Selling to Multiple Decision-Makers
Warning: Major Delay Ahead!
Nothing derails a sale faster than multiple decision-makers! And, while more than 85 percent of opportunities involve multiple decision-makers, most organizations do a poor job of preparing their salespeople to sell to decision-making teams.
This poor preparation causes a significant number of hits to the seller’s top and bottom line:
- Decisions take longer and become more expensive.
- There is an increase in the number of “no decisions.”
- Profit margins are squeezed in efforts to satisfy everyone.
- Implementation is delayed.
Maximizing Results with Multiple Decision-Makers
When sales organizations coach their sales teams in the concepts and skills related to managing multiple decision-makers, sales effectiveness improves.
We have found there are three keys to selling effectively to multiple decision-makers, as shown in the following framework.
Taken together, these three skills give the selling organization and the buying organization an improved chance to reach a buying decision that produces the maximum business value to both organizations.
Identifying Influence: The Influence Map
Guiding multiple decision-makers begins by identifying how decision-makers align within the Influence Map.
Many salespeople take the perspective that an individual’s title is all they need to know—but the Influence Map is more complex than that. The Influence Map is determined by two critical elements: Influence and Disposition.
Influence can take many forms—formal, informal, level of expertise, credibility, etc. If salespeople focus exclusively on formal influence (the person with the biggest title wins), they will likely draw a poor Influence Map.
It is also critical to consider a decision-maker’s Disposition—their favorable or unfavorable view of you, your company, and your solution. Two buyers with high levels of influence, one with a favorable disposition, the other with an unfavorable disposition, have to be regarded differently if you are going to win more sales.
To learn how to deal with multiple decision-makers, we ask salespeople to create a simple Influence Map that shows where each decision-maker stands on Influence (Low to High) and Disposition (Negative to Positive).
Salespeople should do this for every sales opportunity. One Influence Map does not encompass an entire buying organization; instead, each decision requires its own Influence Map. Why? A person with high influence for one purchase may be low influence for another.
Getting Past Positions
Perhaps the biggest challenge to multiple decision-makers reaching a decision is getting past the positions people take and getting to the true need they are trying to meet. When one decision-maker says they want X and another wants anything but X, the decision-making process comes to a grinding halt and no sale is possible.
For example, a salesperson we know was positioning a media marketing campaign to a customer. The VP of Sales and the Marketing Director were aligned in wanting an aggressive and expansive online and social media presence. However, the organization’s CFO said no because the cost was too high.
The salesperson realized that this created an impasse and that no purchase would be made with these conflicting positions. So, the salesperson began exploring the reasons why each held their positions (what we call the interests behind the position).
What the salesperson found out was the CFO was concerned about ROI; the projections for the number of new customers from social media marketing were not high enough to justify the level of investment requested by the VP of Sales and the Marketing Director.
The interests behind the VP of Sales and Marketing Director’s position were also clear. They see customers using social media to research vendors early in the buying process. The VP of Sales, for example, talked about a big deal they lost because the customer made a decision before they even met with their organization.
By understanding the interests behind the positions, this salesperson was then able to offer a campaign that included a more targeted social media presence based on researching their target industries. He was able to show that this approach would retain their projection of new customers while cutting the costs in half, making the ROI a net positive.
The salesperson is able to keep the decision-making process moving forward by exploring the reasons why they hold the positions—the interests behind the positions.
Getting to Interests requires good questioning skills. Positions are how people express what they want; Interests (often unstated) are why they want it. Good questions are how you uncover the Interests behind the Positions.
Managing the Decision Process: From Knowledge to Action
Now that you have gathered information to draw your Influence Map, and understand your buyer’s Interests, you need to put this knowledge into action.
The key is to use your knowledge of Interests to develop actions to influence each decision-maker based on where he or she falls on the Influence Map. There are four types of strategies: Convert, Capitalize, Promote, and Insulate.
To Convert a person with high levels of influence but a negative disposition, you need to ensure they know how your solution meets their priority interests.
This can often be accomplished by linking their interests to the interests of those high influencers who have a positive disposition to you, your company, or your solution.
Sometimes decision-makers with a negative disposition have interests tied to a relationship with a competitor. Finding out the nature of these interests can help you address them, or you can Insulate their interests from the key interests of high influencers to prevent them from slowing down the decision-making process.
You can also improve your position by Promoting the interests (showing the business value) of those with a positive disposition but lower levels of influence. This elevates their influence, thus elevating your solution.
The ability to effectively deal with multiple decision-makers can mean the difference between success and failure in your sales numbers. You can increase your chances of success by:
- Identifying Influence and drawing the Influence Map
- Getting Past Positions to the Interests
- Managing the Decision Process
Salespeople who master these three skills not only succeed more in selling but are also seen as a business consultant, helping their buying team reach agreement on the most important interests to be addressed. The ability to guide the forward progress of the customer’s decision-making provides additional business value to the customer, shortening the time to implementation and protecting the customer organization from opportunity costs of an unnecessarily drawn-out process.