Savvy sales people understand that few purchase decisions are made in a vacuum without the decision maker consulting others. If you miss even one member of the team, you can lose to a better-prepared sales person. You’ve got to identify the players or you’ll be left out in the cold.
Here are the people involved in the decision-making process, either directly or indirectly.
The gatekeeper is the receptionist, secretary, nurse, administrative assistant, spouse, or voicemail. The gatekeeper answers the phone and guards the door to the rest of the organization. They are trained to say, “no,” and don’t have the authority to say, “yes.”
Sales people usually treat gatekeepers with disguised contempt. Sure, they’re nice to their face, yet sales people do everything they can to minimize the gatekeepers power.
Yet gatekeepers have great influence on the decision making process because they decide who gets consideration. More than one gatekeeper has killed a deal by mentioning, “They’re real jerks. Are you sure you want them working with our people?”
Sales people often try to bribe them with food or small gifts. Yes, these would be effective if every other sales person wasn’t using the same tactic. Executives often resent their gatekeeper being bribed. They see extended interaction with a sales person as taking them away from their prime task.
Savvy salespeople treat gatekeepers with deference and respect. Treat them as if they run the company. Because they do.
So, sell to them first. Let them know what you can do for their organization, what problem that you can solve, and how you can make their headaches go away. Ask them for a favor, “Will you help me? I know that you know who’s the best person for me to speak with. What’s the best way for me to approach them? What drives them crazy?” Ask them when is the best time to call.
Ask them when other sales people usually call, so you can avoid those times. Ask them if you can call in advance to see what the schedule looks like that day.
The gatekeeper is an incredibly valuable resource. They know the politics and will tell you things that no one else will.
The influencer is someone who has technical or financial knowledge about what is being purchased. An influencer can be someone who has successfully used your product, or has read good reviews about your products, or is skilled at analyzing your type products. They influence because of their respected knowledge and wisdom.
You find influencers by asking, “Who else, besides yourself, is involved in making this decision?” Even if you think you’ve found the decision maker, continue to ask everyone else this question.
Once you’ve found the influencers, ask them, “What process do you use to make your decision?” or “How will you know who’s the best vendor?” or “What criteria do you use to make your recommendation?” Once you know their decision process and criteria, you’ll know exactly what to show them, do, and say for a favorable decision.
The economic buyer places the order, sends out bids, issues a purchase order, or is the end user. The economic buyer may be charged with getting the best possible price for what you sell, so they may bid you against your competition.
All things being equal, the economic buyer chooses lowest cost vendor. Your job is to ensure that nothing is equal. Buyers will almost always choose reliable delivery over lowest price. Win them over by illustrating that you’ll always deliver at a fair price.
This is the person who ultimately makes the final decision and takes responsibility for the choice made. They can say “no” when everyone else says “yes,” and vice versa. Most sales people are taught to find the decision maker and sell to them. Yet most decision makers are not influenced by sales people. Decision makers are influenced by their staff – willingly or unwittingly. The decision maker will be most influenced by you when they regard you as a professional colleague.
Approach the decision maker with a summary of what their staff suggests. “I’ve had your team review this product and here are their comments.” Go over how your product will take them closer to their goal and ask for their commitment. When the staff is on your side, the decision maker will almost always give you the nod.
The user is the ultimate decision maker. The people who use what you sell ultimately will decide if the purchase decision is sound. Users can sabotage the purchase decision.
Savvy sales people will invest time with users to understand their concerns. They then offer the decision maker solutions that preempt user issues and instill confidence in the ultimate success of the purchase decision.
The spy is someone who, for their own reasons, wants you to get the business. The best spies are people who you have served well at one facility and have moved to a new location. They want you to serve them like you did before.
You can recruit a spy by seeking the advice of a non-decision maker. These people are flattered by your attention and will tell you things that no one else can or will.
The Decision-making Team
When you get all of the team pulling your direction, the purchase decision will go your way, and you’re CompetitionProof.