That’s the $64K question for all sales people. Who’s the decision-maker and how do we get access to her? Conventional sales wisdom tells us to focus on the top, prowling the halls of the executive suite, trying to develop relationships with the CxO. Finding that decision-maker, persuading him that we have the right solution and getting a favorable decision is the “Holy Grail” for sales people.
But in complex B2B decisions, it’s seldom that simple and rarely an appropriate strategy. Too often, we forget about all the stakeholders involved in the decision. People responsible for the implementation, people who will be using the solution, people who have to support the solution. Sales people make the mistake of focusing on the CxO–what do we have to do to earn their trust? What do we have to do to persuade them to buy?
We may spend time with these stakeholders–often using them more as a source of information to leverage in our discussions with the CxO. Sometimes, those stakeholders may not be convinced, but we don’t worry, we know the CxO, we know we can convince her and win the deal.
The CxO makes the decision–but it’s not for us, or he may have chosen simply to do nothing. What went wrong? They told us they liked what we were saying, why didn’t we get the decision?
Too often, we failed to get the buy-in from the stakeholders involved. We failed to get their support, focusing instead on senior management. It’s a sales error to ignore the stake holders, influencers and recommenders. Without their buy in and support, we put our success at risk. But what’s this about, we thought the CxO’s had the power? Why didn’t we get the decision?
CxO’s know they can’t stuff a decision on their people. They know the success in implementing, using, and supporting the solution is in their hands. They can make a project succeed or fail. CxO’s know this and regardless of how strongly they feel about a particular vendor or solution, they will rarely force it on their people.
Think, for example, of the many failed CRM implementations. Senior managers making a decision without listening to the sales people. How many millions have been wasted when the sales people failed to use the systems as expected? We see this in every complex B2B solution.
There are many people involved in the decision. While they aren’t the decision-maker, they are important. They may not be able to say “Yes,” but they can say “No.” They can veto a decision, they can choose to do nothing, they can make a decision fail.
Decision-makers know this. Great executives know this and engage their people. When the CxO seems to push you down in their organization–a large part of this is to get the buy in and support from the people who are impacted by the decision.
Are you involving everyone in the decision making process–not just the decision-maker?
Are you getting their buy in and support?
Are you identifying their areas of resistance and overcoming them?
Are you helping them understand “what’s in it for them?”
If you aren’t, you aren’t helping the decision-maker make the decision.
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