Nothing is more
frustrating — or time-wasting — than to find out that you have been selling to the
wrong person! Influencers can not buy, they can only recommend. A decision maker is the
only person that can say yes. Hint: If your proposal needs approval, you are working
with an influencer. Decision makers write cheques, approve POs, and sign cheques – or
tell someone else to. Generally, decision makers own their budgets. They are likely VP
level or higher, including positions such as General Managers, Directors, and "C-Suite" officers.
A decision influencer has no authority to commit the company to spend, sign a contract, write a cheque, or
cut a PO. Influencers either don’t have any money in the budget allocated for their
own spending, or they don’t have enough money allocated to make a meaningful purchase.
Generally influencers are non-managerial employees but in some cases, they may be managers
or directors. As a sales director for a large, publicly traded software company I had
a $250.00 spending limit. This made it difficult for me to be the decision maker on almost
any purchase (except lunch) that I wanted to make for my team.
Yes, it seems
easier to deal with influencers rather than decision makers. Generally, influencers are
easier to find, easier to access, and on the surface seem more keen to move a project
forward. Here is another hint. The more enthusiastic your contact is to move forward,
the more they state that they "love your product", and the more excited they
are to buy, the less likely they are to be a decision maker. Influencers seem to want
to engage with you… and perhaps they even return your calls. Don’t kid yourself
though. Decision influencers are just that… influencers, not buyers. And although
many influencers seem like helpful allies, in reality they’re unwitting enemies. It’s
not that they want to string you along and block access to the people who can make the
purchase. In fact, they may sincerely want to take the deal forward. But chances are
they don’t have the power or influence to make it happen. To get a derailed deal back
on track, you need to gain access to the real buyer by turning your influencer into a
coach who can help get the deal done.
the Right Relationships with New Prospects
First a reminder:
To sell effectively, call the highest level of decision maker in your target prospect’s
office that is relevant to your product or service offering. What do I mean by relevant?
For example, don’t call the CEO if you are selling a $100 solution. Do call the
CEO if you are offering an enterprise-wide information management system, or do call
the VP of HR if you are offering a retained search service for executives at a $50,000
per placement investment. Make sure you are calling the highest relevant decision maker,
not just the highest decision maker. Worst case scenario result? Your high level contact
will refer you to someone else, lower down in the organization. Best case scenario result?
You engage with them and start a sales conversation.
examine what to do if your decision maker refers you to speak to someone else, (lower
than them) in the organization.
Maker: "You need to speak to
Joe in Accounting about that. It’s his responsibility"
for referring me to Joe. I’ll be sure to call him today.
Maker: Thanks. Joe is your man!
can appreciate that Joe will have a lot of influence on this project. In my experience
working with (companies like your prospect) on projects of this scope and investment
ultimately the final decision will be made by the VP (use the same title you are
calling into.). Is that going to be the case with you?
Maker: Yes, of course I will make
the final decision.
Thanks for letting me know. How about, that you and I agree to touch base every so often
then to ensure that Joe and I are meeting your expectations.
Maker: Sounds great.
You now have
an open invitation to call your decision maker at any time during the process without
going over anyone’s "head". The above approach works so well you can
use it on all new decision making level prospects you are going to call after reading
With Your Current Prospects
I know you have
opportunities in your pipeline today where you are not dealing with the decision maker.
You probably know it too… whether you want to admit it or not is a different issue!
So, what can you do with all these current deals where you know, or sense, that you are
not working with the decision maker? You have three Options:
- Let it ride, cross your fingers and hope it will eventually
go your way
- Go over the influencer’s head to jumpstart the
- Use your influencer to get the deal moving
and wishing and praying are never the best sales strategies, so forget about the first
option. Option B risks sacrificing the trust and rapport you have built with your contact
and their colleagues, which could cause the deal to fail. What you need are the choices
and the strong relationship provided by Option C.
That means turning
your influencer into a coach. Try the following plan to bring the true decision maker
to the table:
have enjoyed working with you on this project, and I think you have a great vision. My
concern is that no one on your management team knows the work you have done, and is not
committed to getting the project completed. If this project fails, will any one other
than you notice?"
yes, there are many."
a long and uncomfortable silence): "I guess, really, there’s no one."
sorry to hear that, but if it’s reality, we need to deal with it. What should we do?"
At this point
your influencer has two options:
and there’s no genuine interest in investigating the deal, in which case you should politely
close the file and move onto other prospects; or,
realizes they must take you to those interested in the deal and able to push it along,
i.e., "I guess I need to take you in to see my boss!"
how to transform influencers into coaches is critical to winning the business. Only decision
makers can buy. Using your coach to get to the decision makers will ensure the sales
cycle stays rolling. Now it’s up to you and the coach to win over the boss.