You’ve secured the appointment with the decision maker. You’re excited and feeling positive about the sales call. You’ve prepared for the meeting and think you have all the right questions. You move in for the close and just when you think it is about to happen, they throw you a curveball, “I need to talk this over with some other people in my company, can I get back to you next month?”
Other people? But aren’t you speaking to the decision-maker with the power to say yes? Of course, but you didn’t conduct the due diligence on the prospect’s decision-making process to uncover any possible decision influencers.
One Way to Say Yes, Many Ways to Say No
Decision influencers can be anyone within an organization who has a say or plays a role in the decision-making process. They may not be able to deliver the YES, but they most definitely can say NO.
Just because the decision influencer’s title or role doesn’t appear to be a factor in the decision, you will never know unless you put in the time to fully understand your prospect and how they make their decisions.
Take the Time to Listen and Learn
When you find a new prospect, you conduct research to identify, prioritize, and qualify the lead, but don’t stop there! Before you can begin to discover what they need, you have to know who will be a part of the decision, regardless of the weight that their influence may have.
Trust the process — don’t skip over these discussions in a rush to get to the discovery phase. Taking the time to have these discussions will allow you to connect the dots of how the prospect’s internal decision-making process works. The questions you ask will show a genuine interest in what each person brings to the decision, helping you to build trust - which can play a key role when decisions are being made.
Identifying Potential Decision Influencers
When approaching a prospect, don’t obsess over who the decision maker is. Instead, connect with other people within the organization and focus on the decision-making process for that client. Decision Influencers are found throughout organizations and weigh in on decisions in a variety of different ways.
- If they stand to benefit from an effective plan, they are a User Influencer, typically a sales or operations manager who will be directly affected by a decision and may or may not take part in the implementation.
- Technical Influencers focus on the measurable aspects of a decision to evaluate its effectiveness. We find them in roles such as Marketing Directors, Purchasing Agents, and Media Buyers.
- Not all influencers are directly involved in the process, nor may their influence be immediately obvious. Think of the insiders, the Administrative Assistants, Office Managers, and others who can provide useful insights and information. These are your Coach Influencers; they want you to succeed and can be an ally in the process.
When talking with each of the influencers, approach them with their sphere of influence in mind, and ask insightful questions that help you craft a fitting solution.
Don’t just ask, “Are you the one who makes the final decision here?” Consider questions such as:
- If we did a program like we’ve been discussing, who else would need to be involved in the process?
- What can I do to help you promote the solution internally?
Decisions aren’t made in a vacuum, and salespeople shouldn’t operate in one either. Ask the right questions, involve the right people, and trust us — the process will work!