consultants.

What do you think are some best practices to identify who has the power and to whom to sell???
- by Linda Richardson
This usually isn't a problem for me with Buyers or Sellers. For Buyers I find out if the home is for them and ask who is involved in the buying decision. For Sellers I find out who owns the home and who else is involved in the selling decision. - by Houston
Wow, this has so many roads that it can travel.

I remember when I first started in sales and the guy who was assigned to be my mentor was teaching me the "fine art" of getting to the decision maker. Of course, he went down the aisle of influencing the personal assistant or (as they were called then) the secretary. But the one thing that he instilled in me was this - the more people you get involved, sometimes the more dangerous it becomes to the sale. Why?

If you go the route of trying to influence the decision maker via other people, you find yourself "entertaining" the crowd instead of just doing a private show. You have to walk the fine line of not offending everyone involved - little things such as saying good morning to someone or not acknowledging them in a group.

Since then, I treat the people who do the influencing with white gloves because they not can influence a "yes" answer, but a "no" as well.

That advice has helped me for years to come after. - by Ed Callais
The first piece of the puzzle lies in understanding the actual selling cycle which includes 3 generic
phases: 1) prospecting; and, 2) qualifying (i.e. situation/needs analysis); and, 3) closing.

1. Prospecting: defined as being the process of locating new opportunities, this stage is one of compiling information;
a) offering/gathering of information in 4 areas: the customer - AND - yourself - AND – the company - AND – the corporate capabilities;
b) information should include: names, titles, address, phone, fax, etc.;
c) outbound prospecting can be done in person, on the phone, email, direct mail, via fax, etc. (the methodology is in large part a function of the industry and the size of the territory to be covered);

2. Qualifying: defined as being the process of determining how serious is the opportunity, this phase answers the question: “is the customer ready, willing, and able?” This stage includes segmenting accounts into two basic categories: SUSPECTS and PROSPECTS (the difference being the degree of interest; the availability of budget; and the mandate to act - for this reason, many of the larger sales organizations add a time line to these categories, eg. 30 day prospects);
a) the qualification process includes a truly critical step, that of “needs identification” and there are a number of pointers of which to be constantly aware:
i) gaining an awareness of the customer’s needs (although less of an issue in niche marketing because many of the concerns are typical of ALL companies within a targeted market) - never assume that you know all of any customer’s needs - ASK questions and LISTEN to their answers: “… be interestED … not interestING”;
ii) be aware that a customer’s “problems” cannot always be categorized as being “needs”, rather, a customer will always find it easier to tell a sales person about the company’s problems - the successful sales person listens to the customer in order to interpret his needs based on the problems expressed;
iii) remember, it is not always the problems OR the needs which are crucial in the upcoming decision - rather it is the consequences of these problems which will prompt the prospect to make a decision:
* what are the ramifications of not getting through to Tech Support when your phones are down?
iv) throughout the process it is of paramount importance that the sales person gain the customer’s commitment to each of the uncovered needs: if cost were not an issue, what incremental functions would you have in your telecommunications system?
b) while qualifying the account’s position in the selling cycle, it is key to success that “the decision making process” be identified:
i) budget: when is your fiscal year end? where are we in the budget cycle? is this type of acquisition a consideration for this cycle? are there funds for this project?
ii) process: to whose budget will this project be assigned? is there a formal decision-making process? (some firms insist on going to tender a certain levels); what are the steps involved? is anyone else involved in the decision-making process? who? Companies don’t make decisions - people do … make sure you’re speaking to someone who can make the decision!
iii) it is critically important - at this stage - that a sales person remember to ascertain if “there is there anything else?”

Wow, that was a little long-winded (it came from "Sales 101" which I prepared some time ago)!

Good luck & good selling!
Pat - by OUTSource Sales
Impressive post Pat. Thank! thmbp2; - by Thomas
What salesperson has not been disappointed to hear he/she has lost a deal as the result of selling to the wrong person? Despite asking, many salespeople, without knowing it, find themselves pitching to someone other than the decision maker.

Because this can be a fatal error, let’s think about how to identify and get to the true economic decision maker. First, let’s identify all the players in the decision-making unit. There is the economic decision maker who pulls the trigger, and influencers who have the ear of the decision maker, such as users, technical advisors, Board of Directors, and consultants.

What do you think are some best practices to identify who has the power and to whom to sell???
I'm not concerned as to who the decision maker is as everyone present influences the decision.

When I've set up appointments in the food service industry, typically I had to make sure that both wife and husband were present as one-leggers were rejected for going out on. - by Wonderboy
I managed to get away from the thread but the point to made is simply ensuring that you qualify for: timing, budget, interest, and roles (not necessarily in order). You need to put the landscape into perspective well in advance with roles/responsibilities as part of the picture.

There is no science to decision-making and it would appear that companies approach the process differently. For some it's entirely formal (RFI, RFP, etc.) and for others it's difficult to see any "process" at all!

The point is: you need to probe each account to discover the "how's" and the "who's". No one will over-react to being asked, "is anyone else involved in this sort of decision?" Or, "how has your company approached this sort of thing before?"

Remember, you're a sales rep and you're expected to sell something so you're clients understand and expect to be asked questions.

Good luck & Good selling!
Pat - by OUTSource Sales
The point is: you need to probe each account to discover the "how's" and the "who's". No one will over-react to being asked, "is anyone else involved in this sort of decision?"
Pat
I agree Pat.

In addition, I think it's valuable in a B2B situation to assume going into it that there are others involved in the decision, and therefore to ask "who else besides yourself is involved in this sort of decision" instead of "is anyone else involved in this sort of decision." It's just too easy for a prospect to answer "no" to a closed question. - by Skip Anderson
Skip, the "anyone else involved" question can be positioned either way:
1. is anyone else involved? or,
2. who else is involved?

Your comment is well taken but I much prefer the approach illustrated in #1 above. It's not so subtle a point actually because the implication is one of confidence/trust. If it comes back 'no', then your contact is making the decision on his own. If it comes back 'yes' the SR needs to clarify his understanding of the decision-making process. If you ask "who else", you're assuming that this individual doesn't make decisions and you risk denting the relationship with this individual.

In point of fact, it's a milestone along the way once reached, the SR knows where they stand (ie. is this or isn't this the decision maker?).

Good luck & Good selling!
Pat - by OUTSource Sales
Fascinating subject. My quickie answer ....

Start at the top. Work your way down. And leave the door open if you are asked by "the top" to deal with a person who is not ultimately going to make the decision.

Remember; Top down works, bottom up doesn't!

If you are calling on a company, don't ask who the decision maker is at the switchboard, you will almost always end up with a person who does not make the decision and then find it much tougher to get to the actual decision maker later on. Start at the top first.

When you get a referral or a call-in or advertising lead, that started with a non decision maker or you think that might be the case, always ask; "Who, besides yourself, will be involved in the final decision?" Right on Skip.

"Who, besides yourself .. " is the better way to ask, as you do not wish to belittle your contact by saying anything like "Who is making the final decision." - by Gold Calling
Skip, the "anyone else involved" question can be positioned either way:
1. is anyone else involved? or,
2. who else is involved?

Your comment is well taken but I much prefer the approach illustrated in #1 above. It's not so subtle a point actually because the implication is one of confidence/trust. If it comes back 'no', then your contact is making the decision on his own. If it comes back 'yes' the SR needs to clarify his understanding of the decision-making process. If you ask "who else", you're assuming that this individual doesn't make decisions and you risk denting the relationship with this individual.

In point of fact, it's a milestone along the way once reached, the SR knows where they stand (ie. is this or isn't this the decision maker?).

Good luck & Good selling!
Pat
Hi Pat!

Oops, I made a mistake in my previous post. Sorry. What I meant to write was this:

"Who else, in addition to yourself, is involved in the decision to purchase this product." (not "beside yourself", as I originally wrote).

In my opinion, this wording ("in addition to yourself") respects the person you're speaking to - it doesn't discount them entirely and acknowledges that they have a role in the decision. But this wording also encourages prospects to pony up and share names of others involved in the decision instead of hiding this information from the salesperson.

The challenge with the question you suggest ("Is anyone else involved in this decision?") is that bazillions of salespeople have asked that question and been told "no" by their prospects, only to find out later that someone else is, in fact, involved in the decision. The reliability of answers to "Is anyone else involved in this decision?" is quite low, and I agree with you that salespeople need to know where they stand regarding the decision-maker(s). - by Skip Anderson
Since I sell to individuals only one makes the decision. If mates want what I sell I speak with both - I don't sell for one to give to the other.

If it's the business that's wanted - a distributorship - I want both mates to be involved even though only one may be starting a business. I still want both to understand it.

I don't deal much in business or commercial settings BUT our products can be put into appointment businesses. We've done that a couple of times and in those cases I will only speak with the decision maker. If it were a partnership of some kind I'd have to speak with both.

For me to be successful I have to be in control and in charge of those particular dynamics.

MitchM - by MitchM
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